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This set of four volumes of the TV series Trial & Retribution cover the shows broadcast between 2002 and 2004. They are all written by Lynda La Plante and all feature David Hayman playing Mike Walker, the hard-bitten Scottish police detective who works so hard at his job and is so full of anger that all his relationships crumble. As with the first set of four volumes, each volume has two parts. The first 3 here are each over 3 hours long, while the fourth is two hours twenty minutes. So there's time here to develop complex story line, and over the four volumes, we get to see Walker in a number of different jobs and relationships. As with the first set, the themes of the investigations are often seedy and nearly everyone is struggling with some kind of personal misery.
The directorial style is also similar to that in the first set. The screen often splits up into different sections, with one part showing current events and another part showing a flashback, or else the same event from a number of different perspectives. It is self-consciously avante garde, and is visually interesting. At the same time, the music and visual effects often resemble a horror movie, with lots of eerie music and scary situations. Volume VIII here, the shortest one, shows signs of a change in style from the start, with a body falling through the air. It is obviously green-screened, and the look of the falling body is entirely unrealistic, but it is very striking and even beautiful. All through, it is a visually arresting series, with lots of hand-held camera, quick editing, and views through windows, blinds, or fences. It heightens the tension and makes and gives the scenes some realism.
All the stories are about murders, but there's a good variety of context. In the first, bodies are found in the garden of a London house, and it turns out that the victims were murdered 17 years previously; family secrets start to come out. In the second, a mother goes missing in the woods, and a man confesses to her murder, but it seems that his brother might be involved. In the third, a judge's daughter has disappeared, and her husband seems unconcerned. In the fourth, a young woman who worked at a sex club falls from a high rise building, and it turns out that she was involved with men high up in the police force and even the government. They all emphasize the fallibility of the police, either in their judgment about whom to charge, in their personal ethics, or even in their professional ethics. Yet they have a daunting task, facing killers who are were driven to terrible acts and are intent on getting away with it. The dark plots emphasize the pain that people cause to those they love, and the extremes to which they are driven by their own turbulent pasts.
It's all very gothic, and there are some very melodramatic elements. But David Hayman's intensity as an actor and the consistently strong ensemble cast make it work. There are plenty of implausible plot developments, so some suspension of disbelief is necessary, and the music and sound effects are too often heavy handed. Nevertheless, it's an innovative series in its genre, comparing well with any USA long running cop series such as CSI or NYPD Blue. Recommended.
© 2009 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.
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