Single-Handed Set 1
Recurring character(s): Garda Sergeant Jack Driscoll (Owen McDonnell), Garda Finbarr Colvin (David Herlihy), Eithne Driscoll (Ruth McCabe), Gerry Driscoll (Ian McElhinney, first two episodes only)
Original air date(s): 03/2007; 01/2008; 04/2009
DVD Date: 02/01/2011
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 278 minutes
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Review: Owen McDonnell stars as Garda (Police) Sergeant Jack Driscoll in a remote western coastal area of Ireland, taking over the position held for the previous 30 years by Gerry Driscoll, his father, who has just retired (but still wields considerable influence over the community). The title of the series, Single-Handed is something of a misnomer; Jack Driscoll doesn't work alone -- he has one full-time police officer working for him -- nor is he without almost immediate access to police resources. But though he grew up in the area, he's perceived as an outsider who trained in Dublin and is often alone in how he goes about doing his job.
There are three 2-part episodes in this set (each runs about 93 minutes), and without exception, they are individually and collectively excellent. That they were each filmed and aired about a year apart (2007 through 2009) is quite remarkable, as they also show a level of continuity that one might not expect with the passage of time. The episodes (at least for this set) are more along the lines of a police procedural as opposed to a whodunit.
One of the first things that hit you about this series is the setting. It is so beautiful, rugged and windswept, that it makes you want to hop a plane to Ireland to seek it out. The title image above from the first episode gives you just a hint as to how stunning some of the imagery is. The stories offer an interesting contrast to the landscape -- this is a crime drama, after all -- but there's a good balance overall. An aspect to all the stories, one that I found surprisingly refreshing, is that the residents have a healthy respect for the police (gardai) but are also wary of them. (And speaking of the terms used, I had to look them up. A garda is a police officer in Ireland, short for "garda síochána", literally "guardian of the peace".)
In the first episode, "Natural Justice", Jack Driscoll has just returned home to assume command of the police force (consisting of himself and Garda Finbarr Colvin, played by David Herlihy) when an undocumented worker is found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. No one seems to care much that she's dead, but Jack knows that she has a family somewhere, who are probably worried about her, and that makes it important to him to sort out how she died. This is a strong episode to open the series, and gives viewers a good sense as to the kind of cop -- and man -- Jack Driscoll is.
The second episode, "The Stolen Child", clearly illustrates that as much as Jack wants the law, and its enforcement thereof, to be black and white, there are a lot of gray areas. He also vehemently disagrees with his father, who proffers his opinion as to how best to handle the apparent kidnapping of a child, one of the many familial and professional conflicts that come to light here.
The third and final episode, "The Drowning Man", is also quite possibly the most compelling of this already very solid set. There is considerable complexity to the story, the characters, and how it plays out. Alerted by an anonymous caller late one night, Jack pulls a 17-year-old boy out of the bay, but he has already drowned. A government task force on an undercover operation in the area tells him to write it off as an accident, but Jack knows there's far more to the case than what he's being told.
In short, Single-Handed is a superb series, one that I'm thrilled to have seen and can enthusiastically recommend. (Though unrated, the language can, at times, be a bit coarse, much stronger than what typically appears on US television series.)
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