Review: No Offence (S1 E2/8), Tuesday 12th May, Channel 4

No Offence

After a hugely enjoyable first episode and the introduction of some endearing, fearsome coppers, we were onto the second story of this eight-part, Paul Abbott series. I’ve read some reviews around the place that suggest that No Offence doesn’t know what it is quite supposed to be – on the one hand there’s incendiary comedy, and on the other hand there’s some traditional procedural stuff. Some argue that it’s neither one thing nor the other – too light to be a crime drama; too dark to be a comedy. I would say that at the moment the balance is just about right, and it’s precisely because of the dark humour that marks out the show as something refreshing, certainly in a procedural genre that sometimes disappears up its own behind. Let’s see how episode two goes.

That’s not to say No Offence is perfect, because it isn’t. It’s a bit ramshackle and a bit messy, but isn’t that what life is? Aren’t police officers human like the rest of us? That’s why I really enjoy the fact that Deering and Kowalska and the team tend to host their most important meetings in the toilet (like school!), away from the prying eyes and ears of rival teams and a boss that has just taken away the case of the Down’s syndrome serial killer.

Why has he done this? Because at the end of the last episode Kowalska took young rape and intended murder victim Cathy back to her place to convalesce from her terrifying ordeal. I don’t know much about the rules here, but it felt entirely wrong that Kowalska should take a witness out of the hospital and look after her herself. I didn’t buy it but I suspended my belief because I sort of understood why Abbott was doing it – he’s intending for the Down’s syndrome killer to be the over-arching narrative throughout this series, and the best way for that strand to develop is to have Cathy close enough and not out of the way somewhere in the social service system. He wants to show not only her painful recovery and development, at some stage becoming emboldened enough to slowly remember what happened to her, but also to show Kowalska to go on a bit of a redemptive journey.

So that was bubbling away in the background, but the crime of the week was about a new and murderous strain of drugs that had hit the streets of Manchester and was liquifying the innards of five unfortunate imbibers.

The investigation centred on two semi-detached houses in suburbia, known to be in the possession of a drug-making kingpin. They decided to target his wife – all cleavage, high heels and the kind of arrogance only exuded by those deeming themselves untouchable. The team had something up its sleeve to counter her sneer. It had, thanks to some surveillance footage, presented to her pictures of her husband, the kingpin, sleeping with his ex-wife during her shopping trips. The wife wasn’t best pleased, and despite the risk, was persuaded to help the police disable a flush alarm, which would leave all the evidence they needed to put him away. (That was something knew I learned – that sophisticated suburban drugs kitchens have an alarm that, when activated, would flush or destroy all damning evidence in seconds.)

After the successful raid, which featured Kowalska and Freers dolling themselves up to entice the kingpin so that he would let them into the house (“I want tits and teeth!” shouted Deering as they were informed of their mission), and everyone was arrested there was an accident, which broke some the drug-making equipment and flooded the kitchen with noxious fumes. There was a mad rush to get out alive, but once the team did pretty much everyone was completely hammered. It was typical Abbott – drama and a dark humour all rolled into one.

Again, all exciting stuff, nicely paced and plotted and very well played by the likes of Jo Scanlon and Elaine Cassidy, who really is the star of the show. The pace of it felt very American – slick, fast, no messing about – and that, in interviews, is what Abbott has suggested he’s been aiming for. And then there was the humour – the scene where Deering and Kowalska were enjoying a voucher-fuelled massage in a spa was very funny, especially when Kowalska, in Polish, instructed the Polish masseur to give her boss a ‘happy finish’, made me do a chortle.

I still contend that with its ensemble feel and a traditional matriarch at its head, that this is more of a family drama (a la Shameless), full of shifting group dynamics and personalities clashing and trying to get on with one another. I’m loving the introduction of the fast-talking, matter-of-fact criminal psychologist onboard to help Cathy recount her buried memories, and there’s also the journey that timid, newly promoted DS Joy Freers is undertaking (whether she likes it or not). I’m intrigued to see how this one develops because after a while Shameless started to grate on me, and I didn’t take it seriously as a drama – it felt like more of a funny (sometimes), late-night soap. At the moment the balance is just about right in No Offence.

Paul Hirons

For our episode one review, go here


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