Sunday, February 4, 2018

Vera Series 8 - Darkwater - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Home.

A striking location is the star of the show as authorities recover the body of a teenager from a pristine reservoir. His name was Ethan Dewley, a bullied youth whose parents, Sean and Ellie, had just split up. His mother lived in the city. Marcus suspects that, due to head injuries, Ethan's death wasn't accidental.

Adam Jannen, who bullied Ethan, was also in the area with a few friends. He'd lit out after yet another boy who'd been watching the group, clutching a grimy bike. Things get even more complicated when it turns out Adam's mother was having an affair with Ethan's father, leading to Ethan's parents' separation.

One of the men who worked at the dam, Gary Whenchurch, said his son Simon and daughter Alice both knew Ethan. Simon's working hard to become successful in the military, while Alice feels underappreciated and unnoticed.

A local woman, Laura Halcombe, reported a possibly related crime: her house was burgled and a picture stolen. She has previous for sleeping with a teenage boy, so when it's revealed she knew Ethan Dewley and might have been interacting with Adam Jannan online, she shoots high on the suspect list. Relatedly, her new beau, appropriately-aged Jim Briscoe, also has a motive to get rid of Ethan - but is it jealousy or was Ethan blackmailing Laura?

The episode features the return of George from the Basement, the Missing Persons expert who we last saw in the finale of series 7. He's a delightfully shoddy little man, and his crush on Vera is a fun subplot in the episode. I can't imagine any Vera romance actually working - I mean, Vera's Paddington-meets-Miss-Marple act is quite asexual - but it's something different for the characters to deal with, albeit briefly, and that's interesting.

It just goes to show - the characters need to find some arcs. I mean, obviously, the show doesn't need to go there, practically. It's already been renewed for its ninth season, which signals people want more of the same, but it's a waste of talent. Aiden still needs more to do and his relationship with Vera should be more of a challenge for both of them. He was originally conceived as a sort of cocky reckless jock - lean into that.

Have him get into some serious trouble and Vera have to get him out of it. Or vice versa would be even more interesting - have Vera get into some serious trouble, messing with someone just a little too powerful ("Why yes, pet, I am going to take down your criminal empire") - and then have Aiden man up and help her. Nothing is really challenging to Vera at this point. She pursued a suspect into a dark house in the last episode and then he knocked himself out. In this one, she walked out onto a ledge and saved a girl. Brenda Blethyn is 71. Vera herself used to be a mess of insecurities and flaws. Let Aiden get some exercise, physical and mental.

My review of the first season of Vera.

If you enjoyed this article, check out my full list of detective reviews.

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  1. Hi Hannah, thanks for another great review.

    For all my moaning about the show, I really do enjoy it and I was pleased to hear it has been renewed for another series. Like you, I believe the format has grown stale and this would be the perfect time to make some changes.

    I was down the pub the other day with friends and we got to discussing Vera (as you do). One chap thought Vera was too old and that the chase scenes were unbelievable. I couldn’t agree more.

    Perhaps the solution is in that comment: make Vera the brains and Aiden the brawn – and then, as you suggested, give them a few cases where they are in over (way) their heads.

    Disappointingly, Darkwater was ALL Vera; everyone else was wasted. Vera ran all the interviews, did all the driving, solved the crime, saved the girl; everything. I was amazed at how many times she appeared in scenes without Aiden; he was just window dressing the entire episode. And poor Kenny, Jac and Mark had even less to do.

    I agree; it was good to see George from Missing Persons. Perhaps romance could be in the air next series. My pub mate tells me that Brenda Blethyn was quite the pin-up girl in her younger years, so maybe that’s something the writers could work into the storyline.

    In the opening moments of Darkwater, I thought the producers had taken my advice and given Aiden a motorbike, only to be disappointed when it was revealed it was Marcus behind that helmet and leathers.

    Most disappointingly, I thought the writer bottled it with the ending. For a nano-second I wondered if the series might end with a literal cliff-hanger, but then I remembered I was watching Vera. What a wasted opportunity not letting Aiden rescue the girl.

    1. I don't even need Vera to be sidelined from the action - I just need her to be more vulnerable. She's becoming too invincible to really be invested in.

      Brenda Blethyn was very attractive when she was young - she's still attractive when not being Vera. And remember, even Vera had a romance back in the day - a few seasons ago you'll remember they hinted around about "Peter," an old beau of Vera's who died.

      Remember how they used to let Joe doing the derring do? I remember when he jumped into a reservoir to save a woman trapped in her car. Vera stayed on the shore, heart in her mouth. It was one of the tensest scenes the show has done. Next season, I expect we'll see a repeat, but with Vera doing the diving.


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