Monday, March 28, 2016

Vera Series 5 - Changing Tides - Episode Review

My review of the previous season finale.

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.

The beginning of series 5 finds Vera returning from holiday. Because it's Vera, our workaholic, obsessive heroine - the holiday was occasioned by the death of a distant relative in Galway. Back at home, some things have changed. Shep has disappeared, replaced by Bethany Whelan - a returning supporting cast member from season 2. Kenny and Marcus remain, and as in series 4, have expanded roles. Most significantly, David Leon's Joe Ashworth has departed.

The New Guy is Aiden Healy, a cocky, leather-jacketed transfer from gun crimes. From the first moment, it's apparent he's quite a different kettle of fish. He earns a snigger from Kenny with gallows humor at a crime scene, and chatters on about his theories. Vera is surprisingly tolerant of his insolence - chastening him merely with solemn looks. If it seems a bit out of character for Vera, well, she's unusually somber. Joe is gone, and he leaves a vacuum.

Series 4 gave us an inexplicably mellower Vera - and that trend continues here, to the point that Vera and her new young man experience a role reversal. Joe looked to Vera for professional mentoring - but provided a moral and dispositional anchor for her bitter moods and antisocialism. Aiden and Vera have a more predictable relationship. He's arrogant and green - she's levelheaded and experienced. It's a bit of a stretch to believe that Vera has matured this much emotionally, especially without Joe's influence, but on the other hand, his absence does seem to have affected her in ways we don't quite see.

The most powerful evidence of this is when, distracted, she refers to Aiden as "D.S. Ashworth." It's a startling moment - a sudden revelation that Vera's not okay with Joe leaving - just the opposite, in fact. For her, it's like losing a family member or a limb - he was so integral to her life that she keeps expecting to find him there. Though she later brushes it off as a slip, it shows the huge hole Joe has left.

As for me, I hope Joe and Celine continue building their huge Catholic family and fighting crime indefinitely. He was a great character.

Aiden fills the hole, but not much else. He's rather stolid and hunky - a history of violence is treated like an embarrassing episode rather than a major insight into his character. In the absence of Joe, Vera has to do her own derring do, and it feels almost as if she has to prove herself to Aiden rather than the other way around.

The murder is that of Deena Viner - found dead after her chalet exploded. It's a lucky thing the conflagration didn't spread to the rest of the trailer park, but that risk seems to lessen suspicion of her brother, the owner of the park. Things get stranger: as far as Deena's neighbor knew, no one lived in the adjacent chalet, so why was she staying there? Was this just a tragic accident?

The investigation draws in a few teenage boys. Deena's niece's boyfriend - Ryan Synnit - has previous, and just had a one-off with Deena's friend (who has a suspicious connection to Deena's finances).  Ryan's brother, Riley, looks shifty.

All in all, a decent enough installment. The method of murder is a little bit abstract and unlikely (and we have a too-many-people-committing-crime-at-the-same-time situation), but a chilling confession by the killer and a classic Vera interview redeems the ending.

My review of the next episode: Old Wounds.



  1. A first comment from a regular reader of your site.
    With your long view on the series, no pun intended, can you say how many of the episode plots did not revolve around troubled child/parent relations? Plot type repetition works in this series, much as it did in Morse, I find.

    1. Sorry for taking a bit to respond - got locked out of google for a while! Anyway, it's been ages since I watched all of Vera, so I'm a bit fuzzy on details. However, now you mention it, it's really hard to think of an episode that doesn't include the parent-child motif. Vera, Joe, and Aiden all deal with their relationships as parents or as children. The Vera-Joe relationship shook it up a bit, as he often acted more like a parent to Vera, than the other way around. The Vera-Aiden partnership is more traditional, with Vera as the wise mentor to a green younger officer. That said, I don't think I could put a number on the exceptions to this rule, since it's been so long since I've watched the series. Glancing over my reviews of the latest series, sure enough, every single one of them includes the motif.

      Thanks for commenting, by the way! Always enjoy hearing from readers.

    2. Thanks for the response, and no rush, as I only think about Vera on the night it is broadcast. moving over to muddy waters, with a question about plot detail.

  2. And btw, is there a good source for location identification for Vera? The ruined abbey/cathedral, for example. The strange building that seems to be three buildings in one (and in fact, is) is the Sage center in Gateshead

    1. I'm not sure I'm the right person to ask. I did discover a few places by checking the locations page on IMDb. If you follow either Brenda Blethyn or Kenny Doughty on Twitter, they'll sometimes post set pictures as they're filming new seasons. Or, you can just ask them - they sometimes respond to queries.

  3. The ruined abbey/cathedral is Tynemouth Priory.


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