Still catching up on A Confession episode 4? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
This fourth episode of A Confession takes us from custody suite to the judge’s gavel, with a courtroom-heavy 50-odd minutes of mature and worthy drama. Of course, it’s Joe Absolom’s Christopher Halliwell that’s technically in the dock here. After all, he did viciously and senselessly murder Sian O’Callaghan and Becky Godden. But it’s Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher that’s as much on trial here as Halliwell.
Unlike a lot of crime dramas, this one cares not for the psychology of the killer. This is a story of the victims’ families and the bureaucracy that ruined a fine policeman’s career. Fulcher’s decision to delay cautioning the killer resulted in a confession that led to the discovery of a second body, even though that confession was ultimately deemed to be inadmissible in court. It was something for which Fulcher would be – many people may argue rather unfairly, not least those behind the camera here – chastised for.
There’s a unique pace and tone to A Confession which seems intentional. Writer Jeff Pope (Appropriate Adult, Little Boy Blue) seems to have gone to almost painstaking lengths to put realism at the very forefront of his work here. There’s nothing showy here. Quite the opposite, in fact. From the very basic opening titles, to the lean script and measured performances, this is substance over style at its purest.
It’s this patience and calm that allows everyone’s stories to be fully told and heard. There are enough examinations of the drivers of psychopaths out there in TV Land. A Confession is much more concerned with telling the stories of how these heinous crimes actually affect the innocent: the bereaved and those in authority trying their best to repair the damage done.
Again, Imelda Staunton shines in this fourth episode as the mother of Becky, but it’s Freeman who really stands out. This is some of the 48-year-old’s finest dramatic work to date. Subtle, understated and believable, it really is a fine performance from the Sherlock actor.
Staunton and Siobhan Flannery – as Sian’s mum – are superb in communicating grief through vividly different characters. Clever use of brief but telling flashbacks also help to paint an illuminating picture of the victims, their families and their lives.
The only justifiable criticism that can really be levelled at this mature and sobering crime drama stems from the handheld camerawork. Shaky throughout, we can only presume that this NYPD Blue-style approach is designed to portray a feeling of gritty reality, of ‘being there’, almost. The only reality though is that it can leave the audience feeling really quite seasick. It’s often quite distracting and enough to make us consider stirring some scopolamine into our hot chocolate to combat the motion sickness.
As this fourth episode draws to a close, it seems as though there is a natural end. Halliwell has been convicted and a resolution to the case has been found – at least for Sian’s family, anyway. This is not the end of the story, though. The truth, as we all know, has a habit of being far stranger and infinitely more complex than fiction.
Those viewers with inquiring minds and an interest in true crime will no doubt have already read up on the case. There are plenty more twists and turns to come…
We’ll be there for all of them. We trust you will be too.
Did you watch A Confession episode 4? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments below!