Vera Set 3
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)
Original air date(s): 08/25/2013 to 09/15/2013 (UK)
DVD Date: 01/28/2014
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 369 minutes
Note(s): These original screenplays are based on characters created by Ann Cleeves.
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Review: Brenda Blethyn stars as DCI Vera Stanhope in this third set of four feature-length episodes based on characters created by crime novelist Ann Cleeves. All episodes in this set are original screenplays. My review of each episode follows (and includes the official synopsis provided by the studio).
Episode 1: Castles in the Air. "Three girlfriends spend the weekend partying at an isolated country retreat, and one ends up dead with a shotgun blast to the chest and a local hunter the prime suspect. Too late, Stanhope realizes that the dead woman was not the intended target any more than her suspect was the actual shooter." Of the four strongly plotted episodes in this set, this was my least favorite as it failed to keep my full attention at all times. I felt as if the screenwriter was trying too hard at misdirection here, and yet, I still enjoyed it … just not as much as I did the other episodes.
Episode 2: Poster Child. "A respected surgeon is murdered and his two teenage daughters abducted, leaving a wife and mother distraught and Stanhope at a loss for a motive. Ashworth spurs his boss to look for a family link to both the killing and the kidnappings." Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth (David Leon), her more usual second-in-command, tends to fade into the background in many of these episodes, but he's a full partner in solving this crime. It is not so much of a whodunit-style episode as it is "how is Vera going to figure it out and save the day" kind of episode.
Episode 3: Young Gods. "When an extreme sports fanatic plunges to his death from a cliff after an apparent fight, Stanhope and Ashworth begin to search for potential enemies. An estranged ex-girlfriend will shed no tears at the young man's death, but the detectives discover that someone else has been holding a grudge as well." From a mystery stand-point, this is probably the best episode of the set. Strongly written and acted, it shows off the talents of all involved in its production.
Episode 4: Prodigal Son. "The fatal stabbing of a former police officer outside a Newcastle nightclub sets Stanhope on a quest to recreate the victim's last movements. What she finds leads her back 25 years, to a web of deception, lies, and — ultimately — a brutal death." This is also a solidly plotted episode, if also a bit overly complicated. Still, along with Episode 3, it is among the best of these series to date, and will leave viewers looking forward to more. (And there is good news on that front: Vera was renewed for a fourth season of four episodes even before this third season aired in the UK.)
When I've discussed this series with friends and family, those that have seen it (and don't enjoy it as much as I do) remark on how strident Vera is with her staff, and most especially Joe, and that she can be a rather unlikeable character. She is gruff on the outside, but each episode also tends to show her softer side and that she is a little insecure when no one's looking. In this set of four episodes, her tone is a bit gentler but she's still the boss and she still knows how to run a homicide investigation and wants her way while doing so. Overall, this outstanding series, including this third season, is highly recommended.
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