WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 4 here.
You have to feel for soap actors a little. While it’s a steady gig, playing the same character on TV for years and years can put you in a bit of a corner. Few casting directors for ‘serious’ dramas are enthusiastic about hiring familiar faces so associated with one particular character. The fear being, presumably, that it’s distracting for the viewer and takes them out of the drama somewhat.
We mention this because more than a few viewers tuning into the fifth episode of Dark Heart on ITV1 on Wednesday night will have spent the first minute asking themselves and anyone else in the living room, ‘is that Jim McDonald from Coronation Street…?’ The answer being yes (‘so it is’). The recognisable Northern Irish brogue quickly confirms it. As Father Connolly, actor Charles Lawson’s main job here was to stumble across a young woman kneeling in prayer in his church. Only her prayers are a little too late. She’s dead, her body posed to merely look as though she was talking to God.
DI Will Wagstaffe and the team waste no time in their investigation into Suzy Moyland’s murder and soon learn that she often goes by another name – Amber Ray Lane. It’s her ‘stage’ name. Though Suzy doesn’t act on stage; her performances are mostly filmed in flats and broadcast online via a webcam. She’s an adult performer. Judging by her pseudonym, Suzy’s first pet must’ve been called Amber and grew up on Ray Lane.
Tracing her employment to a company run by a friend of hers, Staffe and Josie discover that Suzy’s last video – shot just hours before her fatal stabbing – had disturbingly violent undertones to it and that one of her co-stars left with her, rather shiftily, hours afterwards through the back exit. And, no, that’s not a poor taste joke.
The list of potential suspects takes in not just Suzy’s boss and co-star Leon (who happens to be her boss’ boyfriend), but Suzy’s relatively dodgy-seemingly boyfriend Pat Elland – who collapses in the church at the end of the episode – and an as-yet-unnamed stalker, one who’s heavily implied to be Soho club owner John Duggan (played by another recognisable face, Dennis Pennis himself, Paul Kaye). What exactly was he doing meeting with Staffe’s on/off beau Sylvie for that ‘breakfast meeting’? It certainly made her pillow talk questions about the case seem more than a little suspicious.
Then there’s a dark past of the victim that goes back to the death of her mother and relationship with her father and brothers. There’s certainly a lot to tie up in Thursday night’s sixth and final episode of the series…
Away from the case – but still very much on the subject of dark pasts – Staffe’s sister is, understandably, rather distraught by her fiancé Paolo’s decision to suddenly up sticks and go back to Italy. She’s even more upset when he calls her to tell her exactly why he made the move. Apparently she doesn’t think it’s cool for her police detective brother to assault, plant drugs on and blackmail the man she planned to marry (even if he is a scumbag).
The unique cinematography of Dark Heart continues to impress, keeping just the right side of atmospheric. Any more and the programme would run the risk of coming off showy and favouring style over substance. But the lighting, camera tricks and tone are all perfectly pitched. In fact, it’s dangerously close to being quite artistic at times. It certainly makes London look pretty damn cool, that’s for sure.
It’s turning out to be a pretty solid crime drama, this. Here’s hoping for a big finale and a second series.
Did you tune in for Dark Heart episode 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!