On a beautiful September’s evening, I along with an audience of lucky people and cast members attended the premiere screening of the opening episode of No Offence series three and a cast Q&A (more on that this week)
Within a minute of its return and we’re already treated to plenty of innuendo and insults as a far-right rally held by Albion takes place outside mayoral hustings. Miller and Joy hilariously hold the protesters captive through an elaborate rouse but the smiles don’t last long. Caroline (Lisa McGrillis) is standing for election but never one to miss her chance in the limelight, Viv (Joanna Scanlan) is soon in the line of missed fire. Queue mayhem and tragedy. In the blink of an eye, another gunshot fires the silence that follows is unbearable. In a show so in your face there are no dramatics here. Silence soundtracks the heartbreak, not once but twice. As Joy is taken to hospital the sirens stop wailing and you at home probably started. It’s a unique way to show death on screen and deeply upsettingly raw. You don’t need to see it, the absence of the graphic making it more real.
We’ve seen Joy (Alexandra Roach) grow in stature over the episodes and these early scenes are a combination of everything she became. A newly confident, vibrant person about to go on a date. Someone in their prime is lost.
Immediately in the aftermath of Joy’s death, Dina (Elaine Cassidy) seeks out her best friend’s father, a man we’ve never met before. This is probably there add to the emotional impact of the opening events and it ultimately works because later we discover there is another reason too, the link to the undercover cop working within Albion.
There is one slightly out of kilter moment with the introduction of Marylin Marchant (Claire Rushbrook) purely for the sole reason that there isn’t really an introduction at all. However, it’s easy to assess she’s superior to Deering. Such quibbles are minor in a show that returns with predictable unexpectedness, and if that’s an oxymoron then so is No Offence. The dramatic, emotional and downright outrageous merge together perfectly. One minute we’re in distress over Joy, the next squirming with laughter at gruesomely detached fingers and toes.
In terms of plot, there are lots of levels to contend with here. Of course, there’s the hunt for the murderer of a friend but also the attempted assassination of Caroline, the (literal) politics behind the scenes with dodgy campaign funding that is being signposted early on. As if the news of a UC working within Albion wasn’t enough of a mess, a “fetus cop” builds more walls for Friday Street to clamber over inelegantly.
So what of the new cast? Lisa McGrillis offers a confident first glimpse of a Caroline but gives the impression that not is all as it seems. Neil Maskell is in his element as Dennis Caddy, the snarling leader of Albion, chewing up his scenes with all the glee of someone who has been given the bad guy role in a Paul Abbott show. Oh wait, he has.
As to be expected on the third run, the main cast look so comfortable in the skins of their characters. Viv’s matriarchal side shows more than ever here as she has to lead her team through this heartbreak with strong speeches and plenty of caffeine. Seeing her break down in tears was a tender (and slobbery) moment. It also looks like Spike (Will Mellor) is about to be promoted, if not in grade, then in screen time and he could now be a part of the show’s main trinity. Spike has gradually evolved and more of him would be appreciated. A shout out too must go out to Paul Ritter whose mad scientist portrayal of Miller is reaching even more epic levels than before.
It’s a pitch-perfect return. The audience at BAFTA gasped, laughed and eeewed at all the intended moments and the round of applause that rang out over the credits was well deserved. The extended trailer for the whole series that preceded the Q&A was enough to give even a corpse goosebumps. In the words of Caroline McCoy: “BRING IT ON!”
– A fond farewell to Alexandra Roach who will be much missed.
– Is there a dark secret to Caroline or is she a pawn in someone else’s game?
– Is the undercover cop playing both sides or is she just a bad undercover cop?
– Will Viv’s loyalty, like in series one, be her downfall again?
– Is Dennis Caddy related to Line Of Duty’s Caddy? Well, obviously no is the answer.
No Offence Continues Thursday 9.00pm on Channel 4