Katie Baxendale’s four-part drama From Darkness kicked off last week by telling the story of ex-policewoman Claire Church, who was slowly being drawn into a cold case after the remains of a murdered prostitute were found on a building site in Manchester. The prostitute was part of an investigation Claire had been working on, but the case had tipped her over the edge and she had retreated with her husband and daughter to the isolated Western Isles. So far, so familiar. With plenty of inconsistencies and head-scratchers in that first episode, I was looking for From Darkness to settle down.
Hinds and his team were reeling from the discovery of Agota Calgys’s body, the realisation that the killer had struck once again. What’s more the killer had left Claire’s old badge number in the trussed hands of Agota, which meant the killer was sending a message. A very personal message to Claire, either taunting her or enticing her back into the fray.
When Claire found out this information, her head span. Why would this killer involve her so personally? Her incredulity and panic were signified by a bubbling sound on the soundtrack every time she became distressed at the situation (subtle). And so it was again, with the same inconsistencies present from first episode – one minute she was having a panic attack and the next she was joking around with Hind and his timid partner Weir. Hind and Claire… I just can’t get a handle on these characters. One minute they were shouting at each other, the next there was banter.
And this was what it was like as their investigation continued (of course Claire was back in the fold, how could she resist?). They checked out known sex offenders, and Claire met the family of one of the old victims, Mimi Fenton, to ask for a DNA sample to tie the two inter-generational murders together. All the while the dialogue was stilted, clichéd and… well, not out of the top drawer. Scenes too, seemed to jar against each other.
We also saw more of the fraught relationship between Claire and her husband Norrie, who, naturally, wasn’t too keen on Claire jumping back into a life that nearly destroyed her the first time around. He and daughter Megan came down to Manchester to visit, the trip ending in a sort of resigned stalemate. Claire had admitted that she continued to take the antidepressants Norrie thought she had stopped taking, saying that she had lied to make him happy. Norrie vowed to stand by her, as long as it was something she wanted.
But there was a scene that piqued my interest. The Churches went out on a shopping trip around Manchester, with Norrie and Claire glaring at each other as they put up a show in front of their daughter. When their daughter stepped out of a changing room, dressed in a new outfit, Norrie went berserk, shouting: “You look like a prostitute!”
With the murder investigation centering on the deaths of prostitutes, I wonder if Norrie has something to do with it? I also have a theory, àpropos of nothing really, but a theory nonetheless: Hind’s neglected and bored wife Julie might have something to do with it all. Why? Leanne Best, who plays Julie, is a fine actress, often cast in leading roles. I can’t believe she took this one happy to be a (very) peripheral character. The theory gains more weight when you see what happens at the end of this episode.
Another suspect was presented to us. CCTV and a registration check found that Gareth Harding – a property bigwig – was called in for questioning. He was sinister, arrogant and stared at Claire throughout his formal interview. He was also seen later on googling Claire Church at home and smiling.
When they finally linked the DNA to the two murders, Claire took a late-night look at Agatha’s flat to see what she could find. She found Hind also skulking about, as was a masked man skulking in the shadows. She gave chase but he got away. This prompted Claire to stay at the office late, scribbling on incident boards to try and find a pattern. She did. She surmised that another person, or type of person, could have carried out Agatha’s murder. That would account for the non-identical and sloppy nature of copycat job (Agatha’s slightly gratuitous post-mortem scene told us that the trusses on her hands weren’t as well tied as the original murders). Perhaps someone not as strong. Perhaps a woman. Perhaps a woman who had been present at or the victim original crimes.
Perhaps there were two killers.
While she was mulling this over in the loo, someone had slipped into the office and left an envelope on her desk. Inside were photographs of letters scrawled onto what looked like mirrors: “You lied”. As we cut to the killer’s lair, we saw his or her’s Claire Church shrine, complete with newspaper cuttings and… a picture of her daughter, Megan.
Oh I don’t know. From Darkness is so formulaic, quite average in places, but I’m in it now, begrudgingly, and I want to find out who this nutcase was and is, and what Claire lied about in the past. I’ll have to watch this until its conclusion.
I hate crime dramas like that.
For our episode one review, go here