As we start the fourth series of Law & Order: UK (and as, somehow, the US airings have outpaced the British ones), knowing what’s to come at the end, I can’t help but expect bigger and better.
Matt and Ronnie investigate the murder of a pregnant woman named Alice Cullen. Believing it to be a crime of passion, they look at those closest to her, starting with her scorned ex-boyfriend, and then her fiancee, Joe Nash. It takes Ronnie all of about five minutes to realize that Joe wasn’t where he said he was at the time – he was with his psychiatrist, Dani (Spooks star Nicola Walker). Our veteran copper has a gut instinct that there’s a lot more Joe isn’t talking about than just a few chats with a shrink.
On DI Chandler’s advice, the team brings both Joe and Dani in to put the pressure on them and see who cracks. Joe has the emotional fortitude of a house of cards, and tearfully confesses that he had a fight with Alice and killed her. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Well, of course, things are rarely ever that simple (plus, we’d have half an hour of dead air). He also tells our boys that he’s not really Joe Nash. His real name is Billy Wells, and he’s out on parole for an earlier murder, living under a new identity courtesy of the Home Office. At least, until he recants that in open court, while relevant authorities are breathing down James’s neck to sweep the whole situation under the rug.
I sense conspiracy, and so does my favorite lawyer. James is piqued when he realizes Joe’s confession to Alice’s murder is word-for-word the same as Billy Wells’ confession to the earlier crime. “There’s just too many coincidences here,” he says. “I just want to know one way or the other.” And we all know how James gets when he has an idea in his head. He’s a bulldog, and he doesn’t care who he ticks off. Unable to pursue traditional methods as he’s stonewalled by just about everyone, he digs into both cases until he realizes that Joe knows a detail that was never released or reported in the earlier case. Having confirmed that Joe is in fact Billy, he’s ready to do the morally right thing and go to trial, but George cautions him about the fallout that will happen if he exposes the truth. You can practically see James’s jaw clench as he follows his boss’s advice and proposes a plea deal to defense counsel instead.
Realizing he can’t bluff anymore, Joe confesses that he’s Billy but not to the murder of his fiancee. It doesn’t take a genius to see who’s left in this equation. Matt and Ronnie search Dani’s place and find Joe’s prison diary. DI Chandler and James, in their combined awesomeness, interrogate Dani, whose story unravels in minutes. “He never even suspected for one second that you killed the woman he loved,” James says, and Dani blurts out that Alice didn’t deserve Joe. James is unimpressed: “You were prepared to let him rot in there for the rest of his life just to save his own skin. Control him, keep him dependent on you. What sort of love is that?” Yeah, I think she needs a shrink of her own. I’m sure they have those in prison. She gets arrested, but it’s too late: Billy has been killed in prison before he can be released. His past has cost him his future.
If it’s not obvious from the title, “ID” proposes questions of identity (again, not unlike this week’s Fairly Legal but much deeper than that series). How much should what one has done in the past impact their right to have a future? Can we truly ever separate ourselves from our past or are we just predisposed to one set nature? I can see the pros and cons of both sides, and that’s what makes it interesting. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer.
The episode gives us just a hint towards James’s upcoming departure; he’s visibly frustrated that what’s morally right (trying someone for murder) can be subjugated by politics, and he has every right to be. It’s not hard to see that such conflicts could be taking its toll on him and pushing him toward a breaking point – much like how his original series counterpart, Ben Stone, eventually resigned after becoming frustrated with the justice system himself.
There’s an outstanding performance here from Nicola Walker, whom I like more every time I see her. She’s proven that she can play just about any role, whether it’s a veteran cop in Touching Evil, a member of the MI5 team in Spooks (which I am beyond happy that she’s returned to), or the wife of a murderer in Luther. Every time I see her, I know that I’m going to get at least one good turn regardless of what I’m watching. Not to mention, any time the episode is heavy with material for James, you may as well just relax and enjoy the ride, because Ben Daniels is equally dependable. He’s always got that spark of toughness and energy that comes through week after week. The two of them together? Pretty amazing.
When considered as the fourth-series premiere, “ID” isn’t the big installment that many US season premieres are expected to be. I think I’m spoiled by the American TV model, which makes big deals out of season premieres and finales. But it works, because I can’t ever recall Law & Order as being promoted like that; certainly, there were episodes advertised because of certain guest stars or potential plot twists, but they were all uniformly reliable, none trying to be bigger than the rest. And so it is with Law & Order: UK. Another well put-together episode, with a great guest performance, that sets the stage for the end of the show in its current incarnation. It all works out…but doesn’t it always?
For more Law & Order: UK, check out the show category at my blog, DigitalAirwaves.net.
(c)2011 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved.