Inspector George Gently - Series 7 - Gently With the Women
The new series starts off on a somber note as a woman is violently attacked in the shadows beneath Durham Cathedral. It is pitch dark in the alleys by the river, but the glowing face of the enormous edifice looms against the night sky, passive, silent, immovable, uncaring, unhearing.
Meanwhile, George Gently is in the ring, attempting to keep up with a younger colleague. Martin Shaw, at 70, still looks like he can throw a mean punch, but George's age is catching up with him. He is suddenly KO’d, letting a punch fly right past his guard, and wakes up in the doctor’s office. He's none too happy about the fuss, but she is insistent that this may be more than a mere fluke. Meanwhile, D.S. John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) and D.C. Rachel Coles (Lisa McGrillis) are staking out a brothel and arguing (who have a tremendous non-chemistry, reminiscent of Hardy and Miller in Broadchurch). They basically spend the rest of the episode at each other's throats, Rachel as the voice of reason, and Bacchus seeming like a lost member of the Life on Mars police force. (Question: since this is 1969, and Ingleby played four-year-old Sam Tyler’s dad in Life on Mars in 1973, isn’t it possible that Bacchus falls in love with a girl named Ruth, changes his name to Vic Tyler, runs off to Manchester, joins the mafia, and has a son just in time to turn up in that series as well? Perhaps a bit farfetched.) The historical topic of the week is rape. Bacchus is hardly the only Life on Mars reject, because the rest of the all-male team (Gently is absent) are just as theatrically chauvinistic. It’s a relief when George returns to restore order and enlightenment.
On top of mocking a rape victim, Bacchus is having an affair with a fellow copper’s wife, Gemma Nunn (Annabel Scholey). When Gemma’s husband becomes one of the suspects in a murder case, Bacchus is eager to keep the whole thing quiet, but Gently is having none of it. He can see the whole thing is an enormous mistake, and he intervenes, going even further than he usually does to curb Bacchus's stupidity. I wonder, once again, why in the world it's possible to like Bacchus. He's stupid, arrogant, racist, misogynistic, insensitive, unfaithful, utterly unreconstructed, and...somehow lovable. Part of the answer may be that he does tend to learn some sort of lesson by the end of the story (in this case, to treat rape claims with more professionalism), even if long-term growth seems to have eluded him. He does care about George, in a love-hate kinda way, and respects him as an ideal he cannot achieve ("I'm not you, George! Do you understand that? I'm not you.") He does have a very primitive moral compass which decides to kick into gear at extreme moments. Many of his flaws have a comic Barney Fife quality, consisting more of bluster than real malevolence. With that in consideration, while the situation is wrongheaded, and his actions completely out of line, Bacchus's uncharacteristic sincerity with regards to Gemma is oddly touching, and adds a layer of complexity when George, thankfully, raises objections. Meanwhile, investigations continue, as Gently roots out former police corruption concerning rape charges. He's in no rush to make a premature arrest, unlike Bacchus (or Rolling Stone). There aren't too many suspects here, as the majority of the story is spent dealing with the leads' personal issues. Jeremy Swift (Foyle’s War) makes a memorable appearance as sleazy Stuart MacMillan. Derek Riddell is sinister as Walter Nunn. The climax is pretty predictable, and comes after a few obligatory twists in a fairly straightforward story. Bacchus's romantic life is left unresolved, and George has to face a difficult result (don't lose hope, George - you're in good company.) It'll be interesting to see where that ends up. As it is, next week, we'll be delving into Rachel's past. My review of next week's episode: Breathe In the Air.