Saturday, January 27, 2018

Vera Series 8 - Home - Review

 My review of the previous episode: Black Ice

Elliot discovers his mum's body in the backyard. There'd been trouble the night before. A panning shot showed a series of domestic scenes glimpsed through windows, the final one of Elliot's mother and sister screaming at each other, before the sister, Molly, storms out.

The victim is Allison Glenn. She has two children with her husband, Michael Glenn, an officer at Greenport prison. Michael's heartbroken - but his whereabouts the night before are unknown. At first, Vera assumes he was working, but it turns out he was with his scumbag scammer brother, Jason, and even then, not the whole night.

Allison always told her family she was an orphan who grew up in care. Actually, she'd run away from her father, a scraggly, nagging, potentially abusive farmer named Robert Naresby. Her brother, Tom, is simple but affectionate. Her mother left the family 10 years before Allison fled. Social worker Graham Harper said he wasn't surprised Allison left - her father wasn't the most likable of people.

More trouble is found with the neighboring family, divorced mother Asha Dabra and her son Sahil. Allison had complained to her daughter's teacher, Tina Brennan, that Sahil was showing an "unhealthy" amount of interest in her teenager daughter, Molly. Sahil is troubled because of his parents' divorce and custody dispute, but he has been violent. Both of the teenagers have issues - Molly is found later with alcohol poisoning and Sahil abandons her when the police arrive.

Michael Glenn's unexplained disappearance is further complicated by the fact that a taxi driver says he took him to the home of Audrey Latham, who used to work for a notorious crime lord, Brian Delaney. This leads to something which I was hoping would be better than it was: Vera's showdown with a mobster. It's an idea the show should revisit. Vera needs an archnemesis. This guy isn't enough - she needs someone she can really match wits with. An anti-Vera, well-dressed and socially successful, named something like Eloise or Madame Moriarty? Or should we see the return of Vera's long-lost sister, Carrie Kinsdale née Cara Stanhope, turning her own detection powers to the dark side? Aiden goes bad? I'm only half-kidding. Give me your best ideas in the comments.

The episode itself is quite good. Some fine direction and camera angles keep it looking interesting. A theme of parents and children adds a layer to the story's thematic resonance, and a solid cast. Steven Robertson (Sandy from Shetland) is particularly good as Tom. There are a lot of plot threads to keep up with, but it's pretty easy to follow. However, there are so many narrative misdirections and red herrings that it becomes rather ridiculous towards the end. Give it credit, it had me certain I knew the killer at least twice, but after a while, I would have traded misdirection for a little while spent building characters to preserve the ending's emotional impact.

That said, despite some clunky, repetitive early scenes (I could predict the beats of Vera persuading Molly to talk to her), it does add some welcome levity - Vera surreptitiously punching a vending machine to help a kid out is perfect - and one much-needed Vera-and-Aiden bonding moment. Aiden's cooking, Vera's getting out frozen food - that he guesses what she's eating shows he's become pretty savvy about Vera's lifestyle away from work. Though is it just me, or do they always bond over food? Put the pair of them on the Great British Baking Show and we'll really see some character development.

My review of the first season of Vera.

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  1. Hi Hannah, thanks for another great review.

    I enjoyed Home very much. Another very well written episode that had me guessing (incorrectly) until the bitter end.

    I agree with you that Vera needs someone she can match wits with. IMHO, it should be Aiden, who I have been moaning about since series 6.

    He’s just too weak and his character is insufficiently developed. He may be a pretty face, but frankly he’s a bore; he could do with some idiosyncrasies. What are his interests (besides baking)? Which football club does he support? What is his taste in music? Does he smoke and, if so, which brand or does he roll his own? Does he prefer lager, ale or stout? Perhaps give him a motorbike to drive to work. Do something – ANYTHING – to flesh him out a bit. I like the idea that maybe he goes bad.

    Memo to Aiden:
    Son, it’s time to man-up. I know it’s hard for you, but if you don’t stand up to Vera now, she’ll be bossing you around in series 9 and 10. Tell her she can carry her own blue shoe-covers and put them on by herself. She can buy her own replacement cuppa when hers goes cold and fetch her own coat when she’s in a hurry. And while you’re at it, son; tell her you’re driving next time, whether she likes it or not. Hmm?

    For what they're worth, here are my random thoughts (n.b. spoilers below):

    • Doesn’t anyone tell the truth anymore? Everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE – well, except young Elliot – lied in this episode;
    • I chuckled (and I think I was meant to) at the juxtaposition of Aiden whipping up a fish pie and Vera popping her frozen dinner in the microwave;
    • I chuckled (and I don’t think I was meant to) when Aiden rushed into the neighbour’s house to inform Vera that she was needed outside. Two strapping coppers plus Kenny and Aiden were unable to subdue the victim’s distraught husband. Of course, only Vera was able to do that;
    • Last week in Black Ice Aiden fussed at Vera for confronting the culprit without back-up. Barely a week later and she goes into a dark and empty house without back-up and catches the intruder single-handedly (and single-footedly);
    • Yet again Vera was the smartest person in the room: she worked out that the victim knew her killer; she knew who the father of the child was and indeed who the child was. She knew who Brian Delaney had been talking to on the phone for six months and where the contraband was hidden in Audrey Latham’s home. No wonder the rest of her team is surplus to requirement in every episode;
    • It’s interesting to note that the three episodes so far in this series were written by different writers, and each used a ‘simple’ or intellectually disabled character as a plot device.

    I can't wait for Dark Water, although I’ll be sad when the series is finished. But then again, there’s the return of Endeavour to look forward to next Sunday.

    Thanks again, Hannah, for your great reviews and comments.

    1. I thought it made sense that they'd call Vera in to talk to the husband - he probably wanted to see whoever was in charge.

      Agreed, however, that Vera being hyper-competent is getting old. I wish we'd see a story that really put Vera and Aiden in over their heads - it forces characters out of their comfort zones.

      Who was the intellectually disabled character in Black Ice?

  2. I too would like it very much if the writer would put Vera and Aiden in a situation where they are in over their heads.

    Simone Challoner was a bit 'simple', in my opinion, in Black Ice

  3. More red herrings than a Vladivostok fishmarket but great performances. British crime drama is the best. I particularly like Vera, not just because of Brenda Blethyn's great acting but also because she's the spitting image of my Aunt Gertrude, hat, coat and all.


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