Aired across four consecutive nights, ITV has just served up a belter of a Christmas treat in Bancroft. Sure, the murder, corruption and evil deeds of their latest police drama were hardly festive, but it was a cracker nonetheless.
Like all the best Yuletime feasts it was plentiful, tasty and left us slouched back in our armchairs, dangerously full. Granted, Bancroft wasn’t without the odd mushy brussel sprout and like any Christmas dinner it was pretty familiar, but overall it was a rather delicious offering.
Let’s start with Ms Bancroft herself. A tough and uncompromising detective superintendent, Elizabeth Bancroft is played with an icy intensity by Broadchurch’s Sarah Parish. Like so many police procedurals of late, she has a dark secret from the past that she’d rather stayed there. But ambitious and dogged detective constable DS Katherine Stevens (Faye Marsay from Game Of Thrones) won’t let sleeping dogs lie. That’s the trouble with these police detectives, you see. They get funny about people committing murders.
That’s no spoiler. Bancroft lets on quite early that its main protagonist is guilty of a crime of passion from some 27 years ago. And that she obfuscated evidence, covered up her crime and even got the case closed. We also learn pretty quickly that, once the cold case is reopened, she’s more than prepared to keep murdering in order to stay out of prison and continue to ascend the greasy pole that is the police hierarchy.
As its title suggests, the action always revolves around the scheming figure of Bancroft. But there’s a fine supporting cast surrounding Parish, including Art Malik as her boss and an impressively dramatic turn from Adrian Edmondson as Bancroft’s work rival Cliff Walker. But it’s Marsay who steals the shows as the idealistic and snooping young detective hellbent on uncovering the truth about the savage 1990 murder of young Laura Fraser. Marsay’s balance between naive and young and resolute and confident is perfectly pitched and a great counterbalance to the swaggering and Machiavellian spectre of Bancroft.
So, then. Those brussel sprouts we mentioned earlier (apologies to sprout fans, no offence intended)… Well, it’s a modern drama so there’s mumbling aplenty. Softly-spoken whispers and hushed threats through gritted teeth might seem edgy and realistic during shooting, but no one wants to hammer their volume up close to the dreaded 50 mark and run the risk of blowing out an eardrum come ad break time.
You could also criticise Bancroft for being a little far-fetched and not 100% accurate when it comes to police procedure. But not only is that slightly petty, it’s also a rather moot point. TV dramas aren’t training videos or documentaries – they’re entertainment.
Like we say, there’s something more than a little familiar about this four-part series. It’s not exactly derivative, more reassuringly comparable to other series we’ve seen and loved over the past few years. There’s a pinch of Line of Duty, a spoonful of Silent Witness and a good sprinkling of Waking the Dead. But while Bancroft shares similar flavours, it’s still got a taste all of its own.
Bancroft’s concluding episode doesn’t leave its audience with a particularly satisfying ending. Things are left more than a little unresolved. There are plenty of shocks and twists towards the climax, but more than a few loose ends.
So can we expect to see more of Sarah Parish’s conniving in a second series? Well, the viewing figures were pretty good and with plenty of people still yet to catch up on this unashamedly OTT police drama, we think ITV will be knocking on the now Detective Chief Superintendent Bancroft’s door quite soon…
Bancroft is available now on catch up. Did you watch all four parts? We’d love to know what you made of it all. Let us know in the comments below!