tue 17/05/2022

Above Suspicion: Deadly Intent, ITV1 | reviews, news & interviews

Above Suspicion: Deadly Intent, ITV1

Above Suspicion: Deadly Intent, ITV1

Convoluted and formulaic police procedural by Lynda La Plante

What’s with the two titles? A crime drama so good that they had to name it twice? Or couldn’t anyone in production decide which one to ditch? Why not swap them around, or maybe call it "Prime Suspect", or "Prime Suspect: Deadly Intent", or variations thereof? (OK, perhaps not "Prime Suspect: Above Suspicion", which would kind of cancel the other one out, but you get my drift.) Indeed, Lynda La Plante’s titles are so irritatingly, meaninglessly generic that they’d fit just about any old plot with a vaguely criminal theme. But then, her plots are generic, so I suppose as long as they’ve got cliché written all over them you’re OK, because at least then you’ll know what complete toss and nonsense to expect. And not even enjoyable toss and nonsense.

It wasn’t always like that. For anyone who remembers, the original Prime Suspect, all those years back, was great. Pacy, edge-of-your-seat, some fine acting to give it that extra touch of class. And this one has some fine acting in it too, with Kelly Reilly reprising her role for the third time as DI Travis, and Ciarán Hinds as her lugubrious but growly boss DCS Langton, both nicely underplaying the simmering sexual tension.

But, then again, perhaps a bit more sexual tension might have lifted this thumpingly dull but nonetheless convoluted opening episode of a three-parter. Or at least some sustained human interest beyond all the bang-bang, hell-for-leather, killer-on-the-loose, police-procedural stuff that is hallmark La Plante – all screeching tyres and shoot-outs at one end, and all canteen chat and police white boards plastered with photos of corpses at the other. Sure, there was a bit of inconsequential flirting in the forensic lab, but these exchanges are as bland and as formulaic as almost everything else manages to be. (Unsurprisingly, Travis attracts quite a bit of male attention: she’s not only young, pert and pretty, but the station is creakingly old school, and the only other female around just does the admin – and she’s distinctly out of the competition.)

The plot, for what it’s worth, involves a murdered bent cop and an FBI’s “most-wanted” international drugs baron. The big-shot dealer needs to get back his stock of a drug called Fentanyl (the drug actually exists and is indeed believed - as verified by me on Wikipedia - to be “100 times more potent than morphine”). Soon people will be dropping like flies just catching a whiff of the stuff, but the soon-to-be-suspected perpetrator remained so elusive that the only glimpse we got of him in the first episode was as a shadowy presence in the opening sequence. He was about to get some radical cosmetic surgery, after which he injects his surgeon with a killer shot of Fentanyl. (Question: who was the first ever fictional criminal mastermind to go under the knife for a “new face”? And shouldn’t Lynda La Plante be keeping well clear of these hoary old nonsense storylines? Whatever happened to gritty realism, eh?)

I've seen all three episodes (so you don’t have to) and you can be assured that things don’t improve much. The nervous neighbour who definitely heard three shots instead of two, her autistic son who likes to jot down car registration numbers from his bedroom window, the posh, ice-cool widow of the bent cop, and the same bent cop’s dizzy fiancée are all joined in Part Two by a host of other characters whose names you won’t be able to remember, and who may or may not have some kind of relationship with the elusive drug baron (and even if they did they probably wouldn’t be able to recognise him again, what with his new face). Oh, it’s all very confusing; formulaic and confusing - which is quite something.

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