You get the sense that the BBC is testing the water a bit with In The Dark, the four-part series that adapts two of Mark Billingham’s crime novels. MyAnna Buring was excellent as DI Helen Weeks in the first two-part story, and I do wonder if Weeks could form the basis for a new longish-running series featuring a new female protagonist. It’s an option for sure, and in the first two episodes, Weeks (and Buring) revealed herself to be a flawed, no-nonsense detective with likeable traits.
NB: Spoilers inside
The action for this episode switched from the rural town of Polesford, Derbyshire back to the mean streets of Manchester, with Helen and Paul’s relationship still in the balance. At the end of episode one, you may remember, Helen revealed to her partner and fellow copper Paul that she had not only been abused when she was a teenager, but the baby she was carrying might not be his. No wonder Paul wasn’t sure about the relationship – Helen was trying hard to heal wounds, but there were obvious trust issues that Paul was still working through.
Things took a turn for the surprising when a drive-by shooting of a seemingly random nature caused a car to spin off the road into a bus stop, where Paul was waiting. He died in the crash.
It was a bold move to kill off Paul. There has been much discussion about why Billingham’s main character, Tom Thorne, had been taken out of the adaptation of Time Of Death (which formed the basis for the first two parts) and not featured at all, and now we knew why – it was a very clever way to thrust new conflict onto our main protagonist. The classic build ’em up, knock ’em down technique for a character that we had become emotionally attached to. Consumed by guilt she wanted to find out how and, more importantly, why Paul had died.
Consumed by guilt Helen wanted to find out how and, more importantly, why Paul had died.
By the end of the episode, she began to wish she hadn’t.
Now heavily pregnant, Helen set out on her own personal crusade to find out what had happened. After committing herself to Paul, he had been taken away from her; not only that but she had begun to work through her own demons, get used to the idea of having a baby and sharing a new family life with Paul and the baby. Just as she was getting into the idea, that life had been ripped away from her.
She went through his phone and found some interesting numbers, one especially – it belonged to gangster Frank Linnell (played by Tim McInnerny, who’s always a joy to watch). So Helen, whose baby bump was huge at this stage of her pregnancy (you had to suspend a certain amount of disbelief here as she hauled her heavy, expectant body around), began to probe deeper.
It turned out Frank and Paul were friends, and he had been visiting him infrequently. Why? We weren’t to know yet, but it plunged Helen into yet more disarray – the man who she thought she knew had a hidden side to him. Had he really been in cahoots with the city’s big gangster?
Elsewhere, we got to know the shooter in the drive-by in more detail. He was a rookie, lower-level gang member who had been sent to do the job to earn his stripes. He was young and had a young family, and immediately felt remorse when he heard what had happened. Once he began to voice his concerns over the incident, his life was in danger.
It was an interesting juxtaposition – Helen, about to become a (single) parent, was investigating the death of her partner; while the young man who caused the accident in which he died was also a parent, was determined to protect his own baby at any cost – their similarities, albeit from different sides of the coin, were compelling.
Again, there were lots of familiar aspects to this episode (not least the slightly stereotypical depiction of a high-level gangster like Frank), but it was intriguing and interesting and, once again, Buring was very strong as Helen Weeks. I just hope she and her baby get through this in one piece.
For our episode one review go here
For our episode two review go here
For our interview with MyAnna Buring go here