From unpromising acorns do mighty oak trees grow. Or something like that, anyway. On paper, ITV’s latest glitzy cop two-parter had all the hallmarks of another by-the-book advertiser-pleaser. In practice, it turned out to be rather good.
The premise – a beaten and electro-tortured detective too amnesic to recognise his own son, yet allowed back to work – was dodgy. The set-up – elite London crime squad, moody Docklands offices, female senior officer – was familiar, to say the least. Star Jonathan Cake was just a bit too hunky, his house was far too big (even on a bent DI’s income) and everyone, down to the last traffic warden, had far too flashy motors.
Yet it worked, more than anything due to the sheer quality of the storytelling. Cake’s DI Jason Shepherd had, it turned out, been a bit of a bad boy when fully compos mentis, and writer Steve Griffiths (formerly of excellent 1990s cop drama Between The Lines) very effectively kept us guessing as to just how bad, and for just what reasons. He did the same with the domestic sub-plot, managing to make the obvious (Jason and his wife had split up prior to him memory loss) still a dramatic surprise when actually revealed. The production was excellent too, with split-screen (often a minefield) used to great effect, and the best on-foot, through-a-hotel-kitchen chase we’ve seen in ages.
By the end of the first part, we still hadn’t worked out exactly why Jason’s bosses had let him back to work (was it to help him or trap him?), whether he really was as bent as he seemed to have been (or was the colleague who fancied his wife framing him?), or how he’d afforded a Lexus, suburban mansion and Docklands flat on his salary without attracting the attention of CIB ages ago – and all without thinking that the whole thing was just ridiculous. That, as they say in moody E18 squad rooms, is a result.