Sunday, January 7, 2018

Inspector George Gently - Series 8 - Gently Liberated

My review of the previous episode, Son of a Gun.

I haven't watched any George Gently in a long time. As reentry episodes go, this is a good one, if just because it has everything that has defined the show for the last ten years. There's George - stolid, reliable, a lion for justice. Bacchus - smarmy, unreliable, a jackal who wants to be a lion. There's corruption in high places and '60s fashion and mistreatment of minorities. We've seen all of this before, but the knowledge that this is the show's final season gives it an edge that lifts it above a somewhat basic plot.

The episode starts at a police benefit. Two young officers box while tuxedo'd colleagues look on. George is suddenly convicted by the brutality of it - or maybe his MS diagnosis and impending forced retirement is getting to him. Not that he'll talk about it - he's still resisted telling Bacchus about his illness.

Near the end of the dinner, an officer calls the team away - a body has been found in a factory vat. It's identified as Alistair Liddell, an employee who went missing eight years before. The case brings Gently and Bacchus into even greater conflict, as Bacchus was on the original investigation and he's adamant that they should let sleeping dogs lie. Unsurprisingly, there's some guilt involved too, as this was in the days before Bacchus was...if not redeemed, at least improved.

At the time, they arrested Alistair's wife. It was a high-publicity case, as she allegedly murdered her husband while her daughter slept upstairs. The body was never found, but the woman, Eve Liddell, went down for murder, despite retracting an early confession. Bacchus is convinced he got it right - Gently thinks there's more to the story. as they repeat old quarrels on a more dramatic level.

As Gently investigates, it seems more and more likely that the crime was committed by two people. For one thing, Eve would've needed help disposing of the body. They've finally found Alistair's remains in a vat at the factory where he worked, so it's likely Eve's accomplice worked there. His coworkers clearly weren't huge fans of the man. There had been accidents at the job site, a man ended up burned badly. Was Alistair involved?

On the other hand, Eve's story doesn't hang together - she claims she went out for a walk for no reason. Neighbor Patricia Willis reports she heard the two arguing before the murder. There were rumors her husband, Harry, was sleeping with Eve.

The daughter, Marion, has left her previous life behind and is flowering in art school. Gently and Bacchus barge right in wearing suits and grim expressions, and you can feel the echoes of Broadchurch as the ponderous music begins.

With the revelation of the Liddells' broken home life, the show again revisits the theme of battered, abused women failed by men. Speaking of which, Bacchus's sheer scumminess in the episode makes me wish the story would finally commit to some real character development for him. He's had his moments of heroism and goodness, but when the show needs him to remain the source of conflict, he reverts to his bigoted, reactionary self. There's a tragic aspect to this, as we've journeyed with him and empathize, but at the end of the day, George is right: he's not a good policeman and he probably never will be.

If this had been the final episode, it would have been a satisfying conclusion - Gently and Bacchus, ultimately, are too different. George rejects Bacchus and turns to his other young mentee, the one who is so much more like him: Rachel.

It's a realistic way to end the show. After all, Gently and Bacchus said unforgivable things to each other in this episode. Gently destroyed Bacchus's sense of self-worth, attacking him on everything from his integrity to his sloppy hygiene. Bacchus attacked George's wife and his legacy - the two things that matter to him. It's a devastating scene with both actors giving it their absolute best. Bacchus's hesitant apology at the end of the episode isn't enough for Gently and it shouldn't be. I still haven't seen the finale, but it'll be difficult for them to sell a genuine reconciliation between the two men.

That isn't to say I don't want one.

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


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