In last week’s opener, everyone’s favourite ‘midnight strangler’ (did you see him jump the garden wall, Keef?) Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) was – fortunately for the province’s attractive 30-something professional women – sleepy-byes in an induced coma in Belfast General Hospital’s intensive care unit with almost half his blood having been mopped up of the floor in A&E.
So he’s out of evil’s grip – unless his unconscious mind is able to work at distance and put the ’fluence on bad disciple Katie Benedetto (Aisling Franciosi) telepathically, nothing much could happen.
His subconscious is certainly busy; as Stella swims her lengths alone in a darkened hotel pool Spector is bed-bathed by intense Nurse Sheridan (Aisling Bea). We feel he’s sentient – there is something very sensual and salacious about the juxtaposition of him being sponged down as across town Stella showers off.
Stella’s movements are being dogged by Burns (John Lynch) as she has been summoned to see the police Ombudsman senior investigating officer (SIO) – he escorts her there – ostensibly to rub it in that her squad at Operation Musicman screwed up in the woods and she’s on the naughty step. But really we know it’s because he’s burning at being spurned and wants the skinny on her and Spector and DS Tom Anderson (Colin Morgan).
Burns tells her that the Director of Public Prosecutions wants to divulge Spector’s identity to the press as the Belfast Strangler – probably just as well because by now it must be the worst-kept secret in the city.
Stella, of course, wants to keep him all to herself to try him in a court of law not in public – “it’s already a media circus” he tells her. The man lives in clichés; last week it was a “feeding frenzy”.
The police only have two things going for them, he rightly says. One, they have Spector and two, Rose Stagg is alive – other than that it’s a disaster and the murder task force is being bumped from its space at the police station because the bigger boys at the terrorist investigations unit want it.
She and Burns argue about the wisdom of injured Anderson being on the team. He makes out he doesn’t think he was up to murder inquiries – but we know it is just his grim Northern Irish sexual repression chafing at Stella’s cosmopolitan sexual attitudes – and pique at being thrown over for younger, far prettier replacement in bed.
Katie, meanwhile, is as frenetic as ever. She’s self-mutilating by sticking a ring through her nose (how apt) and dressing like a Sunset Strip hooker, her skirt right up to her crotch. Her anger at former bestie Daisy for not scouting out the hospital to relay news of Spector is fuelled by a call from little Olivia, who has seen Daisy’s quote about meeting her father in a newspaper story on an out-of-bounds school computer.
Later, in her tarty black faux-leather carapace, her eyes like burning coals, Katie waits in the shadows opposite queues for the clubs, then, like a mythological Fury, exacts her revenge on Daisy, squeezing lemon juice into her eyes. We thought it would be bleach at least – Daisy got off lightly.
Although she’s a prima donna, surprisingly, Stella is not a woman who stamps on the hands of other women trying to climb the ladder. She is supportive of DC Gail McNally (Bronágh Taggart), a detective involved in shooting Jimmy Tyler during the ambush. Of course, Tyler was part of the Loyalist gang responsible for the death of DS Olson, another of Stella’s one-night stands in series one, so maybe she’s just grateful to her. “We’ve chosen to work in a paramilitary patriarchal culture, let’s not let it beat us,” she tells her.
Olsen’s death, indeed, the entire terrorism angle, has taken a back seat since the first series – surely it must be revived – there must be some connection to Musicman.
While Burns is at his own private bottom-spanking session with the police executive for the mess in the woods, Stella is grilled by the Ombudsman’s SIO Kinkhead (Star Wars’ Genevieve O’Reilly) – the queens of sci-fi, Scully and Mon Mothma, go head to head. Both blonde and steely, they are almost mirror images.
The review is less than impressed with Burns’s assertion that he’d believed sectarian nutter Tyler posed no threat to the investigation into Spector – especially as he’d already stormed the women’s refuge where his estranged wife was hiding.
And Kinkhead speaks for us all by saying the police were mad to have taken Spector on the recce – questioning the risk assessments done for moving Spector from the custody suite. Stella says it was done all belt and braces – and is adamant that everything she did saved Rose’s life – “first duty of a police officer”.
Poor Rose – the hospital does a less than a bang-up job by wheeling Spector’s trolley past her ward – sensitivity is not its forte. Haunted, she leaves the hospital with daughter Nancy and her husband, whom we suspect is also no longer dealing with a full deck.
Spector, meanwhile, is the bionic man – “ready to rock” in surgery, says nice Dr Spencer (Barry Ward) the ITU consultant to surgeon Miss Fender (Antoinette Morelli). Only hours after major surgery, although not ‘far, far beneath in the abysmal sea’, our kraken wakes. Spector twitches and jerks alive like Frankenstein’s monster. We rather expected his first words to Dr Spencer and Nurse Sheridan to be, “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed”. But he has a seizure as he tries to escape intubation – even when he’s unconscious he is dangerous – it takes two of them to hold him down and Sheridan looks properly spooked.
In a swishly appointed but almost empty new eyrie above the city, Stella goes through the litany of shortcomings of the operation so far and warns her task force it is within a hair’s breadth of being taken off the case – they’re not at home to Mr Cock-up anymore. The good news is a tip-off that Spector rents a lock-up in East Belfast – they get a warrant to check it out.
Meanwhile, Spector’s wife Sally Ann’s divorce lawyer calls the biggest shark in the city’s legal barracuda pool, Sean Healy (the spiffing Aiden McArdle, here looking very much like his cousin Steve Coogan) to defend Spector. Healy sees an interesting payday ahead; his female secretary obviously sees something far more perplexing. Healy’s reputation is legion with the police; he’s going to be bad news for their case, we predict.
Coming round from the general anaesthetic, Spector tells ward staff he doesn’t remember being in custody or shot; he thinks he’s been in a car accident, he believes it’s 2006, he’s 26 – and that Olivia is a baby. When Dr Spencer declines to say more and says Spector needs a solicitor he looks wide-eyed, although close up there is a flicker of calculation in his eyes. Amnesia – there’s a nice get-out-of-jail card. We do give him the some benefit of the doubt as he hugs Olivia – but that ‘Ahh!’ moment is setting us up for a kicker of a cliffhanger.
At the lock-up Stella makes a grisly discovery in a stolen vehicle with fake plates; Spector’s collection of scarf restraints, gruesome mementoes and death tableaux photos – and Stella suddenly sees the stakes zoom higher than even she expected.
After last week’s fairly static and exposition-heavy episode, the action has picked up with a lot more location work and a tougher time keeping tabs on characters. Gillian Anderson’s face is now so chiselled and marble-like that she’s barely reacting facially at all – maybe she has Burns so cowed now she needs someone else to rile her up. We hope to see fireworks between Anderson and McArdle, an actor who deserves a far higher profile in our estimation.
For our episode one review, go here