REVIEW Showtrial (S1 E1/5)

And here comes another one.

World Production – yes, the makers of Line Of Duty and Vigil – is back with another high-octane thriller, this centring around a grabby did-she-or-didn’t-she thriller.

And what was interesting about this right off the bat was the way it was constructed. No lingering on the murder itself, no lingering on a body… more or less straight to an arrest – that of privileged Talitha Campbell (Celine Buckens). Daughter of ruthless property magnate Damien Campbell (who sits on Select Committees), she’s number-one suspect in the disappearance and subsequent murder of fellow student, Hannah Ellis.

Right from the get-go, Talitha is portrayed as a character who has disdain and insouciance towards everything. Her neon-green fake nails (the colour green was a theme in this episode) and sneering demeanour immediately put her at odds with investigating officer DI Paula Cassidy (Sinéad Cassidy)and her team (including a member of the CPS, in a prominent role).

We’re meant to dislike Tabitha – rich, preening and generally awful – but you could’ve bet your house that by the end of the episode that some sort of chink in her armour would emerge. That’s what did-she-or-didn’t-she stories do – they present one side of the character then make you doubt that original assumption.

In Talitha’s case there were hints that she had panic attacks when the seriousness of the situation finally sunk in.

Duty solicitor Cleo Roberts (Tracey Ifeachor) is assigned the case, and despite Talitha’s horrid father and his lawyer demanding that they take charge of the case, Talitha insists she wants nothing to do with them. So it’s down to Cleo to not only ward off the big guns but also get to grips with a client that doesn’t take anything seriously.

What’s the betting that these two will form some sort of close relationship by the final episode.

So it was a good, fast start, and interestingly and well constructed. It’s all on iPlayer ready for binging, but this could be a fun Sunday-night fix for all of us thriller fans.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 10 Best Crime Dramas This Week (Monday 1st – Sunday 7th November)

Another big week in crime drama. We not only have Craith, Shetland and American Crime Story continuing, but we also have the new Adam Dalgliesh series on Channel 5, Swedish true-crime drama The Unlikely Murderer on Netflix and Close To Me – with Christopher Eccleston – on Channel 4. Oh, and series two of Temple, too. Enjoy!

S3 E5/6

News reaches police HQ that a body has been discovered. Cadi and Vaughan reach a conclusion about the case, and have to move quickly if they’re going to prove their claim.
Sunday 7th November, 9pm, S4C

S6 E3/6

The race is on to catch Sandy’s attacker before he can escape Shetland, while Lynda Morton finds herself in trouble, so she desperately calls Perez for help – offering a key name for his investigation in return. Blood from the recent break-in throws up a DNA match that leads to another murder suspect, and a shocking confession causes tensions to boil over, sowing the seeds of further violence.
Wednesday 3rd November, 9pm, BBC One

3 Impeachment: American Crime Story *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE*
S3 E3/10
It’s 1997, and Linda disconcerts Monica when she decides to make her voice heard. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is unanimous in permitting Paula’s lawsuit to continue, and Clinton must consider settling the case, which is not something his opponents want to see happen. 
Tuesday 2nd November, 9.10pm, BBC Two

S1 E1&2/6

In January 1975, a student nurse dies during a training demonstration and Dalgliesh is sent to investigate, accompanied by his partner DS Masterson. With poisoning confirmed as the cause of death Dalgliesh questions several of the nurses, and also has a case of blackmail on his hands
Thursday 4th and Friday 5th November, 9pm, Channel 5

5 The Unlikely Murderer *NEW UK PREMIERE SERIES*
S1 E1-5/5

The assassination of Palme in 1986, Engström managed to elude justice right up to his death through a combination of audacity, luck, and a perplexed police force.
From Friday 5th November, Netflix

S2 E4/4

Max and Jake pick up arguments old and new, while the Lynch family face their darkest secret. Max offers Erin a way out, but is running out of time to find one for himself. 
Wednesday 3rd November, 9pm, BBC Two

S1 E2/5

DI Cassidy desperately tries to gather enough evidence to convince the CPS to charge Talitha, but new information concerning Troy’s whereabouts threatens to derail the case. Cleo and Heidi meet with Damian and consider striking a deal, but it will mean Talitha having to reconcile with her father. Brian starts looking into the history of Talitha and Hannah’s friendship, and the police track down a third suspect, who tells them a different version of what happened the night of the ball
Sunday 7th November, 9pm, BBC One

S1 E5/6

Now that she has seen Theo, Angela focuses on uncovering Olivier’s manipulation and getting back custody of her children. However, she realises that she can’t go back to the person she was before and tries to recover the old Angela. 
Sunday 7th November, 9pm, ITV

S1 E1/6

New psychological drama, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by author Amanda Reynolds, which follows the story of Jo Harding (Connie Nielsen), a woman who seems to have it all – a beautiful house in the country, a loving family and a devoted husband, Rob (Christopher Eccleston). The story starts with Jo waking in a pool of blood at the bottom of her stairs. She is horrified to discover that the resulting brain trauma has caused her to forget the last year of her life. Discharged from hospital, she has a disturbing flashback that causes her to question just what she might have been up to during the months she can’t remember. As she struggles to piece her life together with the help of Rob, Jo starts to fear that her family are keeping secrets from her.
Sunday 7th November, 9pm, Channel 4

S2 E1/7

Daniel wants to forget the bunker ever existed and reunite his family, but when his wrongdoing catches up with him, he is in danger of losing everything. Meanwhile, Anna threatens to go rogue, Lee is faced with a crisis, Beth’s recovery is tainted by suspicion, and Eve is leading a secret double-life
Monday 1st November, 9pm, Sky Mix

REVIEW Paris Police 1900 (S1 E7&8/8)

Before we go any further, you have to say Paris Police 1900 was a wholly surprising bolt from the blue. We got no fanfare, no prior warning… this eight-part series came from nowhere to become one of the best of the year, if not the best.

It’s been an incredibly immersive and cinematic series, as well as grand in scale in ambition; choc-full of flawed, complicated characters and a storyline that was as much a cautionary tale as it was a history lesson.

We got to see the full-blooded, terrible violence of turn-of-the-20th-century Paris in all its grisly ferment, all against a backdrop of fast-developing technology. And yet it always felt it was mired in barbarism – brutal murders, heinous, naked anti-semitism, gnawing sadness and violet encounters. How one would navigate such a contrasting world of opulence and affluence and poverty-stricken squalor is beyond me.

And it all revolved around a real moment in history – the Alfred Dreyfus affair – with fictional characters battling their own corners for control of the soul of the city.

With all this brutality swirling and the stand-off between Inspector Lépine and the loathsome narcissist Jules Guérin at the end of episode six, I was steeling myself for an almighty street battle between the police and the assembled leagues. However, that didn’t quite happen.

Instead, with Lépine and his men holed up on one side of the street and Guérin on the other side, they eyed each other intensely, Lépine reacting to Guérin’s plans with a steely calmness. However, chaos threatened to turn the city into a warzone – which is exactly what Guérin wanted, of course.

But he didn’t get the warzone. Instead, Lépine made a deal with the anarchists to snuff out the threat of the leagues’ marauders, and the outcome of the trial itself didn’t go Guérin’s way either. This led to implosion. All throughout the siege, the Guérin matriarch – a superstitious, deranged and dangerous woman – sought the aid of a clairvoyant to show her the way through the maelstrom. However, when the family lost the battle, their weaknesses were laid bare. From the outside, the Guérin mantra was all about ridding the country of Jews because they wanted a pure France, but now, as their money ran out, it was the end of the line. Like so many racists and thugs, it was all about the power and the money, not about the cause.

It ended badly as younger brother Luis committed matricide (that was quite the scene) and Jules was finally arrested.

And that was just one strand of this enormous story.

Puybaraud (I will never tire of that name spoken in French) finally got his just desserts after it looked as though he would be able to snuff out both Fiersi and Jouin and, thanks to Cochefort’s hospital internment, take over the whole damn precinct. But, as we guessed, it was Madame Lépine who dealt with him in the severest way possible thanks to the pistol she acquired from the police station. (Although even that was less than straightforward.)

Of course, Madame Lépine got away with it, which sort of seemed to be the way at the end of this series. Henri Sabran de Pontevès got away with everything – killing his daughter Joséphine Berger (this was the big twist in the episode), giving the order to bump off his son Gabriel, and controlling the abattoirs for so long. And although the Guérins imploded, we hardly saw them get the justice they deserved.

[UPDATE: I may have got this wrong… Gabriel killed his sister and the ‘chimney sweep’ disposed of the body… although you have to say, as grisly as it sounds, why he didn’t just take the body to one of the Sabran-controlled abattoirs is anyone’s guess]

This was the way of this finalé – you expected things to happen, but almost shyed away from them. Which was strange for a series that absolutely and routinely pulled no punches. For instance, Jouin was intent on capturing Gabriel Sabran for himself and in many other crime series, the ‘hero’ character would capture the big bad guy. Except here, the big bad guy didn’t turn out to be quite the big bad guy and he was shot in the head by Fiersi instead.

Minor gripes… well, not necessarily gripes, but slight surprise at the way they chose to end the story. Everyone carried on as kind of normal, carrying their demons and desires and trying not to let them mix.

(Although it has to be said, the way the morticians packed away Joséphine Berger’s dismembered body one part by one was not only extremely graphic but very pignant as well.)

In Paris Police 1900 we got some huge themes, world-building to an extent and plenty of incredible depth when it came to characters. Everyone from Meg Steinheil and Jeanne Chauvin to the ambiguous, enigmatic Lépines had flaws, flashes of brilliance and meaty backstories.

I stand by what I said before – this played out like a Scorsese movie written by James Ellroy, combining as it did incredibly flawed, flinty characters who crossed streams with one of France’s most sensational socio-political moments.

It was also suffused with a surrealist, grotesque kind of humour – think Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen, especially when it came to the framing of Bertillon and his bustling gang of forensics.

There is a rumour that creator Fabien Nury wants to make four series of Paris Police… after watching this largely incredible first instalment, I would welcome each and every one of them with open arms.

Paul Hirons

Episode rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Series rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.




REVIEW The Long Call (S1 E3&4/4)

I was planning to review every episode of The Long Call separately, but alas, time has been at a premium this week.

The first thing to say is that this series got better as the episodes went by, culminating in something really quite profound, interesting and emotionally engaging. In fact, the deeper dimensions to this series were, arguably, more interesting than the case itself, which although always at the forefront never really engaged me as a viewer.

No, it was the strong currents beneath the water that really drove this drama.

In the final two episodes, suspects for the murder of Simon Walden were lined up and processed with speed. Christopher Reasley? No. Gaby, Walden’s ex-flatmate and ex full stop? No. Maurice and Lucy? No. Ed, who shamefully sexually assaulted Rona? No.

As these people’s real backstories were revealed, I just knew that eventually, the focus would return to the Brethren. It had to really, especially when you consider we got a taste of Brother Dennis’s controlling ways towards his vulnerable wife, Grace, in episode one.

So in that way, The Long Call was predictable as you like. But what really made it stand out from similar stories like The Valhalla Murders was those central two characters – Dennis and especially Grace.

As the end approached and it was obvious that Dennis had a hand in the murder, Matthew did his best to reassure Grace that she was safe if she ever wanted to tell him what really happened. This was a woman, we found out, who had been in an abusive relationship for 40 years – fear had calcified every bone in her body, but deep down there was still fight and courage. Like every survivor of domestic abuse, in whatever setting.

The way the story handled the subject was sensitive and moving, and when we found out Dennis had coerced Grace into murdering Simon Walden for his own devices, your heart broke for her. And in Anita Dobson, we had the series’ one, truly outstanding performance. Vulnerable, broken and at the end of her tether, she was able to summon just the right amount of courage not only to tell the truth and incriminate the man who had her in the vice-like grip of fear for decades, but also own what she had done.

As for the rest of the series, the main theme was most definitely healing – Matthew and his mother, Caroline and her father, Maurice and Lucy, and even the victim – Simon Walden – coming to terms with his past and his terrible mistakes.

And even though the procedural and actual central case in The Long Call wasn’t the strongest, the human drama was extremely strong. Whether Matthew Venn is a charismatic enough lead to keep us engrossed for further instalments is another big question, but with Ann Cleeves writing the stories, you just know that the characters will move you and make you think.

Paul Hirons

Episode three rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Episode four rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Series rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.



REVIEW The Long Call (S1 E2/4)

Episode two of this four-part series really started to click into gear, with revelations aplenty and suspects being presented as if they were on The Generation Game’s conveyor belt.

Rosa’s disappearance at the end of episode one gave urgency to Matthew and Jen, and soon they were able to determine that Walden and Rosa knew each other.

Rosa’s mother had retrieved a necklace found in her bedroom and gave it to Venn. But who gave it to her?

The chalet Walden used to meet Rosa in was cleaned by Gaby, Walden’s ex-flatmate. Who later confessed to having an affair with, and was carrying his baby.

Inside the chalet, Walden’s laptop was found… which later was found to contain messages from an unknown person on a messaging app telling him to stay away from Rosa.

Walden’s other flatmate – Caroline – revealed to boyfriend Ed that her overbearing father Christopher was driving a car that crashed and killed her mother.

And then Maurice let it be known to a young man seen kissing his vulnerable daughter Lucy that he would stop at nothing to protect her.

These were all the clues and little drops in the ocean that this episode provided, and the way they came was very join-the-dots… very linear. One line of enquiry led to another. One piece of evidence’s true nature was revealed later in the episode. It was satisfying and very solid procedural.

And yet, even though things were being revealed (not least Christopher being revealed to be the man who bought Rosa the necklace… a lovechild, maybe?) in a straightforward manner, one thing I wasn’t expecting was the relationship between Venn and his hitherto bitter and stern mother.

The way they began to slowly work things out and begin to understand each other.

In a series that gives us the kind of solid procedural that we’ve seen so many times before, this was an unexpected and welcome piece of character development.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3 out of 5.


REVIEW Shetland (S6 E2/6)

Halfway through episode two of this new series of Shetland, Jimmy Perez looks exasperatedly at the witness board and bemoans the fact that they have a bunch of suspects that have no connection to each other.

I knew the feeling.

As good as it is to have Shetland back, I get the feeling that the writers have over-egged this story. With so many characters and possibilities, narrative strands and callbacks, this story is jumping all over the place.

At the end of episode one, we got a tense and terrifying Vigil-like scene inside a diving decompression tank. And in this episode, while the death of Eamon Gauldie was being investigated we got scenes in a religious retreat, more scenes at Logan Gribban’s place, scenes with a recalcitrant and defiant Donna Killick, and more gentle scenes with Jimmy’s dad.

And Sandy ended up getting run over by Lynda Morton’s nefarious pal.

There was a lot going on, and I’m not sure everything felt linear or comfortable. Every piece of this puzzle felt a bit jagged.

Take the Gribban connection. Eamon Gauldie, the man who took the drone footage above Galbraith’s house the day he died, was thought to have been murdered by his crewmate, Mick Muir. Mick Muir, Jimmy and Tosh found, was related to Gribban, who was still smarting from being turned down by Galbraith.

So could the two have conspired to not only murder Galbraith but also kill off witness Eamon Gauldie? No wonder Maggie Kean looked a bit perplexed.

As ever, what gets Shetland through all this initial jumping around are the characters and the emotional dimensions of their stories. Jimmy opening up to the (potentially dodgy) sister at the convent about grief and his mother, the complicated feelings of death and guilt swirling Donna Killick, and the touching scenes with Jimmy and his father.

I still haven’t got a handle on this series yet, and I won’t until it whittles down a few things and settles down a bit. However, this is Shetland, so I’m intrigued to see how this goes.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3 out of 5.


NORDIC NOIR Karppi start date and trailer unveiled

One of our favourite Nordic Noirs, from Finland no less is Karppi (or Deadwind in English). It’s due to begin its third and final series this month, and now we have a trailer.

In series three, Sofia Karppi (Pihla Viitala) and Sakari Nurmi (Lauri Tilkanen) once again work together in chasing a brutal murderer, whose victims are adorned with strange symbols. The case forces them both to face parts of their pasts they can no longer escape.

Here’s the trailer with English subtitles.

It starts on Friday 29th October in Finland and can be seen on Netflix in 2022.

Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.

REVIEW The Long Call (S1 E1/4)

Ann Cleeves has had a long and distinguished writing career, and is already the creative brain behind the brilliant Vera and Shetland.

Those two series featured the likes of Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez – strong, idiosyncratic characters who wear their hearts on their sleeves, and are ultimately good people. They often solve crimes in windswept coastal locations, and it’s no surprise the Cleeves has returned to the coast for her newest character, DI Matthew Venn.

But there are a few crucial differences to this four-part adaptation of her first Matthew Venn novel, The Long Call.

Yes, it’s set on the coast but this time in a busy, almost trendy area – Ilfracombe in Devon. Then comes Venn himself, a clean-shaven, beautiful man (played by Ben Aldridge), who is gay. I only mention Venn’s sexuality because a) he is, b) he’s the first male detective lead in UK TV history, and b) it’s integral to the story.

Venn has moved back to Ilfracombe with husband Jonathan, but this first episode begins to prize open his difficult past, which includes being banished from his family home… populated by a secular, Quaker-like mother and father. With his father now in the ground, his mother has no time for him, or his lifestyle.

Dovetailing with Venn’s family set-up is a whodunit.

A man named Simon Walden is found dead on the beach, initially with no forensics, identity or motive.

However, soon Venn and his team find that Walden was involved in a drink-driving death years before and had escaped to Ilfracombe to start afresh.

As ever with these things, we’re introduced to a whole raft of characters – Walden’s flatmates Gaby and Caroline, Caroline’s over-bearing dad Christopher, Walden’s co-worker Lucy and her father Maurice… these are the names and faces that will no doubt occupy the story going forward.

But like any new series that introduces a new lead character, all eyes are on him. Venn is, like Stanhope and Perez before him, a nice guy. Whether he has the charisma, drive and dark side that really make lead investigative characters so interesting is yet to be seen, but on the opening instalment, I wonder if he is too nice.

However, as you would expect from anything based on Cleeves’ work, it’s engaging stuff. Gently unfolding, beautiful to look at and solid procedurally. It doesn’t blow your socks off, and the involvement of a cult-like religious community more or less replicates the story from The Valhalla Murders.

Let’s see where this goes.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3 out of 5.

BBC unveils first-look images for A Very British Scandal

The BBC has unveiled a batch of first-look images from the upcoming second series of A Very British Scandal.

Starring the likes of Claire Foy, Paul Bettany and Julia Davis, it’s penned by Killing Times favourite, Sarah Phelps.

This second series focuses on the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, one of the most notorious, extraordinary, and brutal legal cases of the 20th century.

Famed for her charisma, beauty, and style, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, dominated the front pages, as the divorce exposed accusations of forgery, theft, violence, drug-taking, bribery, and an explicit Polaroid picture that was to haunt her for the rest of her life.

As her contemporaries, the press, and the judiciary sought to vilify her, Margaret kept her head held high with bravery and resilience, refusing to go quietly as she was betrayed by her friends and publicly shamed by a society that revelled in her fall from grace.

The BBC says that the three-part series will be available soon.

More news as we get it…

ITV confirms transmission date for The Tower

Yes, there’s another new crime drama coming on ITV.

The channel is pumping them out left, right and centre at the moment (probably in order to clear the schedules for I’m A Celebrity), and The Tower is a three-part drama starring Gemma Whelan.

It’s also being stripped across the week.

Homeland screenwriter Patrick Harbinson has adapted Kate London’s first novel for ITV, Post Mortem.

The Tower is the first in Kate London’s Metropolitan series of novels featuring Sergeant Sarah Collins and rookie Lizzie Griffiths.

A veteran beat cop and a teenage girl fall to their deaths from a tower block in south-east London. Left alive on the roof are a five-year-old boy and rookie police officer Lizzie Griffiths. Within hours, Lizzie has disappeared, and Detective Sergeant Sarah Collins is charged with leading the investigation. She not only has to track down Lizzie before she comes to serious harm, but also to uncover the truth behind the grisly deaths. What chain of events took two police officers and two children to the roof of that tower block – why did two of them die? Why did two of them survive?

The antagonistic relationship between the experienced Sergeant Sarah Collins and the novice cop Lizzie Griffiths is at the heart of London’s novels and The Tower.  What happened on the roof of the tower is the mystery that Sarah must uncover. When it’s finally revealed, the truth will cast its shadow over Sarah and Lizzie’s relationship and their lives. 

The Tower: Monday 8th – Wednesday 10th November, 9pm, ITV