I love hostage negotiation shows—and the associated storylines in general. They are ripe with tension, leave plenty of room for emotional stories for all members involved, and can be extremely engaging. One of my favorites of all time is the Canadian show Flashpoint (also airing on CBS in the states). Ever since then, there really hasn’t been anything similar. So as you can imagine, I was thrilled to learn of the existence of The Day.
First airing in Belgium, and originally titled “De Dag,” The Day takes place entirely in one day as we follow an unfolding hostage situation at a bank. The story is spread across twelve episodes, with an interesting twist: the same events are told from two different perspectives. Every other episode the show switches between following the negotiators/police force and the hostages/hostage takers. Interestingly enough, both perspectives are equally engaging. When they switched, I found myself hesitant to be drawn away from that side of the story—however the feeling quickly faded as I once again became invested in the other perspective.
When it comes to the pacing, you won’t be alone if you start to wonder how this story could last for twelve episodes—that’s certainly where I was at. Thankfully the show does a great job of keeping things going and introducing new elements to the narrative that spice things up. That being said, I think the show is still a little too long and a couple episodes felt unnecessarily tedious just over halfway through the season—a shorter runtime could have remedied this issue. Ten episodes would have been the perfect amount for this story but in the end it didn’t really hurt the show.
The show starts off from the perspective of the negotiators and police force as they are called to a local bank branch where someone has taken hostages. The decision to always lead with the negotiators/police force was a smart one. There is lots of tension and important questions that come into play this way, things that most likely wouldn’t be as impactful if we already knew the situation that was unfolding. Discovering things with the investigation team is a fun and engaging process—something that is easily one of the biggest draws to hostage type situations in storytelling for me.
When it came to realism, the logistics and technicalities feel genuine and grounded. Nothing is exaggerated and everything is played on a subtle and realistic level. Our lead negotiators are fun, and each have interesting complexities that are introduced and explored; the performances throughout were great. Sophie Declair leads the cast as Vos, one of the lead negotiators. She is joined by Lukas De Woof, Jerome Perceval, and Willy Thomas. They all bring their own flair to the proceedings, and perfectly portray the situations in a subtle and realistic way. I am unfamiliar with the actors present, but there wasn’t a weak link to be found—besides the news reporters. To their credit, that’s almost entirely due to the writing and not because of any specific performances; more on that later.
As for the other side of things, the hostage takers are played by Titus De Voodgt (Elias) and Bert Haelvoet (Tommy). Both are great, and each bring a hefty gravitas to the uniquely difficult situation they are in. That gravitas carries over to hostages themselves, with everyone offering up great performances as they navigate the dire circumstances unfolding around them. While the narrative follows the criminals mostly (when the episodes shift focus), it also puts plenty of attention on the hostages as well. Everyone gets a backstory, and by the end of the show you’ll have a strong understanding of nearly every character involved in the events of the season.
The show is a solid, engrossing, and stressful tale, but there are certainly issues to be found; one being the world’s worst news reporters. Not only do they make outlandish decisions (something that, on rare occasions, isn’t unique to them), but they are generally poorly written. The show tries to develop the reporters at one point, but that development falls flat. If I had to choose the weakest part of the show, it would be them. In a broader sense however, these choices did not hurt the show— I just wish they had been thought about a bit more from the writers. At the very least, some heavier consequences or acknowledgment for character decisions would have been appreciated.
There were two other key problems I have with the show. First of which resides in a major twist the show springs on you. The twist itself seems like it is put in for the sake of changing things up. It feels like they didn’t think it all the way through and it should have been made apparent earlier. As the episodes progress the twist became more believable though even by the end, it still didn’t fully settle with me. Speaking of the end, that’s where my final issue lies. There isn’t nearly enough resolution to the whole thing. The show is cut short, despite having plenty of time, maybe even too much. As it ends, there are several loose threads still remaining—all of which should have been resolved or touched upon one last time. Hand-in-hand, there are weird attempts to keep things open for continuing the show down the line. One character in particular makes an extremely out of character decision in the last few moments that I couldn’t help but audibly question.
Overall, I’d be hard pressed not to recommend the show. Yes, there are issues—mostly with questionable character decisions that caused to me scratch my head a time or two—but those issues aren’t enough to undermine all the good that the show encapsulates. While the show premiered back in Belgium in 2018, it only just aired for US viewers. As of June 4th, The Day (“De Dag”) made it’s American debut exclusively on Topic, a new streaming service. If this kind of story is your thing, don’t hesitant.