Once again Chris Lunt returns to a familiar but always intriguing premise – what would happen if someone on the the right side of the law suddenly found themselves on the wrong side? We saw this in series one, where John Simm’s Marcus Farrow went on the run after he became suspected of killing his family.
The main protagonist this time around is prison officer and recent widower David Murdoch (Philip Glenister) who looks like a tough guy (ligting weights in the prison gym and engaging in banter with his colleagues) but on an evening likes to sing at choir practise and is very protective of his heavily pregnant daughter, Lucy (Sammy Winward).
The action really gets going when female prisoner Julie Hope (MyAnna Buring) collapses in prison and is taken to hospital, accompanied in the ambulance by David. The action really starts when, while at the hospital, he takes a phone call from Lucy, who’s in some distress – she’ being held by a male hostage, who informs him that he has to get Julie out of the hospital and bring her to a pre-organised location to make an exchange. If he calls the police his daughter is dead. David confronts Julie, who told him that all she knew was that the man on the telephone was her brother Daniel and that she was to make sure David brought her to the hospital on this day. She had no idea what he else had planned.
From that moment onwards Prey really gets going. David is on a helter-skelter down into a noirish vortex as he decides to take Julie to the pre-arranged meeting point to make an exchange for Lucy, and in the process break every rule in the book. Ordinarily you’d question why David Murdoch doesn’t just call the police, but this is TV land and the safety of his pregnant daughter is the only thing on his mind. As jeapardies go, it’s hard to beat.
With Julie as his fellow escapee (two instead of series one’s solo prey), off they went into the world to try and find Lucy and figure out the whole mess. On the way, of course, there are complications, which dig David and Julie deeper into their hole – an uneasy relationship between Julie and David (who ends up handcuffing himself to her so she doesn’t escape, à la The 39 Steps), the fact that it’s established that Julie’s brother was the charred body at the start of the episode (so who’s the guy on the other end of the phone?), an incident with a police officer that left him in critical condition and another body by the end of the episode.
With such a heightened premise in such a high-concept series you need a character that grounds everything, and that’s where Rosie Cavaliero’s Sue Reinhart comes in. She has real-world problems to deal with (like her reaction to being overlooked for a promotion and some relationship friction) but she’s so doughty and fantastically functional in her job, she makes everything seem believable when everything around her doesn’t. There’s a wry, blunt Northern every-day wit to Reinhart (when encountering a charred body at the start of the episode: “Casue of death, apart from being a charcoal briquette?”) and it’s no wonder she’s become so popular, both as a character and as an actress.
Prey feels short and sharp, a real mid-week jolt: 47 minutes of pretty much non-stop action that’s well written, well acted and well directed. Series like this live and die by their set pieces and one of the final scenes is pure Fugitive – David and Julie, cornered on the edge of a quay, decide to jump and swim for it.
Strap yourselves in for another breathless thriller. Don’t think about it, just be taken along for the ride.