REVIEW Grace (S1 E2/2)

When John Simm stepped into the role of DSI Roy Grace – an obsessive, grief-stricken detective patrolling the mean streets of Brighton – hopes were that this could develop into a Morse-like series with a strong sense of place, a gruff lead character and a seemingly endless amount of source material (Peter James has written 18 critically-acclaimed Roy Grace novels).

No wonder Russell ‘Endeavour‘ Lewis is the screenwriter.

However, before I crack on with my thoughts, I must say that ITV is mucking about with the rollout series and the episodes, as it often likes to do, especially with shows like Midsomer Murders. It aired episode one last year, episode two last night (Sunday 25th April) and next week ‘series two’ kicks off with another episode. There are supposed to be three episodes in that second series, but god knows when those other two will be broadcast.

Aaaanyway, onto Looking Good Dead.

It begins with the discovery of a man dressed in a gimp suit hanging from his rafters. Grace and co immediately think that the grim scene is nothing more than chem-sex fun times gone dangerously wrong. It’s only the later discovery of the dismembered body of a young woman that Grace realises there may be a serial killer on the loose – not just your run-of-the mill serial killer mind, a serial killer who obviously wants his victims to be found, and someone who leaves a scarab beetle at the scene of his crimes.

Concurrent to these brutal discoveries around the city and its surrounding dykes is the story of Zach Bryce (The Long Call’s Amit Shah), who, on his commute to work, finds a memory stick on the recently vacated seat next to him. When he gets home, he can’t resist a peek and finds access to a live stream, which shows the aforementioned young woman stabbed to death during what seems like kinky cosplay session.

Now watching his every move thanks to an elaborate spy-ware system, Bryce is threatened with death if he blabs to the cops.

What soon becomes apparent is that these killings are part of a subscription-only snuff site, with thousands of members around the globe who may millions for the privilege of watching people murdered online.

It’s a far-fetched premise – I mean I know that dark web is there and plenty of awful things happen on t’internet, but a subscription site with thousands of viewers around the world? That would have been identified pretty easily you would imagine.

No matter, because Grace is on the case and gets to work processing leads and getting nearer and nearer to the truth, until there’s a huge shooty setpiece at the end, where he captures the bad guys in the network. And this is the thing about Grace – it’s unashamed procedural action.

The difference between episode one and two – despite the slightly daft central premise – is quite stark. This was markedly better. Better paced, better directed, better told… Grace is still brooding a little and still seeks the wisdom and council from his medium pal (although, thankfully, that’s only a small part of the story this time around), but there’s real verve in the storytelling and there’s plenty of propulsive energy to carry you through.

There is some vague social commentary here about what we as a society are willing to consume and the whole proliferation of privacy and spying (the Bryces have a fancy cam to watch their baby at night), but first and foremost really this is just solid, watchable procedural business.

You get the feeling that ITV is setting up Grace to be here for the long-term.

(I also need to mention that Craig Parkinson makes an appearance as a member of the investigating team, doing his best Dot Cottan impression.)

Paul Hirons

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Grace is shown on ITV and is now available on ITV Hub in the UK

Sophie Rundle to star in Alibi’s The Diplomat

Peaky Blinders star Sophie Rundle has been announced as the star of new Alibi series, The Diplomat.

Currently filming in Barcelona, the six-part series tells the story of Laura Simmonds (Rundle) and her Barcelona Consul colleague and friend Alba Ortiz (Serena Manteghi) as they fight to protect British nationals who find themselves in trouble in the Catalan city. Mixing the roles of lawyer, counsellor and cop, Laura and Alba’s diplomatic skills are stretched to the limit by the stream of cases that walk through the Consul’s doors.

The series opens with the unexplained death of a young British barman working on a yacht in Barcelona’s notorious marina. While the Spanish police believe that the death was a tragic accident, Laura supports the boy’s grieving father, Colin (Danny Sapani) who is convinced something more sinister took place that night. As new evidence emerges and a murder enquiry is opened, Laura and Alba find links between the barman’s death, organised crime and the British security services. Laura’s quest for justice places her in real jeopardy, as she threatens to expose secrets that the British and Spanish will go to any lengths to keep hidden.

The cast includes Danny Sapani as Colin Sutherland, Steve Cree as Sam Henderson and Isak Férriz as Inspector Castells.

NORDIC NOIR Sofia Helin to star in new Swedish crime series

As we all know, thanks to The Bridge and Saga Norén, Swedish actress Sofia Helin is enshrined in the crime drama hall of fame.

And now she’s returning to the genre, thanks to new series, Fallen.

Created by Bridge co-writer Camilla Ahlgren, Fallen will star alongside Hedda Stienstedt in a tale that examines “sisterhood, parenthood, guilt, grief and how to move on after trauma”.

According to Deadline, Helin plays “Iris Broman, the new head of the Kalla Fall. Due to a tragedy, she moves from Stockholm to the southern town of Ystad to live with her half-sister Kattis (Hedda Stierstedt), where a cold case turns topical again and turns everything upside down, intertwining the lives of several people.”

The series will air in Sweden on C More and TV4, while no UK broadcaster has been announced. It will film in Malmö and Ystad, and is expected to debut in 2023.

Helin says: “I always want to continue working with people I think are talented and interesting, as with screenwriter Camilla Ahlgren. In this way, the process and cooperation are deepened, and we can continue to challenge each other.

“I discovered Linnéa Roxeheim a few years ago when I saw the series Portkod together with my daughter. That a director with that talent for the fine-tuned in terms of human relations tackles a drama in this genre makes me interested. The story [of] Fallen raises for me the question of how a person progresses after a trauma. When you can not get any redress? Is it possible to embrace the light again?”

More news as we get it…