|Ciarán Hinds, Kelly Reilly, Shaun Dingwall and Celyn Jones (pics: (C) ITV Plc/LA PLANTE)|
ITV1, Mon 3 Jan, Tues 4 Jan, Wed 5 Jan, 9pm
This is a third outing for Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion featuring detective Anna Travis, the modern-day heir apparent to Prime Suspect‘s Jane Tennison.
But while she may be Tennison’s heir, Travis is not her equal. Above Suspicion has performed very decently for ITV in the ratings – first series notching up 8m viewers – and Kelly Reilly, who plays Travis, may be an attractive lead, but this new La Plante production is not as sure-footed or powerful as Helen Mirren’s predecessor.
Reilly is too girlish (despite being 33) and glam to convince as a high-flying detective in what is still shown here to be a male-chauvinist enclave. And she is flying – having started out as a teetering rookie in series one, she is now a detective inspector.
Jane Tennison would never have cut it if she’d worn short black skirts and low-cut singlets around the office, and though we may have moved on since 1991, we haven’t moved on so far that Travis would be taken seriously looking so exposed today.
Despite such quibbles, this third series is possibly the best yet. Not as gruesome as the others, particularly last time’s The Red Dahlia instalment, but still a compelling story.
Plastic surgery in Mexico
In a prelude, we see a mystery man in Mexico getting plastic surgery, before the action switches to London, where there’s been a shooting on a council estate drug squat. The victim turns out to be Frank Brandon, a bent cop and former chum of Travis’s gruff guvnor, DCS James Langton (Ciarán Hinds).
His team quickly discovers that Brandon recently married Julia Larson (Stine Stengade), a glamorous, wealthy woman who was employing him as her driver. All of which seems a bit unusual.
Known to have been on the estate are fierce drug dealer Silas Roach (Robbie Gee, left) and small-time user Eddie Court (Ashley Court). Meanwhile, Travis questions a resident on the estate who insists he heard three shots, when only two bullets hit Brandon.
Travis’s style to follow her hunches on her own, because her male superiors don’t listen to her. She finds the third bullet – and gets a rollicking – questions Julia Larson, who reluctantly reveals she had a previous husband, and researches Fentanyl, a pure drug with the street name Drop Dead, traces of which were found at the squat.
What’s going on between Travis and Langton?
Brandon’s strange marriage, the man who changed his identity and the drug that seems to have prompted several assassinations make this a heady story. Mixed in are Travis’s clashes with DCI Mike Lewis (Shaun Dingwall), who’s also been promoted and is heading the investigation, and the intensifying emotional spark she has with their boss, Langton.
La Plante gives an insight into this strange attraction. She says, ‘It’s really down to the will-they-won’t-they, question?
‘A lot of women absolutely love Langton, and some find him really awful to Travis. In that respect it’s a bit like Gone with the Wind. He’s so nasty to her at times, but in this one we do have the emotional impact when he tells her the truth about his life. We see that this vulnerability allows Travis to reveal her feelings for him, if only to herself. It continues to build the tension between them. I think this is what makes their interaction compelling.
‘Langton is a dedicated police officer and an exceedingly good one who has very strong gut instincts, but he is not an intellectual man. He’s hardly ever read a book, if it wasn’t connected to a crime.
‘However, Travis is university educated and different… she also stands up to him, which none of the other women or men do. But like Langton, Travis is intuitively intelligent and in many ways has a similar trait to Langton in that, she won’t let something go. This makes her a very good detective, she could very easily dismiss the fact that one of the witnesses said she heard three bullets. Her persistence in uncovering the detail proves to be the key in this case. A fact that Langton admires.’
Travis stirs the case further when she discovers a link between Julia’s ex and a drug distributor on the FBI most wanted listed, who could now be in the UK. The team don’t really know what they are investigating or how the case will escalate, and neither will viewers.