Vera with Brenda Blethyn PREVIEW

Brenda Blethyn as Vera. Pics: (C) ITV Plc

Rating ★★★★

Vera: Hidden Depths ITV1, Sunday, 1 May, 8pm

Vera, the latest fictional detective to stride onto the TV crime scene, is a far more interesting figure than the familiar old-timers around at present, such as Lewis or Barnaby.

She’s the antithesis of glamour-pusses such as Kelly Reilly’s Travis in Above Suspicion, more of a Columbo-esque figure – shambling, short, easily underestimated. And she loves a drink.

DCI Vera Stanhope, as imagined by author Ann Cleeves, is hugely fat. As played by a terrific Brenda Blethyn here, she’s more podgy than massive, owing to the many layers of cardies she’s got on.

Vera’s deputy, Joe Ashworth, is played by David Leon

DS Joe Ashworth (David Leon)

She is also on her own. No children, lives alone. We first meet her in this opener, Hidden Depths, as she cajoles her deputy, DS Joe Ashworth (David Leon), into casting her father’s ashes into the sea for her. At the launch for this new series, Brenda Blethyn said she didn’t think Vera was lonely, but that she just didn’t mind her own company. Which is really another way of saying she’s lonely.

Vera is certainly more obsessive than Joe, who is effectively her surrogate son. But Joe has a life of his own with a wife and kids, so though Vera feels close to him, she won’t let on.

Her opening case involves a teenage boy, Luke, who is found dead by his mother, Julie (Gina McKee), when she returns home from a night out. The lad has been left at the family home in a bath tube filled with water and decorated with flowers. His elder sister, Laura (Gabrielle Ross) was asleep in the house during the crime.

Spectacular Northumberland setting

Julie (Gina McKee)

‘Like some poncey installation at the Baltic,’ is Vera’s caustic assessment of the killer’s arrangement.

The Baltic art centre, of course, pinpoints the North East setting, which is beautifully photographed to make a wild and spectacular backdrop to this mystery.

A second body is found, that of beautiful young teacher Lily (Samantha Neale), is then found in a rock pool of water on an isolated beach, again strewn with flowers. Vera starts probing the friendships and infidelities in the circle of academic Peter Calvert (Murray Head). But when another potential victim then goes missing too, she and Joe are in a desperate chase to locate the serial killer.

Wunmi Mosaku as DC Holly Lawson
This series has been lavishly produced and directed beautifully. With some decent actors to feature in the remaining three films, including Daniela Nardini and Hugo Speer, and regulars such as David Leon and Wunmi Mosaku as DC Holly Lawson, these mysteries certainly stand out from the crowd.

DC Holly Lawson (Wunmi Mosaku)

As for Vera, Brenda Blethyn offers this insight –  ‘A sense of justice drives Vera, and also a sense of worthiness. She grew up with her father and he never had any time for her at all. She’s finding a sense of self worth and is always having to prove herself – it’s part of her psyche to earn her place on the earth.

Vera’s different as she’s a woman in a man’s job and is doing it very well. And she’s not a sex symbol – usually when you see a female detective, she’s a pin-up. Vera evidently is not and I find that refreshing.’  

For a fine actor such as Brenda Blethyn, the slightly melancholy Vera is a part that should win her a big following.

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