Review: In Plain Sight (S1 E2/3), Wednesday 14th December, ITV

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in_plain_sight_episode1_02_1With the revengeful Peter Manuel having evaded justice once, he now embarks on a murder spree, his first victim a young army girl. Inspector Muncie certainly suspects Manuel, and thinks his parents are protecting him, but he can’t prove anything. Worse, Manuel is out on bail for a burglary, and seems likely to offend again, planning a raid on a rich family and tooling up for the occasion.  

In Plain Sight is shaping up to be a taut psychological thriller, much more engaging than the BBC’s comparable Rillington Place, which turned out to be all atmosphere and little insight.

When Manuel shoots a family of three, the Watts, in course of the burglary, Muncie can’t convince anyone he’s changed his MO.

Again, though it’s the ’50s, the Scottish police seem to be remarkably enlightened in their treatment of their women, and now there’s a female detective on the case – perhaps she’ll make a breakthrough?

In fact it’s Muncie who figures out that Manuel was holed up in a vacant property to case the joint (and this is a real feature of Manuel’s MO), but hwe has hit the wrong target. Of course, what we’re all meant to appreciate at this point is that modern forensics would have been able to close the case immediately, so thank goodness for CSIs. Muncie though has nothing to aid him except his convictions.

With Manuel inside for an unrelated burglary, and the dimwitted local coppers convinced that the father of the family did it, we get an extraordinary scene where Manuel and Watt meet up in jail, and Manuel actually claims he has proof that Watt didn’t do it. When this gets back to Muncie he spends his own time proving the evidence against Watt is unreliable, and gets him released.

(In real life Watt was indeed under suspicion, but the case against him was so tenuous, and the eyewitness statements so unreliable, that it was eventually dropped).

But what exactly is Manuel’s motive for helping Watt to get off? Is it just that he doesn’t want someone else to get the ‘credit’ for his crimes? If so, he is certainly the psychopath Muncie believes him to be.

Manuel too is released, and goes to Watt and his lawyer (Dennis Lawson, in a  very unshowy performance) claiming he knows who the killer was – basically just to wind up Muncie.

But it’s not until Christmas that Manuel strikes again – well, that time of year does bring out the worst in some of us – he abducts and murders another girl, and when Muncie tries to hunt him down, turns himself in. It’s as if he want to get caught – certainly he enjoys the attention – but is he being too cocky, and will the stolid copper be able to pin anything on him this time?

Martin Compston’s performance remains absorbing, showing that either as the persistent copper in Line of Duty or in a completely contrasting role as the monstrous Manuel, he brings a commitment and intensity to his parts which make him a compelling central character. But will he get the chance to reveal more of the inner psychology of the character before he gets his inevitable comeuppance?

Chris Jenkins

For our episode one review, go here

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