Saturday, 15 February 2014

TV Series Review: Silent Witness

It hardly seems like any time since I was writing my last series review for Silent Witness. That was the series which ended with Leo being unexpectedly killed off. This series is presumably picking up less than eleven months after this event because he’s still not been replaced (until the first episode) and so a good chunk of time is spent with Nikki’s reaction to the new guy.

I have to admit, as much as I enjoy Silent Witness, it’s not quite the same as it used to be. I like my crime procedurals, as anyone who looks at my DVD collection will be able to tell you, but part of the fun of Silent Witness, like Bones, is the interaction between the main characters. There are some TV series where you’re watching for the cases, and others for the cast, Silent Witness always used to be one of those shows that I watched for the combination of cast and storylines, though now it’s kind of veering towards the cases alone and that makes me a little sad.

Before I go into that though, I knew this series was going to be different right from the start. How did I figure that out? Because the opening titles don’t use Verdana anymore! Did that happen last year as well? I couldn’t help but notice this year and it was really glaringly obvious to me, particularly at the bit where the episode title shows up. It’s really silly that something like that should bother me, but I always used to have Verdana set as my default font for everything and it used to make me smile.

Of course, times are changing and I’ve moved on to being more of a Trebuchet MS kind of girl now so I suppose I shouldn’t really complain.

This series consisted of five stories in their usual format of two episodes per story, one airing on a Thursday and one on a Friday. Because I rely on my in-laws’ internet connection and BBC iPlayer I was a little behind in my viewing, usually not getting to see the episodes until the following Sunday or even later in the week.

The actual cases were pretty good this series. Part of the fun of watching these sorts of programmes, like reading crime books, is trying to solve the crime alongside the experts on screen. This was a good series for trying to figure things out and I was happily satisfied when I managed to crack bits of the crime before the police and pathologists did. It’s always entertaining when you can do that.

I particularly enjoyed the second episode of the series which had a guy released from prison based on evidence which Nikki had helped to overturn, after being convicted of killing both his boyfriend and another gay man. Upon being released from prison the murders immediately started again and so there was the question of who the actual murderer was. Mr Click and I agreed that it was too easy to have the murderer be the one everyone thought it was but there was a good twist in the story. We kind of figured out how it was going to end, but it still felt like a satisfying ending.

The first and penultimate episodes were also pretty good as well. The third was set in Scotland which I enjoyed. It dealt with old suspicions and grudges in a small Scottish community. I’m happy to watch any programmes visiting Scotland, even if they were on the east coast instead of the west like us. It reminded me of the Ian Rankin stories with the bleak sort of landscape and rundown town.

There are little things that you always expect from a series of Silent Witness, one of this is the travel episode where they all visit some exotic location in connection with a death or murder. I’m guessing that the BBC is lowering their budget for these Silent Witness travel episodes; in the past they’ve been to Eastern Europe and Africa, this year they went up the M1!

Other things you can count on are Nikki being bopped on the head/kidnapped/held hostage/generally put in moral peril (check: episode two) and a suspicious police detective who is involved in the case. This series had the corrupt/involved members of law enforcement in spades! Episodes three and four both had police detectives involved in covering up crimes, plus bonus points for a lawyer’s involvement in episode two and Jack’s brother being involved in the final episode of the series. It was definitely the series of good guys being bad guys, even the first episode had a detective who was determined that they knew who the killer was and didn’t want to look any further, as well as Mossad!

And what about the characters?

It’s probably telling that I couldn’t actually remember the name of the new guy without looking him up; for the record, it’s Thomas. He’s not really that memorable and didn’t seem to be as involved as Leo was in the series. He had very few of his own scenes until the final episode and even then it was because he’d brought in an old school friend to replace Jack and he was usually talking to her. He’s basically a replacement Leo, right down to the separation from his wife and daughter (though this is separation, not a car crashing into a cafe).

I’m still not really that concerned about Jack either. His attack in the final episode didn’t have me feeling the way that I felt when they faked Harry’s death a few years ago. I’d not read any spoilers and I was really worried about Harry not making it. This time I wasn’t really concerned and I actually quite liked the old friend Thomas had brought in to take his place. I wouldn’t have minded if they’d killed Jack off and kept her instead.

Although I’ve not warmed to the character of Thomas yet, I think there’s potential with him. I wish they had given him a completely different storyline to Leo, there’s so much they could’ve done with him; single-father, happily married father of seven, gay, whatever. It makes it seem like killing Leo off was unplanned and they created a new character to be Leo 2.0. Jack, on the other hand, just isn’t that likeable. He comes across as immature and aggressive and I could’ve even feel that concerned about his relationship with his brother in the last episode.

I actually enjoyed the character of Clarissa more in this series. I think because she didn’t seem to spend as much time with Jack as in the last series. Their verbal sparring didn’t always ring true last year but it seemed more natural this year, mainly because a lot of the time her sarcasm was being directed at Nikki, Not!Leo or the police detective of the week.

Nikki is still Nikki, but somehow without Harry and Leo she’s kind of missing something. I miss the old dynamic with the joking and flirting with Harry. She spent all of last series being sad about Harry going, and this series being sad about Leo, so the sense of fun isn’t really there. I realise that it’s a show which often involves a lot of time with death bodies, so it’s never really going to be all fun and games, but it was still nice to have a touch of humour there.

I know that they’re not going to be able to return to the old dynamic because these are new characters and they won’t bring the old ones back (not going to lie, totally looking out for fan fiction where Harry comes back to be the new head of the Lyell Centre instead of Thomas), but I’d like to see a return to the style of a few years ago. I can’t help but wonder whether perhaps it needs more of a reshuffle in the cast, like when Amanda Burton left. That could’ve been the end of the show and they used a strong cast to reinvent it; I think that if it returns for another series (and let’s face it, it’s popular so it probably will) they need to either give more weight to Nikki to make her into a stronger character without her old team, or dare I say it, replace her with a new character to reflect the changing dynamic of the team.

Whatever happens, I’ll still be watching it. I just might have to hurry up and buy the old series on DVD to remind myself how it used to be!

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