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

6 thoughts on “REVIEW Grace (S1 E2/2)”

  1. Well….I saw No 1 (from last year) and no 2 of this year for the first time yesterday. Going to see no 1 of this year tomorrow. Got to say I like them, very gripping and really hope they complete all 18 of the novels. Like identifying the scenes of Brighton and Shoreham. Must admit a good 4 stars. But still behind Nordic Murders – latest series starts this week!


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