WARNING: spoilers below. Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of episode 5 here.
Have you ever tried spinning plates? No, of course you haven’t. You’re not a lousy entrant on Britain’s Got Talent or a drunk DJ in a Greek restaurant. It’s kind of pointless, likely to cause you to have an anxiety attack and, as the proverb suggests, it’s more than a little tricky. ITV1’s latest crime drama series Dark Heart has tried spinning plates these past three weeks, albeit metaphorically. And made it all look rather easy.
Nearly every police procedural television show attempts it, yet few succeed… Balancing a gripping case with family matters that the viewer really cares about is no mean feat. One minute the lead detective is chasing a serial killer across a rain-slicked metropolis, as corpses pile up all around them and the next minute they’re arguing with their spouse about how their late arrival home from work meant the lasagne went cold. It’s often hard to care about the domestic side. Not so here.
In Dark Heart, writer Chris Lang has helped create a well-pitched, believable, gripping and beautiful-looking crime series. But most impressive of all is the fine balancing act it performs in presenting not only a rounded and involving whodunit, but also an involving arc around the lead character’s family. And this sixth – and final – episode of the first run demonstrates that strength perfectly. Even going so far as to draw comparisons between the case and Staffe’s complex family history as the regretful killer makes suicidal use of a balcony.
Also elevating the programme from decent TV fodder to unmissable drama is the central performance of Tom Riley as DI Will ‘Staffe’ Wagstaffe. Charlotte Riley as Juliette and Anjli Mohindra as DI Josie Chancellor have also been excellent throughout and this final story featured a particularly strong supporting turn from Karen Henthorne as our eventual killer Theresa Clarke. But with a lesser actor as Staffe, Dark Heart is probably half the show it currently is.
In Dark Heart, writer Chris Lang has helped create a well-pitched, believable, gripping and beautiful-looking crime series.
Sure, he’s handsome. Sure, he’s cool. He’s also funny, smart and caring. And fundamentally a protagonist you can really back. You want him to get the upper hand and solve the case. Although let’s be fair, how many cases Staffe would crack without the help of his faithful but put-upon sidekick Josie remains to be seen.
Josie’s hunch about the church turned out to have something to it as we discovered that it was Father Connolly’s helpful assistant at the church behind the murder. It wasn’t Suzy’s ex Pat, gangster Jim Duggan or her ‘gonzo’ adult film co-stars Sean or Leon. It was Theresa. Who, it transpired, was also her mother (families, eh?). Kinship re-established, the religious mum couldn’t handle the sin of her daughter’s career choice. Nudey flicks, apparently, trump stabbing your own daughter to death on her rather twisted sliding scale of sin.
This third two-parter wasn’t simply a murder case, though. There was a light dusting of ethics and morality sprinkled on top. A subplot involving 15-year-old Ed explored the possible wider ramifications of pornography on younger minds and society at large. An interesting theme that was touched upon but wisely didn’t become a subject for too much preaching or tubthumping.
As with so many quality TV dramas before it, we were left on something of a cliffhanger at the end of Dark Heart. Case closed, Staffe took his nephew Hal to the hospital so they could visit Jules, who – sadly – had to be sectioned. As they arrive they’re told by a staff member that she’s refusing to see them. As the dejected pair prepare to leave, Staffe’s phone rings. It’s his sister. Looming over them from a window above, she leaves him with a cryptic message about their parents before cackling maniacally…
“There are things I could tell you about them… There’s things that I could tell you that would curdle your blood.”
What could that mean? Well, we’re not too sure. And we may well have to wait to find out. Only ITV is yet to confirm a second series. And that’s an even bigger cliffhanger.
Did you tune in for Dark Heart episode 6? What did you think of the series? Let us know in the comments below!