Benedict Cumberbatch stars as a drug-huffing playboy in New York in Sky Atlantic's latest five-part series based on the novels of Edward St. Aubyn.

I had never heard of the Patrick Melrose book series before I watched the first episode of Sky Atlantic’s new mini-series based on the novels, so going in blind meant that I was expecting a grand introduction to the adventures. Instead of receiving the warm welcome I thought I’d be given, I was struck with a feeling that stayed with me throughout the entire course of the first episode: confusion. Not only did I feel like I had absolutely no idea what was going on half of the time, but I left it feeling no better off than I’d started; the episode manages to end on exactly the same note that we started on, rendering the episode almost entirely pointless.

There are three main issues at play when it comes to the show so far. First is the desire to show-off as many faces as possible without any context as to who they are. Through the course of the episode, we meet a huge ensemble of familiar faces, ranging from Allison Williams (Girls and Get Out) to Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife), but not once did I feel like I was given significant enough context for me to understand why I was paying attention to them. Why was Benedict Cumberbatch intimate with one woman in a scene and then intimate with Jessica Raine in the next? I was getting the impression that Patrick was a bit like a drug-ridded version of Mad Men’s Don Draper, but without an ounce of the charm or exposition that that character gave us.

Equally as baffling was how un-1980s the whole episode felt, despite the fact that it is meant to be set in 1982, which is integral to the series’ progression. It was only when I was given a flash of neon skirt of bold-printed blouse that I even questioned the time period we were in, otherwise, it felt like it was taking place yesterday. And when the production value of the piece is clearly so high and it’s proud to show-off its bold visual choices, it undermines everything else.

The other thing that completely threw me off was how little plot there was to the episode, which is particularly disappointing when the instalment clocks in at just over 60 minutes. I read an amazing article recently on Vulture about how self-indulgent some dramas can be when it comes to running time – a TV maker should work for that much dedicated viewing time out of my day – and it really made me second guess why this episode needed to be so long considering how little happened. I’m well aware that the episode is meant to span the entire first novel of the series, but was that really all that they could give me? I watched an hour worth of Benedict Cumberbatch high on drugs, moaning about being rich. Not once did we face any conflict and, when you don’t feel compelled enough by the character being explored, it makes the watching experience kind of painful.

The episode did have a few redeeming features though, mainly its cast. While I’m not the biggest fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, his performance in the episode is well-balanced and strong. At first, the character did feel and look a lot like Sherlock 2.0 when it came to tone, but as more and more drug trips took place, he proved himself a very worthy actor for a role of this calibre. The same can be said of the familiar faces that make up the ensemble, with standouts for me being Allison Williams (Girls), Indira Varma (Game of Thrones), Prasanna Puwanarajah (Doctor Foster) and Pip Torrens (The Crown).

The design was beautiful too, as was the direction by Edward Berger. Though I did feel like it was trying to be a dark and eerie version of The Grand Budapest Hotel a lot of the time, it had the ability to work in its favour and it was a pleasant tonic to the sometimes questionable screenwriting but David Nicholls.

At the end of the day, I don’t think that Patrick Melrose is going to be the next Mad Men, something that it very clearly wants to be. I definitely think that the bizarre screenwriting and structure to the series lends itself much better to being binge-watched in one sitting, but then again, I definitely don’t think I’d want to dedicate 5 hours straight to watching it.

Patrick Melrose will air on Sky Atlantic on 13th May.