wed 17/07/2024

The Responder, BBC One review - the loneliness of the long-distance copper | reviews, news & interviews

The Responder, BBC One review - the loneliness of the long-distance copper

The Responder, BBC One review - the loneliness of the long-distance copper

Martin Freeman rides alone through the existential night

A PhD in Scouse: Martin Freeman as Chris Carson

Cops on the box… don’t we just love ‘em? From Jimmy Perez and Ted Hastings to Inspector Reid from Ripper Street and Stella Gibson from The Fall the list is endless, but obviously we need more. The copper seems to have become the battered Everyperson we can dump all our fear, loathing and anxiety onto.

Just this week, we have two new major police-orientated series, the credibility-stretching bomb disposal yarn Trigger Point (ITV), and The Responder on BBC One (wackily scheduled across two weeks). At first glance the latter is indisputably the superior of the two, largely because of a dominant central performance by Martin Freeman, stealing a role that must surely at some point have landed in Stephen Graham’s inbox by getting tooled up with an impressively guttural Scouse accent.

One of The Responder’s marketing bullet points is that it was written by a real ex-cop, Tony Schumacher, who spent 10 years on the force in Liverpool. The stresses of the job forced him to quit, and now he’s written a five-part drama about Liverpool police officer Chris Carson, who’s in the midst of an emotional crack-up.

Carson’s therapist tells him he should “be kind to yourself”, but you sense it’s a bit late for soothing new-age cliches. This opening episode was like a map of Carson’s psyche overlaid on the grittier, more derelict areas of his home city, as he patrolled his way through a somewhat existential night. Perhaps he might feel some empathy with the narrator of Bruce Springsteen’s “Stolen Car” – “I ride by night and I travel in fear / That in this darkness I will disappear”. The ResponderCops (real or televisual) invariably work in pairs, but somehow, Carson is resolutely solitary. He visits a grimy block of flats to tackle a row between a wife and her slobby husband whom she insists is addicted to paedo-porn. He’s called out to another flat where he finds the body of an elderly woman sprawled, eyes open, on her sofa. He helps himself to a bowl of her pea-and-ham soup while he waits for medics to arrive. He takes a drive with Marco (Josh Finan), a cheerful low-level reprobate with whom Carson obviously has a long history.

Freeman shoulders the burden of being the engine-room of the piece with aplomb, evoking Carson’s frazzled state with nervous twitches of an eyebrow or a tense tightening of the mouth. He feigns a kind of grizzled insouciance, but it’s really desperation in disguise.

A character we’re going to be seeing a lot more of is Carl Sweeney, played by Ian Hart with a ferocious snarl and what looks like a giant tarantula plastered across his head. We can tell quite a bit about the Sweeney-Carson relationship by the way Sweeney barks orders at the cop, and these boil down to “find Casey!”. It seems that Carl has “been good” to Carson in the past, and he’s in his debt. Carl, it transpires, is a coke dealer, and he’s desperate to get his hands on Casey because she’s stolen a huge stash of his product. Carson helps her get away by dropping her off at Lime Street station (treating her to a few of his therapists’s homilies for good measure), much to Carl’s fury.

Carson’s therapist has been trying to persuade him that he does good and his work is valuable, but he’s not convinced. Maybe he should try working during the daylight hours, when the ghouls and villains aren’t quite so visible, but it may already be too late. We’ve already seen his wife Kate (MyAnna Buring) keeping her distance from Raymond Mullen (Warren Brown, pictured above with Buring), and insisting that “I love my husband”. There may be quite a bit of crashing and burning in store.

He feigns a kind of grizzled insouciance, but it’s really desperation in disguise


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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