It’s two years since we left the world’s most unlikely grief counsellor, Paul Spector, AKA the Belfast Strangler, gut-shot in a clearing in the woods outside the city. This time the carnage was not of his making. While under arrest and helping the police to find former girlfriend Rose Stagg, his latest captive, Spector (Jamie Dornan) was unexpectedly shot by Loyalist gangster Jimmy Tyler, who suspected him of having an affair with his estranged wife.
NB: Spoilers ahead…
The Keystone Kops led by seconded Met Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (the glacial Gillian Anderson) are left with one of their own on the casualty list too. More by luck than judgement, Stella’s latest conquest, Det Sgt Tom Anderson (Colin Morgan), has been hit in the funny bone in police crossfire with Tyler.
Although it is a hell of a long time before anyone bothers to check on the poor lad, because despite the fact that her hotel bed is probably still warm from her coupling with Anderson, Stella is all about saving Spector’s life. Most of us would have thought ‘good riddance to bad rubbish’, but watching him rushed by ambulance to hospital through a haze of tears, she claims to be determined to get a conviction that will put him behind bars for life. Oh, pull the other one, Stel, you are spellbound by Spector.
The NHS might be overworked and understaffed – but at Belfast General Hospital Spector is treated like a VIP, with triage medics under the direction of world-weary Dr Joe O’Donnell (Richard Coyle). The detail of Spector’s treatment is exhaustive as they paddle around in his blood, packing his wounds in graphic scenes more suited to a medical documentary.
Spector, tough as old boots, is presumably hallucinating as he hovers between life and death with a cocktail of painkillers running through his almost–collapsed veins, and driving in pursuit of something though a dark tunnel to a reprise of the song from episode 5 season two: “Mama, bring me my walking cane, I said Mama, bring me my walking cane, I’m leaving on that midnight train, Mama, I’m drinking again, said Mama, I’m drinking again’ (apparently not an ancient blues number, but a track composed by series creator Allan Cubitt and sound man Paul Maynes for the series).
“He’s hypertensive and puking,” reports a nurse – the staff are on it in a way that only medics who are used to working in old Belfast know – this lot are young, though. As O’Donnell organises traffic coming into the wards he’s told there’s another gunshot on the way. “What is this – the 70s?” he snarls.
O’Donnell tells Stella that Spector has “massive internal bleeding; he’s lost half his blood volume at least and given where he was shot he needs his spleen and a bucket”. Will he live? “Maybe.”
As hospital visitors pass by, Stella realises she’s displaying gore all over her nice silk top. She watches behind glass almost like a concerned relative as blood is mopped up off the floor in triage.
No expense is spared to keep Spector alive; such is his allure to women that Nurse Kiera Sheridan (comic Aisling Bea in a straight role) looks almost dreamily at him when he comes out of surgery and into intensive care. We are going to have to keep an eye on her.
During the whole episode it is hard to guess the agendas of any of the characters. The moral centre would seem to be Dr O’Donnell, although he has a rather unlikely and unprofessional conversation about a doctor’s duty with a female junior doctor who mentions her misgivings that she was in Spector’s target cohort.
One of his best buddies was a doctor in the military and completed tours in Afghanistan field hospitals, he says. Badly hurt Taliban had to come ahead of injured British troops if their clinical need dictated it – same in Northern Ireland in the old days.
“That didn’t always make it very popular but he’d still argue that medical care has to delivered according to clinical need without discrimination – even if he is a murdering bastard – allegedly.”
It all goes without saying, doesn’t it?
There is going to be a police ombudsman’s report into why Spector was taken to the woods and why Tyler was shot dead.
When Assistant Chief Constable Jim Burns (John Lynch) asks her how Anderson is, Stella says she doesn’t know – “We had to leave him there”. Nice way to treat someone you just slept with – well, she slept with him because he looks like Spector.
Bosses have warned Burns that there’s going to be “a media feeding frenzy” and that Stella must be kept away from the cameras. “I can manage her, sir,” says Burns, uncertainly. Yeah, right – remember the slap he got last time he tried to dominate her?
Anderson, meanwhile is the walking wounded – shot hilariously in his humerus.
He tells Stella that the nerve damage in his arm could be career-ending. “I’m sure it’s not,” she says, but doesn’t seem that fussed.
Anderson is not mollified. “Why did you run to him?” seems a good question under the circumstances – we’d all be pretty cheesed off to be passed over for a killer. She feigns surprise, saying: “I could see his injuries were worse.”
“Why did you sound so anguished?” Stella answers that she wanted him alive, in court and in jail for life. “If I sounded anguished, that’s why,” she says, unconvincingly. We don’t believe her any more than poor Anderson.
She’s losing her grip on the case. Burns comes tells her that the chief constable wants him to do the press conference on the shooting debacle. She demands to know if she is still in charge and furious at being sidelined.
Stella is now almost as much an outsider as Spector.
Spector’s wife Sally Ann tells the kids that dad’s been in a car accident and hurt his tummy. Olivia wants to see him and stomps off when mummy vetoes it.
At home watching the TV news Spector’s little acolyte Katie Benedetto, under police bail, flies into a panic and tries to leave the house – her mother has zero control over the little minx. When Katie phones to order her cuter blonde friend Daisy Drake (Tara Lee) to go to the hospital, the sensible girl refuses and hangs up on her.
Mrs Spector, meanwhile, is reading reports of the case online in bed when daughter Olivia comes in to ask for a glass of water and starts reading about her dad being a suspected killer. There’s the stuff of nightmares – no amount of cuddles with mum are going to expunge that little bombshell.
Stella actually shows some policing skill with Tom, who is racked by the fear that Spector has raped Rose. She explains ‘flight or fight’ and why women don’t resist to save their lives. She tells Tom to “be patient, be tender, tomorrow is another day”. Good advice, Scarlett – measured advice for a vengeful husband.
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