WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
There are certain things that we want, expect and maybe even demand from our crime dramas. Especially gritty police procedural affairs. There’s the series of quirky and rather disgusting murders, the unhinged but mysterious killer and, of course, the equally without hinge genius-type detective who cleverly and doggedly investigates the case. Chuck in a heap of victims, some clues, an enormous corkboard full of suspect photos and a few twists and we’re all set.
Dark Heart gives us all that. Chris Lang’s adaptation of Adam Creed’s Staffe books adheres very much to the formula. So much so that you could say it’s pretty formulaic. Which might be interpreted as a critique, but it needn’t be. Formulas exist for a reason. They’re an established method for producing results. And this Tom Riley-fronted crimer produces those, alright.
So it’s not ground-breaking. It’s damned effective, though. And, to be fair, we were given a rare treat at the tail end of this fourth instalment and resolution to the ITV1 series’ second two-parter… A bad guy that seemingly gets away with it.
That’s right. Despite some top sleuthing and rather unconventional policing – it’s heavily implied that Staffe poisoned a suspect to get some vital information from him – the killer, Algea/’Pain’, slipped away without arrest. Is this a hint at a long-term adversary? Or is it just brave storytelling? After all, not all bad guys/girls get caught in real life, do they?
Formulas exist for a reason. They’re an established method for producing results.
Quite what was going on wasn’t really clear at the end of Wednesday’s programme. But we hit the ground running in this follow-up, with the shady goings-on further unfolding and revealing themselves. There was illegal gambling, the Greek mob, sisterly deception, medical supply theft and then the big reveal… Organ harvesting. The poisonings were designed to tie up the loose ends of a kidney-shifting operation and keep it under wraps.
Human offal, it seems, is worth killing for.
Away from the case and Staffe had family matters to deal with. Again. On finding the deeds to his murdered parents’ house, he also found proof that the modest income pair paid £80k in cash for the property. Something that seems to convince him that they were up to no good somehow. There’ll no doubt be more revelations on that in next week’s double episode.
Of course, there was also the no small matter of getting his sister’s violent boyfriend Paolo out of the picture too. Plans for a pay-off were abandoned when Staffe decided that the planting of twenty grams of cocaine and some child sex abuse imagery would suffice (and save money). Ciao Paolo!
We like DI Will Wagstaffe. He’s cool, he’s funny, he’s smart and he’s played with real conviction and panache by the charismatic Tom Riley (The Collection, Da Vinci’s Demons). Staffe is at his best being wily and outwitting criminal types. Riley carries off the angst aspect with aplomb too, but the snarling anger, punching, threatening, drug-planting, poisoning side… While it’s gratifying to watch – it’s not hugely convincing. Staffe’s a little too clean cut to entirely persuade us that he’s a bit of a badass. But what he is, without doubt, is an excellent lead character.
We’ll be back next week with our thoughts on the last two-part story in the series, an investigation into the murder of a young woman in a London church. See you then.
Did you tune in for Dark Heart episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!