Friday, May 1, 2015

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.

Hannah Long


  1. I'm so grateful to learn via your website that Gently (my favorite dramatic series) had a season 7. And now I've finally found a way to stream it (a service called Acorn, apparently available through Amazon). The 2nd episode, which I've just seen, is a bit unsatisfying, with a rushed ending and no clear judgment about the murderer. But it's of little matter, given the strength of the acting--above all, the unshakable "centeredness" of Martin Shaw's Inspector, a character of unfathomable resonance whose acceptance of Bacchus as a partner in itself bestows positive and likable qualities upon this otherwise bull-headed and obtuse character, whether or not Bacchus deserves our admiration. Initially, Bacchus is the most unlikely co-star I've seen--with his adolescent flesh tone, mop of Beetles' hair, and pointed nose. But we begin to like him, I'd agree, when he fearlessly (and admittedly stupidly) out-bullies and intimidates bigger adversaries who appear capable of holding him down with one arm. Or when, in an early episode, he defies Gently's orders by becoming a Mason in order to go underground and expose the vital information that leads Gently to the criminal. As the series unfolds, we see Bacchus develop physically and emotionally--revealing the pain that perhaps only a viewer who, like Bacchus, an estranged father can full identify with. It's the story about a failing family camp , which in its desperation to keep afloat, engages in illicit activities that lead an independent and talented girl to beg her rigidly righteous mother to allow her to return to her home. She's refused, then killed in a freakish but unforgettable accident that opens deep and lasting wounds on all, including some of us who are fathers and some who are not (esp. when we see Gently himself begging Bacchus' ex-wife for more father-daughter time for his distraught partner. In the second episode of Season 7, Gently fights for Bacchus' promotion to the "Met" while, at the same time, encouraging his partner's bullying brashness as a means to expose and make accessible the flaws of those responsible not only for the death of a woman doctor but for the victims (of mesothelioma) that she had made it her mission to assist. Unquestionably, the rock-solid Gently is capable of carrying on without the slow-learning, unfailingly loyal partner. But Bacchus' dismissal would be no less serious than the Bard's decision, after "Henry IV, Pt. 1," to excise Falstaff. Bacchus may be wanting the wit and play-acting ability of Shakespeare's most comic albeit highly flawed character, but by now he's hardly less dispensable.

    1. The hazards of writing too long and late. That last sentence has no logic or sense. Probably best read as: "he seems just as indispensable to us as does Falstaff.

    2. I think you're right about Bacchus: he's interesting because he's no hero, or even a romantic anti-hero. However, instead of using him as a simple villain, we have to take him, warts and all, as a primary character. That's interesting.


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