|Vera (Brenda Blethyn) and DC Lockhart (Jon Morrison). Pics: ITV|
ITV: starts Sunday, 25 August, 9pm
Story: DCI Vera Stanhope investigates the brutal murder of young physiotherapist, Lizzie Faulkner, gunned down at a luxury country retreat. For DS Joe Ashworth, the case brings him face to face with a part of his past he’d rather forget.
BRENDA BLETHYN dons her Paddington Bear outfit to take us on another lovely tour of Northumberland. Of course, as she is playing Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, the sights include an unfortunate young woman who’s been blasted with a shotgun.
Initially, it seems there won’t be much traipsing around with Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth asking where everyone was on Saturday night because they have nabbed a scowling local who was in the field with a shotgun on that very night. Bingo!
Except that this is a 90-minute episode, so Robert Doran probably really was shooting badgers at the time, as he claims. Then, after a second murder is committed when Corinne Franks is run down by a fleeing car, it seems blindingly obvious that angry local Justin Bishop is their man. After all, Corinne
|Vera at Robert Doran’s remote cottage|
had killed his wife in a road accident.
Vera and Joe
But, alas… well, I won’t give more of the plot away. Let’s just say we all know how these procedurals work. Ever since Agatha Christie minted the formula back in the 1920s, it’s a given that whoever appears clearly guilty turns out to be resoundingly innocent, and whoever appears to be happily married is an adulterer etc etc.
Despite Vera following the whodunit conventions, it does have a bit more going for it. The writers (Paul Rutman, Gaby Chiappe) do flesh out Vera and Joe a little, so that we see a bit of occasional needle in their quasi mother-and-surrogate-son relationship.
We also see Joe’s marriage, and his wife’s near jealousy of Joe’s devotion to his job (in other words, Vera). There is also a subplot here about Joe having once mistakenly ensured that Doran was prosecuted and jailed for a crime in which he had actually acted in self-defence.
|What have we here, then? Vera at Doran’s place|
Another star performance from Brenda Blethyn
And we get glimpses of Vera’s loneliness, and consequent fondness for a drink. All these moments breathe some life into the principals, though they still remain shadows of the characters depicted in author Ann Cleeves‘ series of popular novels.
But as David Leon, who plays Joe, says, ‘The plot is very important to the audience but I think the characters are what they remember.’
Spot on, and Vera’s distinctiveness is of course down to Brenda Blethyn’s fine performances, with her Vera veering between mumsy tenderness and steely determination.
Nicholas Gleaves and Shaun Dingwall
ITV also lines up a good cast for the stories, so we have Nicholas Gleaves as the smooth business partner of Corinne and her husband, while Shaun Dingwall is the rather chippy Justin Bishop.
Vera also has a new officer on her team – DC Barry Kelman, played by Gareth Farr. And later on,
Saskia Reeves, Dean Andrews, Liam Cunningham and Jill Halfpenny will turn up in the remaining
|Vera, Joe and the breathtaking scenery|
And, of course, the other selling point of the show is the stunning scenery, the North East having breathtaking star quality throughout.
So, the new series of Vera presses all the buttons that its devotees will be hoping for, and it reaches a pretty decent, though not wildly surprising, denouement too.
Cast: Brenda Blethyn DCI Vera Stanhope, David Leon D.S. Joe Ashworth, Jon Morrison DC Kenny Lockhart, Riley Jones DC Mark Edwards, Paul Ritter Pathologist Billy Cartwright, Richard Riddell Robert Doran, Cassie Atkinson Tina Robson, Eva Quinn Lizzie Faulkner, Leah Brotherhead Maisie Jones, Nicholas Gleaves Tim Hopkins, Alex Childs Kirsty Hopkins, Shaun Dingwall Justin Bishop, Sonya Cassidy Celine, Mia Wyles Jessie Ashworth, Vinette Robinson
Corinne Franks, Alexander Arnold Sam Bishop
• You can rent episodes of Vera online at ITV Player