Monday, February 1, 2016

Vera: “Shadows in the Sky” (Independent Television Service, American Public Television, PBS, 2015)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2016 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Two nights ago I watched an episode of the British independent (i.e., commercial as opposed to the BBC) cop show Vera, set in Northumberland near the Scottish border, that was considerably better than most, mainly because this time around writer Martha Hillier (using the characters created by Ann Cleeves) kept both the number of suspects and the number of motives to a minimum. The episode was called “Shadows in the Sky” and was about dock worker Owen Thorne, who fell to his death from a tall building in an apparent suicide — only detective chief inspector Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn), who as I’ve noted about this show before comes off as if Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple had decided to join the official police force as a young woman and slowly worked herself up the ranks, and her sidekick, detective sergeant Aiden Healy (a nice piece of man-meat named Kenny Doughty), are convinced from the way the body fell and its position when he landed that it was murder. The two find out that Thorne had previously been responsible for the death of a co-worker when he failed to secure a piece of necessary safety equipment, something went wrong and the boy was crushed under heavy equipment — and his father, Mick McKittrick (Rob Jarvis), quit his job on the docks and went in for some heavy drinking to dull the pain. Thorne is a white man married to a Black (would we have to call her “African-British”?) woman who’s taken in two foster kids, one of indeterminate race and one definitely Black, and one of his concerns just before his death is to make sure nothing got in the way of his plans to adopt them. That didn’t stop him from having an affair with the (white, female) dispatcher at his worksite, who turns out to be the killer — just why she killed her boyfriend remains a mystery but the crisis seems to have been precipitated by their daughter, who’s been trying to re-establish a relationship with her dad. It was a nice show but not an especially challenging one.