Regular readers of pauseliveaction may recall our love for Scott and Bailey and our excitement at its return. Turns out, it’s back slightly earlier than expected. Who knew that ITV knew a good thing when they saw it?
For newcomers, Scott and Bailey is a series based around the activities of the Major Incident Team (which, as one character points out, seems to deal almost exclusively in murders) of a Manchester-based police force. Its particular focus is on two of its officers; Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) and Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones). At first glance you’d think it was the archetypal chalk/cheese pairing with a healthy dollop of Wimmins Ishoos. It’s true that the younger Bailey is at times the hotheaded counterfoil to the more centred and professional Scott and that we see much of their respective personal lives. But both characters are portrayed as rounded individuals, capable of the same flaws and talents as, well, anybody. Tribute must be paid to both the terrific acting of Sharp and Jones and also to the perfect casting. Sharp’s enigmatic stillness and Jones’ nervy, emotional intensity are perfect both for their individual roles and for each other. They are perfectly balanced and entirely believable as a partnership.
It also says much for the acting and writing that other characters get a chance to shine alongside such a strong central relationship. Amelia Bullmore is terrific as Scott and Bailey’s boss Jill Murray and again the fact that the senior figure is a woman is perfectly done in that it is believable but not overplayed. The episode begins in the toilets with Scott and Bailey psyching up Murray before she goes into front of the TV cameras. But at the same time you feel that the only relevance of their gender to this scene is that they are all the same so can be in the same toilet. No jokes are made about women in charge by the respectful, professional men around them. However, the minute this is hinted at, this is slapped down. A special mention must also go to Pippa Haywood as the head of another police syndicate, whose outrageous banter with Murray is almost worth the asking price alone.
With all the excellent detail, it’s almost hard to be distracted from the main story. I say almost. Because the thing I admire most about Scott and Bailey is its lack of sensationalism, without falling into the tedious “No-Nonsense Northerners” of Playing The Field and similar. The central storyline is about a serial killer who tortures victims and leaves their bodies burnt. In the hands of Messiah or even something like Taggart, this would be a gruesome, garish two-hour crawl. In Scott and Bailey, it is a taut tale. Something terrible has happened, yes – but they are going to sort it. We don’t get a lot of graphic imagery. Instead we get the shaking hands of the brother of the first victim and the bewildered yet outraged wife of the second victim. This scene, where the woman’s interview starts to go awry only to be quickly and efficiently quelled, perfectly sums up the programme’s tone; emotional yet controlled.
The twists towards the end of the episode feel natural rather than contrived; maintaining interest without the artifice of a constructed “cliffhanger”. The same applies to the continuation from the previous series. We don’t get a patronising “previously…” segment, but nor is it needlessly opaque. A character was stabbed. She could have died, but she didn’t. It was clearly upsetting but it’s finished now.
All in all it buzzes along efficiently but hugely enjoyably too, helped by balancing the serious matter with choice dialogue such as “she was a wall with a perm”, “about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike” and “as far as she’s concerned, if she says it’s Wednesday, then it’s Wednesday”. The latter is used to describe a character’s menace (an impressively inert Lisa Riley). However, I think it’s a good description for how straight-up and persuasive this programme is. It may have been originally shown on a Monday and I may be writing this on a Tuesday, but they could easily convince me it’s Wednesday.
Posted by Velocity Girl