Vera Set 2
Recurring character(s): Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn), Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth (David Leon), Dr. Billy Cartwright (Paul Ritter), Detective Constable Kenny Lockhart (Jon Morrison), Detective Constable Holly Lawson (Wunmi Mosaku — first episode only), Detective Constable Bethany Whelan (Cush Jumbo — episodes two through four)
Original air date(s): 04/22/2012 to 06/03/2012 (UK)
DVD Date: 11/06/2012
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 370 minutes
Note(s): The screenplay for one of the episodes in this set is adapted from a crime novel in the Vera Stanhope series of mysteries by Ann Cleeves.
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Review: I very much enjoyed the first four episodes of this series (which comprises the first season, or Set 1), based on characters created by crime novelist Ann Cleeves, and am pleased to say that this second set of four episodes is even better. Three of the episodes are original screenplays; one is adapted from the fourth book in the series, Silent Voices.
Episode 1: "The Ghost Position". Vera Stanhope is reunited with her first mentor after his home is firebombed and his teenage daughter badly injured in the blaze. Having survived an apparent murder bid, her old friend then makes a tragic decision, leaving Vera to find out why. No doubt I'm going to be repeating myself in this review, but this is a strongly plotted episode. It seems that those storylines in which Vera has some sort of personal connection come across as strong, no doubt in part because of the superb performance by Brenda Blethyn in the title role. The only slightly discordant notes come from Vera's relationship with a subordinate, Detective Constable Holly Lawson … who puts in for a transfer at the end of the episode, which is granted as a new character replaces her for the subsequent episodes.
Episode 2: "Silent Voices". What connects the murder of a well-respected social worker and a famous case in which a child was drowned by his own mother? The answer seems to lie in a book the murdered woman was writing — until Stanhope’s prime suspect ends up drowned, too.. This episode has a considerable amount of credible misdirection written into it, which I generally enjoy (if well done … and this is). It also sets the stage for a recurring subplot involving Vera and Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth, where she doesn't share all she knows with her partner, leaving him feeling a little frustrated by what he sees as a lack of trust. In reality, I think, Vera recognizes that she's nearing the end of her career and believes that turning over key parts of the investigation is akin to giving up on herself.
Episode 3: "Sandancers." The authorities at a local army base are keen to declare the death of a decorated Afghanistan War veteran a suicide, but Stanhope has other ideas. Yet when a fellow soldier confesses to the killing, the detective doesn’t believe that either and continues to pursue the investigation wherever it leads. This is a typical military vs. civilian-style episode, with Vera overcoming all sorts of obstacles in the search for the truth. While all the episodes are whodunits at their core, this one is probably the least successful of them in this regard.
Episode 4: "A Certain Samaritan". When a young man is found dead with heroin in his body and a stolen credit card in his wallet, Stanhope and Ashworth suspect he led a life his possessive mother knew little about. Only when they learn details of the mother’s own life does a motive for murder emerge. The season ends on a high note with another strongly written episode, another in which Vera has a personal connection — though she doesn't know it at first — with the crime. She and Joe come to an understanding here with respect to how they work cases together, something I think it important to establish before moving on to the third season, which has been commissioned by ITV.
If you enjoyed the first season, you'll absolutely want to see this second one. As often happens with series, the actors seem more comfortable in their roles, which usually translates into better performances. Too, this season, the screenplays are all first rate, something any fan of crime dramas will appreciate.
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