Trial & Retribution: The Third Collection

Trial & Retribution: The Third Collection

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

While cop show fanatics indulge in the glamour of CSI: Miami, where detectives are catwalk sleek and murder is choreographed, Lynda La Plante continues to stay real. Chief Superintendent Mike Walker (David Hayman) is an emotional casualty of his Glaswegian childhood, with a tendency to follow instinct rather than logic, spitting out the filter from his full strength fag before lighting up and expecting blind loyalty from a sceptical staff. When out of the loop, as in Closure, he hits the bottle, gets into everyone’s face and annoys DCI Roisin Connor (Victoria Smurfit), who is running the investigation, no end.

Writer/producer La Plante’s skill in concocting exciting storylines is matched by her ability to choose the perfect players for difficult, dysfunctional roles. Miriam Heard, straight out of drama school, is tragically exposed and heartrendingly vulnerable as the young wife of the kidnap victim in The Lovers. Andrew-Lee Potts, as the secret boyfriend and prime suspect of the daughter of a posh family, who ends up dead at the bottom of the cellar stairs, in Sins Of The Father, has the energy and range of a budding star, while Hayman is truly inspirational, touching Walker’s sensitive side when dealing with his disturbed, neglected teenage son (excellent Benedict Smith), unable to equate the guilt of workaholism with his fiercely confrontational nature.

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This collection of three two-and-a-half hour movies covers the years 2005-2007, during which time Walker has been demoted, or moved sideways, so that Connor, who was a breath of fresh air in The Lovers, can take charge. What happens in Sins Of The Father and (especially) Closure is that her insecurities begin to show and she counteracts by becoming more irascible and intransigent than her ex-boss. Smurfit in The Lovers is sex on legs. In Closure, another serial killer drama, she makes Maggie Thatcher look like Mary Poppins. Walker may be damaged goods and hopeless at relationships, but he does understand the concept of humour. Connor seems terrified that her authority will be usurped, even mocked, and so refuses to get the joke.

The Lovers is a beautifully constructed, uncompromising thriller, with an outstandingly creepy performance from Michael Feast as a greengrocer with more than rotten fruit in his basement. Closure is reminiscent of the best of Hitchcock and it doesn’t matter that you guess who the murderer is early on - in fact, it adds to the tension. The only weakness is an unconvincing ending, complete with confession, which feels decidedly out of character. Sins Of The Father is more conventional, with a sidebar, or subplot, concerning Walker’s son. La Plante takes a swipe at men and how selfish they can be, because they don’t think, preferring to lay the blame somewhere else. These accusations are as old as your cheatin’ heart, but in safe hands they never tire, or miss their target.

Trial’s supporting cast, headed by regulars Dorian Lough as DS David “Satch” Satchell and Sarah Ozeke as the underappreciated, clever DC Lisa West, is exemplary. Without them the series would rely too heavily on Hayman and Smurfit, whose talents are stretched to the limit – and not found wanting. Amongst the also rans are two standout performances, Roger Monk as a flea-infested pickpocket in The Lovers and Janet Suzman as a probing QC in Sins Of The Father.

How the quality of the writing and the commitment of the actors retains so high a standard is a miracle we can only be grateful for.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2008
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Three more cases for Lynda La Plante's irascible detectives.

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