ITV 12/01/15 written by Chris Chibnall, directed by James Strong, starring David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker
After last week’s tense re-start matters open out a bit meaning an episode with necessarily less memorable moments rather valuable building blocks are being assembled. Somehow, perhaps because we’ve only heard about it second hand, the Sandbrook case fails to engage with quite the same passion thus meaning we have to rely on David Tennant’s dogged performance to carry it. He is playing somewhat different to his usual more energetic type and it works well. At any moment you expect Hardy to announce he is dying because that is certainly the demeanour he is showing when we see him alone.
|"David, don't you know anywhere else for a picnic?"|
The confrontations with Sandbrook’s alleged perpetrator Lee are directed to maximum effect and take an unexpected route. Though we have no clue of his guilt or otherwise Lee’s conviction in these exchanges constantly turns the tables on hardy. We’re left to wonder how much truth there is in the label one paper gave him- as mentioned in court- of the worst police officer in the country. Tennant’s portrayal and his actions hint as much about personal respite as actually solving the cases. It’s a strong episode too for Olivia Colman’s emotionally bewildered Ellie who clings to the other case as a way of earning something from her shattered life. Her beachside talk with Claire is perfectly pitched; neither too emotional nor too clinical and is a fine example of Chris Chibnall’s ability to draw out powerful performances from what on paper might look too simple.
On the other hand there are sequences where you can almost see the joins as if the production team have to fill eight episodes when there may not be quite as much story this time to fill them with. The arranged meeting between Lee and Claire seems an unlikely development even if it provides a fittingly dramatic cliffhanger. Assuming accurate research has been done it is alarming how easily Joe’s confession is rendered inadmissible. If this is what happens it seems to tip the balance in favour of the defence which may appear to follow the `innocent unless proven guilty` route however here you wonder whether the circumstances would play out this way. There is a slight hint- and this may be reading the actors wrongly- of a more personal rivalry between the two counsels unduly influencing the judge. Would the latter really dismiss the confession so easily without even a recess to consider? After all as stated the confession came before Joe’s wife assaulted him so how is the latter relevant to the former?
I’m finding that the holding back of Joe’s dialogue to a minimum seems more likely to be for the sake of dramatic impact. Unless there are conversations with his counsel to which we have not been privy, Joe seems to have pleaded not guilty just to try and escape conviction rather than because he has anything that would prove him innocent. We have no idea what he is thinking unlike a lot of the other characters and this can seem like an attempt to portray him as some kind of distant monster. You suspect this is what the Rev Coates is trying to unearth but for the moment Joe remains an oblique character. It would be satisfying to delve into his mind set. Of course there are six episodes to go…
Elsewhere we get splashes of local intrigue and guilty looks. The faces on those assembled in the Latimer house when prosecutor Jocelyn Knight announces there are no secrets left to uncover is a picture!
After slowing the pace of development the climax thrills with two separate crises as Lee disappears with Claire while Beth confronts Ellie. It’s at the end you realise the episode takes place in bright sunlight for the most part and while this does rather call into question the timeline (aren’t we supposed to be seven months from July which would make it an unseasonably sunny February) it does create an unexpected visual. Unspeakable horrors are being discussed lives being torn apart but outside the Sun is shining. It even allows for the very filmic notion that both key lawyers consider their case either on a sun kissed yacht or else standing in front of a sunset. Of course that’s how this blog is put together too!
P.S It’s too late know but I totally failed to notice in last week’s episode that the counsel’s surnames are Knight and Bishop but it’s worth mentioning when you consider the name of the series. I’m now considering seeing if any of the character’s names are anagrams of `I am the real killer`!!