My review of the first season of Vera.
My review of the second season of Vera.
My review of the third season of Vera.
My reviews of the fourth season of Vera.
My reviews of the fifth season of Vera.
Bleak but gorgeous moors? Crows? A crowded pub? A girl running alone in the dark? No depressed Swedish detective in evidence? Must be Vera, and so it is. The girl in particular had just discovered the body of a woman, Anne Marie Richards, left in the wilderness for two weeks.
Marcus the Pathologist, who's looking rather older, hesitantly diagnoses a violent death. She'd been scheduled to have supper with her two daughters several weeks ago. A history of drugs and desertion meant they weren't particularly surprised when she was a no-show. But is that the only reason they refused to seek her out? Could they be responsible for her disappearance?
The daughters are quite different from one another. Christine is gawky and unfashionable - she seems a little more emotionally levelheaded than her sister, but nothing else about her life looks stable. Nicole is married with a young daughter. Her husband, Simon, was angry with Anne Marie - she meddled in other people's lives to an infuriating extent.
As it turns out, Anne Marie was fairly ubiquitous in other people's lives, as evidenced by the parade of suspects Vera interviews. Anne Marie's doctor directs Vera to investigate Anne Marie's latest lover - a restaurant-owner named Huang (a restaurant Aiden visited in the previous season finale, incidentally). Meanwhile, Anne Marie was buzzing around the wealthy older man, Mr. Kipland, in the next house (he's played by Ronald Pickup, here being the suspiciously famous cast member). This worried Mr. Kipland's nurse, Pam Rached, though not as much as Anne Marie's interest in her son, Dash. At the pub, the bartender revealed that Anne Marie had been picking up young men regularly.
Ciara - the girl who discovered and then moved the body - was not entirely moved by righteous motives. Her grandfather hated Anne Marie, because she had caused his animals to be put down. He had been negligent, he admits, but only because he was mourning the death of his daughter.
The superfluity of suspects is somewhat of a problem. There are so many subplots that by the time we get to the killer, there's little time (spoilery stuff here) to develop a motive beyond mere anger (hashtag toxic masculinity), which smacks of convenient, Deus ex machina psychopathy.
This means that the biggest shock of the episode loses some of its weight. For the first time in six seasons, Vera has finally killed off a secondary character.
In the absence of Joe Ashworth, Vera has turned from a show about a partnership to one about an ensemble. Aiden turns up on the advertising, because he's cute, but Vera is just as likely to go investigating with Kenny or Bethany. In this episode, most of her time is spent with Bethany, who has put in an application for promotion. Vera is blunt: she doesn't think she's good enough. Could she be? Yes, but it'll take a lot more work.
That the end of Bethany's first character arc is death, and quickly, is an unusual choice. Sure, it gives the show that darkness it's been missing, but there are a few reasons it's a puzzling decision. For one, we have very little emotion invested in Bethany. I care far more for Kenny, Aiden, and even Marcus, all of whom have had more character development (and I can't even begin to describe how agonizing Joe's death would have been, in similar circs). For another, it's not exactly a logical development of her character arc. It's just a bit random.
All that said, Brenda Blethyn sells it all. Vera's response gives the denouement tremendous pathos, and she mixes ferocity, anguish, and regret to devastating effect. Hopefully Bethany's death will echo throughout the rest of the story, and not merely be an isolated, cheap plot twist. Vera is a show which thrives on Blethyn's dark moods, and if Vera is beginning to regain the edge she abandoned in series 5 (her saucy response to Aiden's engagement gives me hope), that's all to the good.
My review of the next episode: Tuesday's Child.
Want something good to watch? Check out my full list of British detective shows.