Thursday, February 4, 2016

Vera - Series 2 - Review

 My review of the first season of Vera.




Season 2, episode 1: The Ghost Position.

Joe is really the World’s Best Sergeant. He’s more sociable than Sergeant Hathaway, more virtuous than Sergeant Bacchus and yet more interesting that stick-in-the-mud Sergeant Milner, more motherly to his boss than Sergeant Lewis, better looking than any of the above. Sergeant Ellie Miller is the only one to give him anything like competition, and that’s saying something.

This is really the sidekicks’ episode, too, opening as Vera reunites with her first sergeant. His daughter lies on the point of death - she was in the house when a hooded figure lobbed a petrol bomb through the window. This was the first element that bothered me a bit, for it’s a repeat of the same formula as the previous season’s finale: black-hooded mysterious stranger is chased by the police for an attack on a kid for the entire story. For what it’s worth, I think this is a better episode, but it’s a little annoying that the second episode not based on a book is basically a repeat.

Vera is forced to deal with her weaknesses. Last season ended as she went into the hospital, now we know she has angina, a fact she blurts out in an exquisitely painful scene at Joe’s house. She is faced with other failures as she worries that she has failed both her old sergeant, and Holly Lawson.



Season 2, episode 2: Silent Voices.

Silent Voices is another episode based on a book. Unlike the last two, it’s more focused on characters, and seems to be confined to a narrower list of locations. It’s actually a whodunit, rather than a thriller, but that’s not to say there aren’t nail-biting moments. The ending was as nerve-wracking as any moment in this series. (Nice job, episode, establishing the magnitude of the danger well before it happened.)

The story begins by paralleling two swimming women - one is Vera, trying to please her doctor by exercising at The Willows Health Spa and Club. The other swimmer is the victim, Jenny Lister, who is summarily strangled by someone on shore. Vera and Joe's investigations lead them to discover that she had, in the past, been involved in another murder case. One of her underlings, social worker Connie Masters, was blamed for mishandling the case of a young mother who had ultimately drowned her young son. On the other hand, Lister’s personal life was fairly simple. Her beautiful daughter Hannah is dating Simon, whose mother disapproves - but does she disapprove enough to kill?

Holly has now departed, to be replaced by Bethany Whelan. Jury’s still out, but I think she’ll work. Kenny and Billy are at their best here, and it’ll be interesting to see how she fits into the established cast.

I adore Joe, but he does have some serious competition here on looks. There’s quiet, comforting Simon and a cute manipulative osteopath, Michael Morgan, who sounds just like Paul Bettany.

Vera and Joe run into said osteopath when their investigations take them to The Willows. This revelation of her personal life makes Vera profoundly uncomfortable, and it’s only made worse when Morgan starts making deductions about her emotions. The general theme here is her inability to confide. Joe is at first amused, but later becomes angry as he realizes the cost of Vera’s reticence. Refusing to communicate on a case like this one could very easily mean the difference between life and death.


Season 2, episode 3: Sandancers.

You know what I hate about British dramas? They can just never get the military right. It’s one thing if it’s older, lighthearted stories - the bombastic silly old colonel, the brash young lieutenant. But in things like Foyle’s War or Vera these caricatures stand out among otherwise realistic settings. For instance, in this episode of the show, there are five young male soldiers. One is an adulterer, another’s a murderer, another’s a liar, another’s a sexist, and a last one is crippled by PTSD. None of them are positive characters, and the portraits are all too clearly informed by the opinion that soldiers do little more than “the marching and the saluting,” and that war necessarily destroys a man’s life.

Except, of course, for the sassy female officer who doesn’t really fit in with the guys. She joins Vera and Joe as they investigate the suspicious suicide of a young “sandancer.” His death seems to be connected with that of a fellow soldier, KIA some months ago. They visit that soldier’s parents, who, suspiciously, have a bunch of guns. Soon enough, they’re discovering all number of dirty secrets in the dead man’s closet.

Overall, the weakest episode so far. It had its moments, but there were too many cliches and military stereotypes. And what could possibly be more cynical than the final scene - a gang of boys playing with toy guns?


Season 2, episode 4: A Certain Samaritan.

This episode is about parents and children. While Joe is doing his best to organize his daughter’s communion, Vera is coming to terms with her father’s death, and they’re both investigating the murder of a prodigal son.

Discovering a body in a trash bin, Joe and Vera quickly deduce that it was transported on the back of a truck from a completely different location. They also identify the corpse: the son of an overzealous, Catholic mother. He had a troublesome relationship with his girlfriend, seemed to be involved in drugs, and there’s another connection with a terminally ill rich man who looks and sounds like Colin Farrell will in 20 years.

For Vera, this episode means building bridges with her father’s ex-girlfriend. Naturally, the architect of their meeting is dear old Joe, who does a bit of poking around and gives Vera the woman’s address. As it happens, the two are quite a bit alike - both feisty and insensitive, both bearing a conflicted love for Vera’s father. Vera’s training with brusque suspects comes in useful here, as she listens to Maggie vent. But the encounter is oddly cathartic - not only does Vera learn that her father cared more for her than for Maggie, but - huge spoiler here - that she has a kid sister (that one threw me for a loop: the idea of a Vera 2.0 gadding about somewhere in the world is enough to give anyone pause.)

Joe does rather well for himself. Vera comes to his daughter’s communion, and (thanks to quick thinking on his part) even has a gift ready. His wife, on Vera’s off-hand recommendation, tries to get a job, but decides it’s not the time to take that step. Vera again has to deal with the idea that the things she does and says - even small things - profoundly affect those who respect her. No woman is an island.

My review of the third season of Vera.

Want something good to watch? Check out my full list of British detective shows.

Longish

8 comments:

  1. have to say, as an Englishman very familiar with the accent and dialect of the region, that although she makes a decent attempt Brenda makes enough errors to make it uncomfortable listening for me. Given many of the scenes are simply dialogue I just can't get through an episode

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    1. That's interesting to hear, because I'm a casual student and imitator of the British accents I hear in these programs (I'm from the American south). She certainly doesn't seem as comfortable with it as David Leon (obviously, as that's his natural accent), but my ear is not sensitive enough to pick up her mistakes.

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    2. the errors include things like intonation and stress on syllables - she frequently puts the stress inappropriately (for authenticity) on either then penultimate or last syllable when in fact it should be the other way round (and that's just her natural accent / dialect poking through unconsciously); that and certain sounds that are just not right

      a good example is 'one' which would be pronounced like 'gone' not 'wun'

      anyway enjoyed the review more than the show xx

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    3. Thanks!

      Coming from the south, I can say film actors only rarely get our accent right. It's usually a mishmash of a bunch of regional southern accents glossed over with an exaggerated twang. Anyway - I know what you mean - it can get annoying.

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  2. Could someone please tell me who Peter is that Vera was referring to in the episode The Ghost Position....a child she had or the third person she used to work with? Thank you.

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    1. Sorry for the delay - I was locked out of my account. I don't think it's explained in this episode, but Peter is a romantic interest from Vera's past. You learn more about him as the series progresses, though not very much.

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    2. Isn't Peter the officer she worked with in her earlier years? around the time she was working with her first sergeant...I remembered the name and they mentioned he died.

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