Having slagged off Vera and in particular attacked the central female character, I need to urgently reassert my “I’m not a sexist male reviewer really, honest guv” credentials – which brings me to this week’s other crime procedural drama début from ITV featuring a central female detective.
Olivia Williams (from The Sixth Sense, Dollhouse, The Ghost and Hanna) stars as DS Charlie Zailer investigating the apparent suicide of Geraldine Bretherick and her murder of her 5-year-old daughter Lucy. The setting for this disturbing crime is a house that I’m convinced was the subject of an episode of Grand Designs, which just goes to show that those sort of stylish masterpieces are obviously wanton breeding grounds for crime and murder.
Williams is great and believable in exactly the way the Brenda Blethyn in Vera isn’t. She’s still very much a woman in a man’s world (as opposed to, say, Sarah Lund in The Killing (Forbrydelsen) who is essentially a male character played by a female actress – which works extremely well, admittedly!) but she’s also a completely believable professional.
What’s interesting is that the show plays on our expectations that she will be in the receiving end of sexism from her male colleagues: certainly DS Sellers (Ralph Ineson) is blatantly disrespectful, but her boss Proust (Peter Wight) seems to be an equal opportunity shouter and just has a go at everyone. The most interesting (male) character in the line-up is DS Zailer’s new sidekick DC Waterhouse (Darren Boyd) who initially seems to be completely dismissive of her, which could be because the two may or may not have had a drunken one night stand prior to the start of the series but eventually turns out to be because Waterhouse is simply in a different world and hasn’t mastered many social niceties.
The plot (from the book The Point of Rescue by Sophie Hannah) has some nice touches, featuring mistaken (or faked) identities by multiple people, and some dark obsessions that emerge during the investigation. It’s a proper grown up crime tale, in other words.
Unfortunately it also feels like the pristine, perfectly crafted designer home in which the crime is set: rather chilly and distant. There’s something about the end result that doesn’t quite engage, even before the killer is shock-revealed as someone who has been involved in the investigation by a completely coincidental and unrelated plot strand, which is always the lamest and most clichéd of outcomes for a crime show these days.
Still, it has more potential than most shows, with substance and depth as well as an interesting and already well-developed lead duo in Zailer and Waterhouse. Alas this is isn’t the start of a series but a standalone two-parter, with a second commissioned for later in the year – but such lack of commitment to the network and gap between instalments is hardly likely to inspire confidence or loyalty among viewers.