Scott & Bailey: Series 4, Episode 2 (Tough Love).

Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey, ITV dramaPreviously on Scott & Bailey: Series 4, Episode 1.

In this second episode of Scott & Bailey, the focus lay squarely on the reopening of a cold case, the disappearance and, since new evidence has come to light, subsequent murder of Mandy Sweeting. 23 years old, that case is, and it still rattles the Syndicate, the victim’s loved ones, and, as ever, the press.

The case is all the more important to Rob — not only because it would be an amazing case to work on cracking so many years later, but because his dad was second-in-charge during the original investigation. An investigation that was flawed, one-tracked, and lacking in oversight.

Or, as Rachel would say, it was shit.

And that’s where things get complicated. Not only because Rob, at first, of course feels obligated to defend his father, but because it allows, in a very hands-on way, an exploration of Rachel as a character — as a police officer. Her characterisation here isn’t drawn via her interactions with men, it’s shown through how she views her work, and how she deliberately lets her emotions colour her account she gives to the team when briefing them on the original investigation. Rob tells her to lose that anger — but Rachel thinks that anger is important. She cares, she’s passionate, and she’s angry at things. As Gill tells her, as a Sergeant, you don’t just manage down, you manage up and sideways. Being Sergeant entails a lot of responsibilities — not only making sure that all the pool cars are in order and get their regular shop check-ups, but she’s also assumed a different position within the team. They’ve always respected her, her work and her instincts, but now, as Sergeant, her words have a different kind of weight. It’s more office politics, in a sense, and that automatically carries notions of diplomacy. Rachel’s not very diplomatic by nature — she’s good at analysing, and she’s got a knack for observing other people’s way of communicating and figuring out where they’re going wrong (or, rather, how they’re broadcasting that they know who the killer is). But as is often the case, those powers can be useless when you’re supposed to be analysing yourself — in retrospect, and in the moment.

She mimes beating her head against the wall as Rob leaves after she tells him that she doesn’t have to follow his suggestions because they’re equal in rank now — soon as he’s out of her sight, she nonverbally berates herself for saying it, because she knows exactly how confrontational and, to an extent, uncalled for that was. It doesn’t help that Rob’s tone veered into the smug and/or vindictive during their interactions, so all of that spiralled into a vicious circle a bit. By the end of it, Rob tells her that he agrees with her, his dad bollocked the initial investigation and has some very outdated ideas about police work and bedside manner; but that she should lose that anger. But Rachel is angry, perhaps all the time, and it’s a character flaw that, personally, I really identify with. I care intensely and I say the wrong things when I’m mad (and even when I’m not mad), and I know it puts people off, but at the same time I’m not willing to silence that part of myself. Maybe because, like Rachel, I believe it makes me better at my job.

Rachel’s characterisation here does a wonderful job at destroying the myth that female characters must always be pleasant and pooping rainbows on command and that you can’t be compassionate and kind and insensitive and unapologetic about it at the same time. I love it. What I’m not loving so much is the apparent return of Rachel’s homegrown problems — in the shape of her mother — and it bleeding into her work again. Noo, why. It’s going so well for her, please not now!

Janet’s story takes a bit of a backseat this episode, but Lesley Sharp knocks it out of the park every scene she’s in. She and Suranne Jones play off one another so, so well. I loved their casual discussions of Janet wanting a boyfriend, and Rachel only briefly showing her concern when she makes sure Janet isn’t just grasping at straws, but otherwise not questioning her desire or judging her decision to go scout online dating sites.

The case part of the episode was really well written as well, with enough twists and turns to keep the episode going. The second and third run-around with Mandy’s brother-in-law got a little tedious around the middle, but the way Janet snares him into confessing is brilliant.

And then, Gill drops the bomb: she’s retiring, four months and counting. The shocked faces around the pub say it all. What’s this going to mean for the team — and for the show?

Next on Scott & Bailey: Episode 3.

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