Did we like it?
It was rather like watching ITV1 reinvent the wheel in the shape of a square simply for the sake of proving they could do something new as the utterly corrupt local police force left the whole thriller morally rudderless. Nevertheless, a superb cast made it fairly watchable.
What was good about it?
• The acting was fantastic. Mark Benton was perhaps the best as dishevelled police sergeant Harry whose investigation into the murder was compromised by a still-burning lust for Philip’s wife Helen. And he forsook any last vestige of police impartiality in an effort to fit his rival up.
• Sarah Parish was also very good as mixed-up DI Sharon Myers who returned to her home town in an effort to rekindle her affair with the promiscuous Philip. It was only a shame some of her dialogue was a bit limp and aimless as it would have increased the viewer empathy of this evidently troubled woman when she was killed by Helen.
• While Sharon’s expertise in police work was rammed down our throats as she was called, still hungover from the reunion, to the scene of young supply teacher Lesley’s murder it did serve a greater purpose. Once there, she castigated the incompetence of her underlings Harry and Marcus; and though artificial and forced, this did create the mystery of why she would casually hidden the victim’s mobile phone in her bread bin and leave it on.
• And Paul McGann is one of the great lost treasures of British TV. The Monocled Mutineer is still one of our favourite dramas of the past 20 years, but after Doctor Who he seemed to vanish from deserved starring roles and be wasted in peripheral roles. It was great to see him back.
• Although it was terribly synthetic, the manner in which Sharon and Harry were both portrayed as bent cops and their corruptness was then simply used a tool to delve deeper into the lives of their suspects than they would have otherwise been able to were they, for instance a cobbler and a candlestick maker, was well done.
What was bad about it?
• In the opening scene at the school reunion Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me was playing – an anthem exemplifying all the musical nadirs of the 80s in one bitter pill.
• Harry grimly saying to Sharon “Welcome to Luckwell” after she had finished her initial casing of the murder scene as though the tranquil little village was a spiritual cousin to Chicago with mobsters on every corner and with gutters just as often filled by blood as water.
• Sarah Parish could have conveyed a more complex character than the sketchy Sharon Myers. Appropriating her psychological problems due to childhood parental abuse is the TV’s facile shortcut to giving ‘depth’ to protagonists much more often found in soap operas.
• Helen and Philip painted themselves as worshippers of Satan and all his diabolic fiends when Keane’s Everybody’s Changing could be heard chiming through their quaint little cottage.
• The primary law of thrillers is that the killer must be introduced, but not necessarily revealed, in the first half. As there were only four characters of substance – Philip, Sharon, Harry and Helen – it was easy to decipher that the killer was Helen, largely because nobody suspected her.
• The huge coincidence that Philip got involved with his wife’s best friend from school after being a witness to a crime many miles away in Manchester.
• The conclusion when Philip discovered damning evidence that his wife was responsible for the murder of Lesley, as vengeance for having an affair with her husband, while rummaging in the garage was far too similar to the denouement in Presumed Innocent.