Scotland has played host to some of modern TV’s best and most watched crime dramas: Rebus, Taggart, Shetland, Guilt and In Plain Sight, to name a few. The latest drama to follow this trend is Irvine Welsh’s Crime.
Few readers consider Irvine Welsh to be a ‘crime writer’ as such, yet it’s a title that technically fits. His hugely famous and well-loved novels such as Trainspotting, Porno, Glue and Filth all centre around the criminal endeavours of their often quite twisted but oddly quite likeable characters.
Welsh’s seventh book, published in 2008, is undoubtedly a work of crime fiction, however. It’s even called Crime. Its televisual adaptation is currently being shown on ITV, some two years after it made its bow on the streaming service Britbox.
Knowing that it’s Irvine Welsh behind it all, it’s hard to dismiss the clichés that Crime presents as being such. While the tropes come thick and fast, they do so subtly and with a subtle arch of an eyebrow. Co-written with Welsh’s long-time collaborator Dean Cavanagh, Crime keeps itself surprisingly conventional – which is how it’s able to bag itself a primetime ITV slot. You can’t imagine a full-throttle Irvine Welsh adaptation sitting quite so comfortably in the schedules, can you?
The action takes place in Edinburgh. DI Ray Lennox (Dougray Scott, Enigma, Taken 3) is a seasoned detective with a chequered past and addiction issues. An obsessive type, he’s assigned to work the case of a missing schoolgirl.
Joining him for the ride are his new rookie partner DS Amanda Drummond (The Runaway’s Joanna Vanderham), his grouchy boss Chief Superintendent Bob Toal (the irrepressible Ken Stott, Messiah), his deeply unpleasant colleague DI Dougie Gillman (Jamie Sives, Chernobyl, Game of Thrones) and his smitten new girlfriend Trudi (Angela Griffin, Lewis).
This first episode has Lennox and Drummond hitting the beat, talking to a bunch of potential suspects, all of whom have their own reasons for lying to police. By the first ad break, our TV crime drama cliché bingo cards were already close to a full house. Yet it all comes with a barely perceptible nod and a wink. This isn’t laziness, it feels more like the creators using pre-existing templates and truisms to tell a story and explore themes.
What are those themes? Well, we’re sure that they’ll be fleshed out as the series progresses through the next five Saturday nights. Sexism and relationships between men and women seem to be quite central.
By the end of this opener, we discover that 13 year-old Britney Hamil hasn’t just been abducted, she’s been murdered. Her pallid and lifeless body has been left propped up against Edinburgh’s National Monument of Scotland for dawn joggers to find. Who’s responsible? We’ll find out. Surely DI Lennox’s bogeyman, the mysterious ‘Confectioner’ plays a part somehow…?
It’s a case of so far, so good for Irvine Welsh’s Crime. Is it up there with the likes of Rebus, et al? It’s a little too early to say, but we see nothing criminal about this thriller yet.
Have you been watching Irvine Welsh’s Crime? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
Warning: May contain spoilers. Still need to catch up on Crime episode 2? Read Steve’s review of episode 1 here.
Film buffs currently enjoying ITV’s Crime, the new Saturday night police thriller from acclaimed Scottish writer Irvine Welsh, may well recognise the name of its lead character, DI Ray Lennox. The excellent 2013 black comedy Filth features Lennox in a supporting role, played by Billy Elliott’s Jamie Bell.
Here, the man is the focus of the piece. Played with some real intensity by Dougray Scott, Lennox is assigned to work the case of missing schoolgirl Britney Hamil, alongside his newly-assigned partner DS Amanda Drummond. This second episode sees the detective following up on leads after the 13 year-old’s body was found left in public at the conclusion of the opening episode.
With Britney’s alibied grandad now out of the frame, eyewitness and local pervert Tommy Loughran (Ian Hamore, Game of Thrones) draws suspicion – until a short visit to his flat reveals him to be too elderly and unwell to be a serious suspect.
A slightly better lead lands in the detective’s lap when a creepy young man wanders into the station and confesses to the murders of Britney and two other girls. Gary Franklin (Vigil’s Bhav Joshi) never really convinces anyone of his guilt though, least of all Ray, who quickly undermines Franklin’s creaky false admission. But the boss – Ken Stott’s DCI Robert Toal – is only too keen to have someone confess in order to tie up the case.
This second installment closes with a more intriguing suspect in handcuffs, the oily Member of the Scottish Parliament (and secret S&M dungeon owner) Richie Gulliver (Derek Riddell, Hard Sun). The clash of Lennox vs. Gulliver in the interrogation room should make for a spicy start to part three.
Lennox is still convinced that the killer is the elusive child serial killer known as ‘Confectioner’, someone he’s hunted – and failed to catch – in the past. The modus operandi match up, but no one else on the team seems to follow his hunch.
Lennox is a barely contained ball of compacted rage and trauma. Haunted by the ‘beasts’ he’s spent a career dealing with, he’s a man living so close to the edge he’s forgotten what the centre looks like. Dougray Scott plays him with supreme confidence, balancing the character’s energy and anger with his near-broken spirit and vulnerability perfectly. It’s little wonder the Glenrothes-born actor picked up an International Emmy for the role last year.
A recovering alcoholic, our antihero’s battle with drink is intrinsically linked with his work. Britney’s murder and his frustrations with the case are already tempting Ray back to pub lagers and whiskies and park bench vodka. It’s something that will no doubt come to affect his relationship with his new girlfriend Trudi too.
It’s not just Dougray Scott that’s in fine confident form here. The whole thing, from the supporting cast’s performances to the direction and – especially – the writing, feels assured. Here’s hoping it stays that way for the next month.
Did you catch the second episode of this visceral thriller from Irvine Welsh? Let us know your thoughts on Crime so far in the comments below…
Warning: May contain spoilers. Still need to catch up on Crime episode 3? Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.
We left last Saturday night’s instalment of Irvine Welsh’s Crime with DI Ray Lennox (Dougray Scott) grandstanding somewhat as he extracted the smarmy and sociopathic politician Richie Gulliver (Derek Riddell) from a swanky lunch with his friends and colleagues. We opened this Saturday night’s Crime with Gulliver in an interrogation room, with Lennox’s boss DCS Bob Toal (Ken Stott) panicking behind the scenes, certain that the high-profile arrest of someone on the Police Commission will irreparably damage his career.
As with so many TV crime dramas, these kinds of face-offs often prove to be highlights, with Crime following suit. The classic good vs. evil narrative is firmly established here (and reinforced nicely with flashbacks of Gulliver’s contemptible behaviour in one of Ray’s old AA meetings). The verbal sparring between the two was a joy to watch, with Scott in particularly fine form.
An oddly expressive and idiosyncratic character, Ray Lennox grows on you as Crime evolves. Dougray Scott puts on a career high of a performance as the dogged detective who can’t help but throw himself fully into his investigations. His mask of respectability is starting to slip now as we hit the series’ halfway point. Not only is he back drinking on his own, he’s also developed a drug problem.
Unleashed and going rogue, fuelled by drink and cocaine, Ray’s risk-taking side is revealed. When Richie Gulliver and his secret lover Graham Cornell (Ryan Hunter) turn out not to be true suspects, instead of just leaving them alone, Ray concocts a sly plan to wipe the arrogant smile off Gulliver’s face… a trap involving a tape recorder, a baseball bat and plenty of press photographers’ cameras.
With their list of suspects now decimated, Ray tasks DS Amanda Drummond (Joanna Vanderham) with finding out the location of the white van that Britney was bundled into. It’s their only real lead. Luckily, she’s able to track it down at a lock-up in Leeds.
Away from the central plot, the ill-tempered comic relief DI Douglie Sillman (Jamie Sives) and his Gallic temporary partner Louis (Réginal Kudiwu) may have found the killer that they’re looking for. With his potty mouth and moustache, Dougie’s about as close as it’s possible to get to a police version of Trainspotting’s Begbie. The disparate duo make for an unlikely pair, but it works. How or if their case ties in somehow with the Britney Hamil investigation is still to be seen.
Only developing a smidgen here is Crime’s only other plot thread, Trudi’s seedy work situation. A young subordinate has confided in her, as the newly-appointed senior manager at an energy company. Her complaint? That Trudi’s new friend, the head of the firm’s HR department – and her sleazy new work hook-up – is sexually harassing the young woman. It’s a story with less heft than the main plot, but one which exists in the same sphere. In fact, it’s likely to resonate with viewers more, given its unfortunate familiarity.
We’ll pick back up next week as Lennox and Drummond inspect a certain Transit van south of the border. Will it lead them to their killer? And, if so, will it be the dastardly ‘Mr. Confectioner’ character that so preoccupies our hero’s mind? Only time will tell…
How are you enjoying this dark Edinburgh-set crime thriller so far? Share your thoughts on Crime with us in the comments section below.
Warning: May contain spoilers. Still need to catch up on Crime episode 4? Read Steve’s review of episode 3 here.
“How do we catch him?” DS Amanda Drummond asks her partner towards the end of this fourth part of this first series of Crime, ITV’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel.
“We don’t,” DI Ray Lennox replies. “He’s coming to us.”
Skip forward to the very final scene and Ray’s prediction comes true. Staking out the fresh grave of the latest victim, young Britney Hamil’s killer shows himself.
Lennox knows who he’s looking for after visiting the man wrongly imprisoned for the murder, who tips him off. He saw the real killer at the graveside and could offer up a description.
Ray and Amanda’s breakthrough at the end of episode four came to very little when they discovered the van missing from the Leeds lock-up. All that was left was a mocking smiley face drawn on yellow note paper.
Meanwhile, away from the main investigation, we’ve all sorts of other plot threads being sewn. Dougie Gillman decided to go AWOL just as his and Louis Leblanc’s French murderer Georges Fournier surfaced. With Dougie otherwise occupied at a local brothel, Amanda and Ray stepped in to help take down the holidaying killer. A bungled arrest saw Fournier in handcuffs – but also had him drenched in boiling hot oil, with DS Drummond headbutted and Leblanc at the wrong end of a steak knife. Merde.
We saw a brief snippet of some comeuppance for Dougie too: the odious sexist was handed divorce papers by his estranged wife in a short but enjoyable sequence.
We also heard a little about Amanda’s recent past, including her split from a boyfriend and subsequent sessions with a therapist – a therapist whom, she’s surprised to find out, Ray wants the telephone number of. We’re hoping to have his therapy discussions uncover more about his traumatic past with ‘a beast’ in the final two parts.
Elsewhere, Ray’s girlfriend Trudi sought advice from her crime-solving other half about the best way to deal with the toxic sexual harassment situation at her work. Ray’s advice (“if you want to beat the system, you have to operate like the system”) helps Trudi formulate a dastardly plan that works like a charm.
While it was refreshing to explore other storyline avenues, which came as something of a welcome detour, we think (and hope) the rest of the series will prioritise the newly-arrested killer.
As the credits prepared to roll, we got a look at ‘Parka Man’ (who is almost certainly also ‘Mr. Confectioner’). Greying, unassuming and creepy, we discover our main bad guy is played by none other than Life on Mars and Grace star John Simm. He’s given a damaged eye to further underline his credentials – a slightly hacky trope as it’s been employed so many times by the James Bond film franchise, amongst others.
Where’s the excitement coming from, though, if the murderer has surrendered himself à la John Doe in Se7en? Well, as with David Fincher’s iconic serial killer film, it’s not quite as simple as that. Before he basically put the cuffs on himself, Mr. Confectioner took out an insurance policy. He’s kidnapped another victim, young Kylie Jones. Ray and the team will have to tread carefully if they want their man to reveal her whereabouts before it’s too late.
Crime is still a superior crime drama, with some razor-sharp writing and a few memorable performances. It needs a little extra to be considered one of the best of its kind in recent years. Two tense final episodes with an eye-catching cameo by Simm and it could very well manage it. Let’s see how the final third plays out.
Still enjoying this Irvine Welsh adaptation? How do you see the case playing out? Let us know what you think in the comments below…
Warning: May contain spoilers. Still need to catch up on Crime episode 5? Read Steve’s review of episode 4 here.
As is so often the case in crime fiction, Irvine Welsh’s Crime has hinged its central plot around a good old-fashioned cat-and-mouse act. With the series stretched over half a dozen episodes, viewers might’ve expected a slightly longer chase; instead, the mouse scurried straight into the cat’s paws at the end of last Saturday night’s fourth instalment. With a full third of the series left to go.
However, just because the cat (let’s start calling him by his name, DI Ray Lennox) now has the mouse (serial child killer Gareth ‘Mr. Confectioner’ Horsburgh) in his mouth, that doesn’t mean it’s over. The wily rodent has a plan that only he’s aware of – for now, at least.
Getting close to Horsburgh seems to be causing Lennox a lot of emotional turmoil, combined with deep-seated and repressed trauma. Flashbacks of an unspecified incident in a train tunnel from Lennox’s childhood have permeated the series so far. Horsburgh senses that Lennox’s obsession with catching ‘beasts’ stems from some kind of abuse or dark incident from his past. It’s that which drives him as a detective and makes him a true investigator – ‘a practitioner, not an administrator’. And, as such, a worthy adversary in Horsburgh’s eyes.
The case – not to mention the killer’s mind games – appear to be weighing increasingly heavy on our protagonist. Lennox is back on the drink and mixing it with dexies and cocaine in an attempt to try and stay alert. His relationship with Trudi is suffering too. So, news of his father’s death doesn’t help matters.
In the lead role, Dougray Scott continues to play an absolute blinder. He embodies DI Ray Lennox’s energetic cocaine highs and trauma-tinged lows with impressive conviction, revving up his acting engine and letting things splutter to a halt accordingly. It’s nothing short of a star turn from the Enigma and Desperate Housewives actor.
As Lennox loses his cool and storms out of the interview room with tears in his eyes towards the end of the episode, Horsburgh knows he’s pretty much broken his nemesis. “Melt down,” he smarms. “He’s useless to us now.”
Is he useless? Or can Lennox get himself back together and outwit Mr. Confectioner in the sixth and final episode of Crime? Let’s hope so. Only Lennox can focus Horsburgh’s mind and elicit a full and totally honest confession. If he’s missing, the whole team is in trouble with their unpredictable killer. And when the cat’s away, the mice will play…
How do you see the final part of Crime playing out? Let us know your theories – and if you’ve enjoyed this dark crime thriller so far – in the comments below…
Warning: May contain spoilers. Still need to catch up on Crime episode 6? Read Steve’s review of episode 5 here.
With the killer in custody, doing his push-ups, smoking his pipe and generally being reprehensible towards female officers, Irvine Welsh’s Crime had no great showdown or action scene lined up for its sixth and final instalment. Instead, it leant into one of its overarching themes: the legacy of abuse and trauma.
In truth, it’s not unfamiliar territory for dark television crime dramas; we’ve seen plenty of similar explorations delicately woven into police procedurals before. What Crime does uniquely is suggest that, regardless of our scars from the past, we’re all still capable of making correct decisions and wise choices of our own.
The final scene of this final episode sees killer Gareth Horsburgh (aka ‘Mr Confectioner’) teasing a confession out of lead investigator DI Ray Lennox. Lennox admits to his ‘shame’ at having been abused as a child. Horsburgh reveals that he was also molested, suggesting that the two men are ‘the same’. After hearing a full confession, Lennox pulls the killer up on his hypothesis, telling him that ‘only weak fools succumb to their negative impulses’, and that the murderer of 15 young girls had made ‘a weakling’s choices’.
It’s a message of hope, that all is not lost. We have agency and dominion over ourselves and our actions, even if we sometimes have to work at our behaviour. It’s an oddly optimistic message to end an otherwise quite grim and bleak drama with.
In truth, we weren’t treated to quite the mano a mano showdown between Lennox and Mr. Confectioner that we might’ve assumed. Oftentimes in a crime drama like this, when the killer’s in custody and withholding information, the climax is an extended scene, a battle, in which a showdown sees the detective come out on top.
While the crescendo here did indeed furnish the viewers with something approximating that, the scene was short and not hugely satisfying. Although, watching Detective Dougie Gillman choking the twisted child killer with a tea towel was somewhat gratifying.
It’s been clear from the opening episode that Crime was never a straightforward ITV drama. While happy to immerse itself in the world of tropes that the genre is known for, the show has also been quite happy to break those conventions too. Elements of black comedy permeated the series and juxtaposed with gritty realism that would edge close to hyperrealism in some of its more creative, freer moments.
Even so, it’s still possible to call Irvine Welsh’s Crime a fine crime thriller and recommend it to anyone who loves a good police drama. Its stylistic flourishes, themes and occasional lapses into the absurd shouldn’t put too many potential viewers off catching up on the series on ITVX.
A second series has been made and is due to start showing on Thursday nights from mid-September. We’ll be tuning in. Will you?
Now that the story’s fully played out, what did you make of Irvine Welsh’s Crime? Will you be watching the second series? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below…