When Paul Abbott’s crime comedy drama No Offence debuted back in 2015 nobody was really sure what to make of it. The mixture of Abbott’s overtly comic dialogue with a series long plot about the murder of girls with Down’s Syndrome took a while to get used to and many people didn’t stick around past episode one. However, those of us who did were rewarded with plenty of memorable characters, well-written plots and an ending that is hard to forget. Despite the undoubted success of the first BAFTA-nominated series, Paul Abbott admitted at the screening of tonight’s second series opener that they got a lot of stuff wrong. Indeed, upon watching the episode I felt that certain elements of the plot felt more generic than series one however No Offence kept the same tone which made the first run so unique.
This was evident from an opening scene which is set at the funeral of the younger son of noted Manchester crime boss Nora Attah (Rakie Ayola) which of the Friday Street station mob are attending. Just back at work following the death of her husband, DI Viv Deering (Joanna Scanlan) is on hand to keep an eye on Nora’s jailbird husband who has been let out of his cell to attend the funeral. It’s clear Deering is back to full force as she struts around the car pack communicating with her subordinates with the dry-cleaning label sticking out of her jacket the entire time. This fantastic opening sequence ends with a bang as a bomb is planted alongside Herbie Attah’s body which is intended to finish off the entire funeral party but only ends the life of Nora’s husband after he is impaled with a sign.
The only reason that the funeral party weren’t blown to smithereens was due to the fact that Herbie’s body wasn’t in the coffin at the time of the explosion. This is because the crematorium owners had been burying the bodies at the back of the building after not having enough money to pay their gas bills. This secondary story provides some of the more outwardly comic moments of the first episode as we see DI Joy Freers (Alexandra Roache) attempt to identify the other bodies buried in the back garden by sorting through a variety of fingers.
However, it is the story of the Attah clan that we follow and most notably Nora’s clashes with Viv as she attempts to seek revenge for what happened at the funeral. Nora’s wrath is mainly aimed at the Irish Kennedy clan primarily patriarch Earl, who is in hospital following a successful operation, as well as his son Jackie. As well as trying to keep Nora from doing something stupid Viv must contend with a new DCI in the form of fast-tracked stony-faced Christine Lickberg (Sarah Solemani) who doesn’t suffer Deering’s antics too gladly. It’s clear that Lickberg hasn’t really gelled with the rest of the Friday Street gang and it’s revealed that she’s refused to socialise with them sine she’s been at the station. It’s clear that the two are going to clash as Lickberg doesn’t like the fact that Deering has climbed up the ranks by acting like one of the lads while she’s forged her own path. One thing that Lickberg doesn’t realise is that Viv is covering up the murder of her husband Laurie at the hands of DC Dinah Kowalska (Elaine Cassidy) after he was discovered to be the villain of the piece last series. Whilst Laurie’s murder appears to have been shelved for now something tells me that the crime is far from buried and the revelation of what happened during last year’s final episode will come back to haunt Viv and Dinah at some point this year.
With new characters to introduce and old storylines to remind viewers about I felt that Paul Abbott and his team of writers did an admirable job with this brilliantly paced opener. The introduction of the Attah and Kennedy crime families was particularly well-handled. Nora Attah joins the roster of strong female characters and the scenes between her and Deering were a particular joy with neither woman was willing to back down from a confrontation.
The character of Lickberg was another welcome addition as her criticisms of Deering’s attitude echo those of some of the viewers who failed to gel with our protagonist the first time round. It’s fair to say that Deering hasn’t changed all that much, as an early scene featuring her emerging from the shower will attest, and therefore those who didn’t initially warm to the character won’t have their opinions changed.
Another of the shows more positive elements is the chemistry that exists between the ensemble cast which allows the audience to buy into their closeness as a team. After a series together this chemistry is even better and all of the central characters bounce off each other perfectly. Jo Scanlan is particularly on-form as Deering as she perfectly encapsulates her character demanding respect and instilling fear in equal measure. I was rather impressed by how well Sarah Solemani fitted into the cast as Lickberg giving a stellar performance as the outsider attempting to exert her authority over the unpredictable Deering. Cassidy once again gave a fantastic turn as the likeable Dinah whilst Paul Ritter was at his scene-stealing best as maverick pathologist Miller. This series also seems to have more of a sense of place thanks to the introduction of the turf wars between the various families who control the underhanded activities in Manchester.
While it’s still far too early to say if No Offence’s second series is going to be a success or not I feel that Paul Abbott and the team are off to a good start. The opening scenes of the episode perfectly plunged us back into the wonderfully bonkers No Offence universe and I felt the energy level was maintained throughout. The cast were all on form whilst the stories look to be a little more grounded than they were in the last series. Whilst some of the characters still feel a little larger-than-life I feel that No Offence’s uniquely boisterous tone provides the perfect antidote to the normal blues that January often brings us.
Contributed by Matt Donnelly
No Offence Continues Wednesday at 9.00pm on Channel 4