Still catching up on A Confession episode 3? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
A confession has finally been made in A Confession. During an intentionally slow and creeping first fifteen minutes here, Martin Freeman’s DS Steve Fulcher patiently and expertly teased an admission of guilt from Sian O’Callaghan’s killer Christopher Halliwell (Joe Absolom). It was as tense and claustrophobic as opening scenes come.
Concerned that Halliwell was keeping Sian alive somewhere and not wanting him to ‘hide behind No Comment’, Fulcher took a risk and decided to speak to the handcuffed suspect without his legal representation present. His decision led to Halliwell confessing not only to Sian’s murder, but to that of missing woman Becky Godden’s too. It was a risk that paid off in the short term for the police but – as we’ll learn in the coming weeks – had serious consequences on the case and Steve Fulcher’s career. A Confession is, don’t forget, based very closely on a real-life case.
Although it’s much more realistic – and set in rural Wiltshire, not a baking American desert – there are shades of the final scene of David Fincher’s classic serial killer movie Se7en here. A killer confessing to his crimes in the backseat of a police car, leading detectives to remains… There’s even the odd shot eerie aerial shot, complete with faint helicopter rotor blade noise.
Absolom isn’t gifted to ability to ham things up in quite the same way that Kevin Spacey was in the 1995 film. Yet he still manages to put in a restrained, reserved and cautious performance as Halliwell that’s almost as chilling. He plays the killer as matter of fact, even a little nonplussed. There’s a noticeable lack of remorse for his actions; Halliwell’s only real concern is for his own mental wellbeing.
Of course, by the time the killer is finally sat down in a police station next to a solicitor, he clams up and realises it may be in his best interests to stop talking. The strength and validity of the initial confession now in doubt, Fulcher and his team realise they need solid, tangible evidence of the cab driver’s guilt. Especially given how inadmissible the original confession may well turn out to be… Therein lies the rub.
As the credits rolled at the end of the episode, we were left to recover from an incredibly affecting and profoundly sad and jarring final scene. The remains of Halliwell’s second victim were confirmed as Becky’s, so Fulcher and his colleagues had the unenviable task of informing the family. Not that they needed to exactly. Becky’s mum only needed to see the figures of three smartly-dressed people at her front door to know what was coming.
Imelda Staunton’s simultaneous scream-and-collapse reaction was nothing short of harrowing. It’s a shattering few seconds that gives real insight into the speed and effect of total devastation. And it is utterly heartbreaking.
The moment comes not long after similar scenes are shown from Sian’s house. Her mother, played up to now with an unblinking resilience by Siobhan Finneran (Clocking Off), finally cracks here as confirmation of Sian’s death reaches the house. As her young son returns home from school to the terrible news, sadness and desolation fills the room and screen. It’s so real it’s devastating.
A Confession is not a fun watch. It’s not fast-paced, it’s not exciting, it’s not funny. What it is is necessary and important storytelling. This is mature and sobering television that delivers drama while handling a real-life story expertly and delicately.
Expect BAFTA attention. And our rapt attention over the next three weeks.
Did you watch A Confession episode 3? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments below!