The Commander: Vol 4-6

The Commander: Vol 4-6

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Let’s make one thing clear. Clare Blake (Amanda Burton) is not Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren). Although both are the creation of Lynda La Plante and both have top jobs in the police force, their personalities are very different. Prime Suspect was a full frontal feminist attack on a traditionally male dominated institution. The Commander is a subtle character-led investigation into gender politics and class prejudice.

In this straight-to-DVD package, there are three one-and-a-half hour mysteries, all of which are expertly directed and, for the most part, wonderfully acted. It is in the detail that the quality shows. Not only are the bit part players given well written lines, but someone has taken trouble with them. The same can be said for the locations. This is better than good telly; it is excellent filmmaking.

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The use of CSI-style flashbacks might be considered a cheap substitute for the viewer’s imagination, but in the case of Windows Of The Soul, which concerns the murder of a popular priest in a troubled East London estate, the technique is justified.

Nothing is as it appears. The twists and turns are cleverly disguised. As with every superior detective story, the who in the dunnit remains hidden until the final cliff has been hung. In addition to the murders, there is Clare and her prickly DCI Doug James (Mark Lewis Jones) and the rest of the team – cynical men, sympathetic women – who are just as important.

The Evil You Know, with its theme of insanity and drugs, has Clare taking over duties from a DI who leaves suddenly to have a baby. In an attempt to stamp her authority on the underwhelmed detectives she is always trying to prove how right she is, although more often than not proves herself wrong.

Doug is an old fashioned copper from a traditionally tough inner city background, with built in prejudices, including a streak of misogyny and distrust for the upper classes, as displayed in Fraudster, the case of a City charmer who steals from his own company to finance his sex life.

The relationship between The Commander and her acting DCI comes into its own in the final film. This is Doug’s moment, working within his milieu and becoming involved in the emotional cost of damaged lives, especially young kids who, in a different place and time, could have been him. Clare is neither aggressive, nor insistent. Played with admirable restraint by Burton, she remains a woman alone, never entirely certain of herself, nor the value of her judgement

Reviewed on: 11 Jul 2008
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Three new mysteries from the doyenne of tough TV cop dramas.
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