Review: Black Work (S1 E2/3), Sunday 28th June, ITV


MAMMOTH SCREEN LTD PRESENTS BLACK WORK for ITV. Episode 2 Pictured:  PHIL DAVIS as Tom Piper and  SHERIDAN SMITH as Jo Gillespie. Photographer: STUART WOOD AND DES WILLIE. This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to BLACK WORK, any further charge could incur a fee.

This ITV three-parter, starring Sheridan Smith, has turned out to be an unexpectedly well constructed, noirish tale of paranoia and hidden identities. After last week’s first episode, where WPC Jo Gillespie (Smith) found out her freshly murdered copper husband was, in fact, an undercover officer who had been working on a case to bring a gun-trading gang down. This set her off into a downward spiral of suspicion, her short-cropped hair framing a face that frequently wandered off into a semi-permanent dazed, teary expression.

There’s a scene in this second episode where Jo was sitting on a round-about  during a trip to the playground. She was being spun around by her daughter. Jo was insistent that she had seen someone watching her as she was being flung round, but because of the perpetual spinning motion everything was a blur. It was the perfect visual metaphor for the current state of her life – after her car was bugged and her conversations had been taped, and the fact that her husband had a second life she didn’t know anything about – as a man called Neil Cargill – it was quite natural for her to be now trusting no one.

This whole idea of everyone starting to become a suspect began to be ramped up in this episode. There was steely and icy Ma’am Jarecki, who always seemed to watch Jo with an arched brow and generally look suspicious (and who also come over to Jo’s place to tell her that she couldn’t give the eulogy at Ryan’s funeral because she was suspicious of his conduct during the undercover operation) and there was Ryan’s angry colleague Lee, who was seen later in the episode meeting secretly with his dead mate’s handler. Both, on top of the main suspect Michael Parry, were the main suspects that we were being alerted to in this episode. Parry was now in custody, the police saying they had found the gun used to shoot Ryan in his bag. Jo (after Jack had told her what had happened) refuted this – when she searched his bag in the cottage there was no gun. Parry was being set up.

After the funeral Jo introduced herself to a mysterious man she didn’t know outside the church (actually it was big enough to be a cathedral). She had become suspicious of him after a conversation with Ryan’s ex-wife who had told her this man was Ryan’s first ever boss. His name was Tom Piper (an expertly grumpy Phil Davis), and he turned out to be her husband’s handler. When Jo started to question him, Piper snapped: “Believe me, you don’t want to find what you’re looking for.”

For a man who wanted nothing to do with Jo, saying something like that was not going to have the effect he was looking for. It was a red rag to a bull, and soon Jo was staking him out trying to find out what he was up to and why he was being so secretive. Piper’s introduction was the main narrative jump in this episode, and helped to propel the story along nicely.

Meanwhile, Jo sneaked in to question Michael Parry, who tipped her off about the whereabouts of his girlfriend Sian (at a greasy spoon café). This got her suspended from duty (after being back at work a mere day or so), but it gave her enough information to really dig into her own investigation, starting with a visit to the café.

There she met a woman, who revealed that she lived with Ryan (or Neil as she knew  him) for three years and, the big final twist to this episode, had a daughter with him. Turned out she didn’t really know him at all, she told Jo.

Jo knew exactly how this woman felt.

Paul Hirons

For our episode one review, go here



3 thoughts on “Review: Black Work (S1 E2/3), Sunday 28th June, ITV

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