Cast: DC Jack Mowbray (Ross Kemp), DCS Derek Henderson (Kenneth Cranham), DC Jim Boulter (Jamie Forman), Sally Mowbray (Hazel Ellerby), DC Linda Harris (Lou Gish), DC Mickey Lloyd (David Kennedy), DI Monty Fowler (Sean Murray), WPC Margaret Walkinshaw (Jane Hazelgrove), DI Keith Chapman (John Teller)
Original air date(s): 10/02/2000 to 11/05/2000; 09/27/2001 to 11/01/2001
DVD Date: 10/11/2011
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 600 minutes
— ♦ —
Review: This ITV crime drama originally aired over a decade ago but is only now appearing on DVD here in the US. Its title, Without Motive, describes the profile of an apparent serial killer, who targets and kills women, but other than the brutality of the crimes, there is little commonality to them.
This DVD set consists of two "series"; the British use "series" to describe a collection of episodes, so it's sometimes difficult to describe what it is we're actually seeing here. Each "series" consists of 6 episodes. I originally thought that each "series" represented a season, and expected them to be more-or-less self-contained. Indeed, the two "series" aired a year apart and even the marketing copy suggests as much. But I was wrong. This is actually a 12-episode crime drama and should be watched as such.
Though there is definitely a "whodunit" aspect to Without Motive, the show is far more about how a high profile murder investigation affects the members of the investigating team, both professionally and personally.
The series centers to a large degree around Detective Constable Jack Mowbray (Ross Kemp). For reasons which I'm sure were explained but I simply missed, he's stuck at his rank of DC while all his colleagues are being promoted or given more cushy assignments. His frustration at work extends to his home life, where he has a wife and two kids. He sees this murder investigation as a way of furthering his career but has a hard time balancing work and home. As good as Kemp is in this role — and he is very good — the character itself is nothing new to crime fiction and is not developed significantly further as the series progresses.
Much of the action takes place in Bristol and nearby Wales, with murders committed in both places. That brings into play jurisdictional issues. Who should take the lead … and of course who gets credit when, not if, the crimes are solved. A good third, maybe as much as half, of the first six episodes deal with the interdepartmental politics of the case. As such, it's a little slow going at first.
The first "series" of six episodes ends without a resolution to the case, hence my describing this as more of a 12-episode drama than two six-episode seasons. The second half moves along much faster than the first, the crimes hitting closer to home, with members of the investigating team and their families becoming targets of the killer. Without giving too much away, I thought that the storyline didn't play quite fair with respect to the identity of the killer. With a large number of potential choices — and given how the plot unfolded — the one actually picked by the screenwriters is a bit of a disappointment. Maybe it's just the frustrated writer in me, but I would have been more creative and selected a different character to be the killer. Then again, maybe it's a hat tip to the writers that there were so many characters, who, given some minor rewrites to the script, legitimately could have been the killer.
I enjoyed Without Motive, the second half decidedly more than the first, but it's definitely worth seeing.
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