Last week ITV’s new four-part adaptation of the tragic Rhys Jones story introduced us to both a family trying to come to terms with the overwhelming grief of losing an 11-year-old son to a seemingly random murder and a policeman in a temporary position tasked with bringing those who took the lad’s life to justice. We also met a gang of local youths drunk on the strength of their status as untouchables in and around Croxteth, convinced that their power within the community would help them to get away with the murder. Episode was a harrowing, uncomfortable watch, but it was sensitively staged and researched. More of the same in episode two.
DS Dave Kelly (Stephen Graham) needed to make a breakthrough – the case was on all the front pages both nationally and locally; the TV was non-stop. He was certain that Sean Mercer was behind it all, but he told his team that they needed to find that weapon. That would put the cat among the pigeons, he said.
But as Kelly was laying down the law, there was more sorrow and heartbreak to come: Rhys’s funeral. There was a heavy media presence and also a city cathedral bathed in Everton blue. Again, a heart-rending scene.
Away from the cathedral we were starting to get a better idea of the perpetrators (this hasn’t been played as a whodunit, and neither should it have been – we know the identity of the killers, and the narrative drive of the piece is showing how Kelly and his team are breaking down the gang’s resolve and cockiness). Kevin Mercer, interestingly (and juxtapositionally), was at what looked like Disneyland with his family. He rode the rollercoasters, but as his family members screamed through each dip and twist, he remained impassive, his mind elsewhere. Meanwhile, James Yates – who whose house was being bugged by Kelly and his team – was fielding questions from his family who, unbelievably, were covering for him. Kelly and his eavesdroppers heard him talking about a murder weapon, and a kid called Latch. Latch was Jordan Olsson, an emotionally disturbed teen who verbally abused his nurse mother frequently. Gang leader Sean Mercer and his mother, meanwhile, was putting the heat on Latch’s mother to not say anything.
What we were seeing here was a community united in grief, but a smaller part of the community living by old-school rules – don’t rat on your neighbours. “People ’round here don’t grass. That’s the lowest of the low.”
Kelly was sure it was Mercer and his crew, but had no real, hard evidence. ACC Pat Gallan (Sara Powell) was pressuring Kelly, but Kelly was holding firm – he didn’t want to rush this and move at the wrong moment. Everything had to be right. As he said in a meeting, everyone knows it was Mercer but they can’t do anything about it. Yet. Build up the evidence, and then nail him and his accomplices.
It was a cat-and-mouse game; a dance. They were putting the heat on, and the gang members were bending. And Kelly and his team also searched Kevin Moody’s house, where they found the murder weapon. He named Sean Mercer on his return from the US, although he said he was only 80 per cent certain it was Mercer who gave him the gun to hide.
As each of the gang members began to feel the true magnitute of what they had done and were beginning to be broken down, questions of loyalty – both within family units and sections of the community – were being explored. And loyalties were being strained: collude with the cops and be spurned by the community, or do the right thing. They were the questions in tonight’s episode.
For our episode one review go here