DCI Banks is back – which means another eye-popping turn from Stephen Tompkinson.
Those who’ve read the books would say the housewives’ favourite from family hit Wild at Heart never looked right as the charismatic, stoical detective of Peter Robinson’s novels in the first series, but the drama did well enough in the ratings for ITV to declare it ‘a firm favourite within ITV’s crime drama slate’, and quickly recommission it.
This series we’re getting another three stories split into two parts over six weeks. Strange Affair kicked off series two and this time it was personal for Banks. The detective’s younger, estranged brother Roy left a phone message for him, pleading for help because he was in trouble. This came right after a fraught drink with his pregnant sidekick, Annie Cabbot, who used the moment she was about to go on maternity leave to tell Banks she had always wanted them to be more than colleagues. She stormed off in a huff, leaving Banks floundering with a glass of whisky at home alone. No wonder he always looks like a bloke stuck in a queue.
The plot thickened nicely with the discovery of a woman in a car with a bullet hole in her head. Not only did she have Banks’s address on a slip of paper in the glove compartment of her car, but she eventually turned out to be – wouldn’t you know it? – Roy’s girlfriend.
Caroline Catz (Doc Martin) was introduced as Annie’s stand-in, DI Helen Morton. She stirred the relationships up nicely, getting up Banks’s nose and ostracising his serious crimes team by treating him as a witness. There’s going to be some friction between these two, though the love-sparks between Banks and Annie will be missed while actress Andrea Lowe has her child. Caroline will remain as his sidekick as, in real life actress Andrea Lowe is on maternity leave from the series with a real baby of her own. DCI Banks is nice and gritty compared to some other big ITV dramas in the genre like Lewis and Vera and Tompkinson does a surprisingly good job as Banks.
Keith Barron and Polly Hemingway also popped up as Banks’s mum and dad, and the oldsters seemed to prefer wayward Roy to steady Alan. Cue further exasperated grimaces from Banks.
The episode ended on a tragic note, giving the next instalment plenty of dramatic impetus. It was a strong opening episode for the police procedural. All in all, DCI Banks is decent but underwhelming, largely because it follows the formula of just about every other prime-time cop show on the beat. It’s a shame ITV have split the three 2-part stories to once a week as it would be nice to have them on consecutive nights but judging by the strong opening ratings (it defeated BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are?) it would appear that Banks is a hit wherever it ends up in the schedule.