Manchester’s Major Incident Team around Scott and Bailey have returned for the third series of its critically acclaimed run on ITV, and it’s a roaring series premiere. The shit is hitting the fan from so many angles, it’s splattering everywhere. With a lot of trouble pouring in at the beginning of a new series, it might start off feeling a bit packed, but it’s one of the great strengths of this show that no-one gets shoved into the backseat. Supporting characters may have to wait for their turn, but the leads are now fitted with the seeds of the burdens they shall have to carry over the next seven episodes. So far, the writers around Sally Wainright have done an excellent job of balancing the drama and giving each character enough space, but not too much in favour of the case; and I trust that they’ll continue doing so.
As I have gleaned from the press pack ITV released for this series, Episodes 1 and 2 are flashback eps; this one taking us back 8 months from what appears to be Gill being abducted in broad daylight. I guess we’ll finally be getting ’round to that in Episode 3. I’m not sure if I recognised the woman’s voice, so I’ll be holding off on speculation for now. The script, as ever, is very tight and positively relentless. The only scenes the viewer gets to take a breather are the team briefing scenes, in which some information is recapped and evaluated and some new facts are presented, driving the investigation along. There are no lulls, neither in plot nor in dialogue. And while events are taking a turn for the, let’s say, glum, the wit still sparkles; and these officers don’t waste their words.
I love the way the interrogation scenes are set up here: there is no table dividing DC and suspect, there is no looming or shoving evidence across the table at someone, there’s not even yelling. You just see two people across from each other with no holds barred, the investigator trying to get under the suspects’ skin, trying to get at what they’re hiding with incredible skill. Although these scenes are usually quiet, they require a lot of concentration, especially because the camera doesn’t move a lot. There are three basic angles: medium close-up of, in this case, Rachel and Helen with another officer and lawyer in the background, and then one close-up each for Rachel and Helen. The camera is a lot more static than in most police procedurals, but it doesn’t slow it down, it lends focus and insight.
Nicola Walker’s scenes as the victim’s daughter suffering from childhood trauma are magnificent, and the way she showcases her character’s thoughts and feelings so clearly and precisely with just a few gestures and minute changes in her facial expressions, bearing, and voice is amazing. That kind of camera work is exactly what scenes like this need. I always end up waffling more about the characters than about the case, so I should expand on this now before I get carried away: one might have seen Daddy not being quite so bed-ridden coming, in the end, but it was very well played out in terms of plotting the investigation and keeping up the suspense and momentum of solving the case by keeping chipping away at Helen’s motive.
The case is one for the family. It’s very contained, there being only two serious suspects for the killing, which also draws attention to how all of the conflicts and troubles that most of the characters are running into are very close to home as well. Janet is grappling with the fact that her soon-to-be-ex-husband is seeing someone; while Rachel is coming to terms with the fact that she really shouldn’t have married Sean. He’s good bloke, he really is, but they were better off as friends with benefits, at least from Rachel’s point of view. That’s where the generation gap between Janet and Rachel materialises: in Janet’s advice to stick it out. Of course filing for divorce after a few months isn’t ideal, and since Rachel appears rather lost and floundering a bit, it might help to get solid ground under her feet before making that decision. At the same time, one doesn’t have to accept that “women are from Venus and men are from the planet Zog.” At least not if it doesn’t feel like quite the right thing. That’s actually where I don’t quite get Janet: she didn’t stick with Ade any longer, and, well, Andy really did love her, too, and she rightly told the creep to piss off. It’s most likely because she herself was struggling with the idea of a separation for so long; she grew up with the dichotomy of the sexes. Although there are a great many obstacles inherent in that dichotomy, that she has shot to hell by becoming who she is, some things stick; and everyone loves a cliché. Also, she wants the best for Rachel, and Sean as an anchor seems a good idea for the moment.
It’s generalisations like that Scott & Bailey has actually gotten bad reviews for: misrepresenting men as dolts being the leading assessment. First of all: I’m sorry—that’s what’s been done to women in fiction and the media for ages and for the longest time, everyone quite happily keeping mum about it. But Heaven forfend it should happen to the blokes. Yes, men are getting a beating on Scott & Bailey, but not all of them are being portrayed as useless lumps. Besides, Andy had quite a good rep, actually, until he revealed himself to be an utter wanker with an unhealthy fixation and vindictive tendencies. Part of it, I’d argue, is satire. There can be many, many decent guys on telly somewhere else, but the show doesn’t invite anyone to start hating men en masse. It just shows that women have to put up with a lot of shit, that there are a variety of facets to that shit, and that Nice Guys quite often really aren’t all that nice when they start thinking you owe them anything. Like, your vagina and your heart. And if it exaggerates here and there, if it caricatures characters, then it’s to drive home a point: Scott and Bailey may be surrounded by an unusual quantity of dodgy blokes, but that’s what the world can feel like. In a culture which still promotes the idea that a woman’s body and mind do not belong to her alone (or at all), in a rape-supportive culture like ours, it may seem as if imbeciles (read: threats) are everywhere. It’s not hatred of men that’s making women distrustful; it’s patriarchy backfiring on men by making some of them assholes. And this satirical portrayal of men is giving patriarchy the boot up its nose because it dares to subject male characters to a treatment female characters have suffered by way of tradition. What was it, the leading cause of misandry is men? There’s enough time for balanced reporting later, on other shows that actually already exist. The writers aren’t saying that Janet’s right, they’re saying that something is going wrong with the bigger picture if such derision of any gender is even possible. The response to this satire, then, pretty much speaks for itself.
Be that as it may, Sean isn’t the only problem for Rachel: her mother’s back in her life, and I very well understand why Rachel got the hell away from her. The next time trail, flashing back 12 months from the present, doesn’t bode too well…
Only Gill seems to have hit a quiet streak eight months earlier, and she seemed happy in the flash forward—which is only building up to all hell breaking loose, I know.
At work, things appear to be running mostly smoothly; though Janet is contending with her additional responsibilities as acting Detective Sergeant, replacing Andy. And then, there’s Lou giving Rachel the stink-eye for whatever reason. There is no Review Team looming (yet), there’s no outside pressure being exerted on Syndicate 9, for once; so all the trouble they’re in for seems to stem from the inside this series; which is also hinted at in the press pack—it seems they’re on for a mole hunt soon.
I’m very much looking forward to the next ep, in which we are going to be taken back to the fall-out of Dom killing Nick Savage and a subsequent investigation against Rachel; promising a lot of tension and meaty scenes.
Next: Episode 2.