'Two Weeks to Live': TV Review

Maisie Williams
Slight and stubbornly unfunny.

Maisie Williams stars as a clueless badass raised by a paranoid survivalist mother in HBO Max's thriller-comedy.

No matter how disappointingly Game of Thrones ended, some people are never going to get enough of a vengeful Maisie Williams crossing items off her list. Those viewers might be the only ones satisfied by HBO Max’s new thriller-comedy Two Weeks to Live, in which Williams plays Kim, a 21-year-old recluse who’s been told all her life by her survivalist mother, Tina (Sian Clifford), that the world is on the verge of collapse. Slight and stubbornly unfunny, the six-episode series is a diverting-enough showcase for its two female leads. But it also feels lumpy and ungainly, somehow underwritten and overstuffed at the same time.

Set in northern England, the show’s revenge plan kicks off when Kim is informed by a stranger she befriends at a bar that the apocalypse is nigh in two weeks. (In the rare gag that works, the acquaintance uses a site called Fake Your Own News whose logo is an abstract illustration of Trump.) When Kim practically flies out the door, prankster Jay (Taheen Modak) tells his younger brother Nicky (Mawaan Rizwan) that he didn’t think Kim would actually believe that humanity will cease to be in a fortnight. They follow Kim’s Mad Max-inspired truck to a crime boss’s (Sean Pertwee) mansion and discover that, given half a month to live, her first priority lies in avenging her dad’s murder.

Kim is not unlike Arya Stark, before the face-swapping magic — a born badass who doesn’t realize she’s still searching for a moral code. There are guns galore in the kingpin’s lair, but Williams and Pertwee engage in a visceral fight scene whose choreography smartly takes into consideration the size difference between the actors. Kim never manages to feel like a real person, but the havoc that she and her mother wreak — Kim, physically; Tina, psychologically — are believably intimate in scope.

It’s not long before Tina chases after Kim, who ran away from home in pursuit of experiences her overprotective mother couldn’t — or wouldn’t — provide. And to the show’s credit, their reunion is darkly jaunty, with Kim knowing just enough about the world to be embarrassed in front of her new friends by her mom’s DGAF rants about fragile male egos and societal dictates to conform. Created by Gaby Hull (We Hunt Together), the series builds slowly toward a confrontation between mother and daughter about the years-long lies that Tina has peddled to keep Kim in isolation. Ultimately, though, the reveal of Tina’s motivations is rushed and not-quite convincing, while Kim’s feelings of betrayal lack texture and depth.

The subplots fare even worse. Tina’s reluctance to let Kim be her own person finds a parallel storyline in Jay’s desire to push Nicky into starting a landscaping business together, despite the younger sibling’s college education and general weenieness. The more practical Jay seizes upon their chance presence at a crime lord’s house to pilfer a few hundred thousand pounds — a decision that mucks up the uncomplicated assassination that Kim had hoped for. A pair of assassins (Michael Begley and Thalissa Teixeira) receive their own mission to clean up the mess — all of which would be fine if the supporting characters weren’t so generic and the performances so uniformly charmless.

Early in the pilot, Kim wobbles into that fateful pub in high heels, her legs as shaky as a baby doe’s. “This is definitely a shoe, right?” she asks Nicky, not quite accepting that actual humans are supposed to walk in stilettos. She rips the narrow heel off one shoe by inserting it into the beer bottle she’s drinking from, then tearing her hands apart. It’s a droll bit — and exactly the kind of character-developing humor that sadly fades away as the rote backstories and wanly involving storylines demand our attention. The shift in focus is deflating. Killing people seems pretty hard, but navigating young womanhood just might be a little harder.

Cast: Maisie Williams, Sian Clifford, Mawaan Rizwan, Taheen Modak, Jason Flemyng, Michael Begley, Thalissa Teixeira

Creator: Gaby Hull

Airs Thursdays on HBO Max.