Writer Jimmy McGovern’s series of vidpix, about Manchester police detective-forensic psychologist Eddie Fitzgerald (Robbie Coltrane), kicks off its second season with a three-hour account of a blue-collar killer seeking revenge. Fitz, suspended by the force for an earlier indiscretion, warms to the case as he hears about it; it’s British TV mystery at its best.
Inspector Bilborough (Christopher Eccleston) hires Fitz back because he needs him as much as Fitz needs to work. Director Tim Fywell brilliantly guides his actors through character subtleties prescribed by McGovern, creator of the series.
Factory worker Albie (Robert Carlyle), grieving over his father’s death, snaps when a Pakistani grocer won’t trust him; Albie shaves his head and stabs the grocer with his father’s bayonet. The police tag it a racial killing, which it isn’t. Skinheads are suspects, but the police get nowhere with that one.
Albie kills a second time and a third, this last death both grisly and moving. McGovern and director Fywell inject classic tragedy as a woman, kneeling beside the corpse of her superior, sighs, “Sir.” It could be “Sirrah,” it’s such an Elizabethan moment.
McGovern’s intricate teleplay tracks the simultaneous paths of Albie and the investigation by the heavyset Fitz. The copper, back on duty, theorizes wonderfully well, and demonstrates another facet: Fitz may not look it, but he’s a romancer, though his domestic life fizzles.
McGovern delivers people who are sorely human, and director Fywell picks up on nuances. One scene in which a high-up cop finds himself facing Albie alone stings with tension and sadness. Fitz’s angry wife Judith’s (Barbara Flynn) feelings about his drunkenness, gambling and other vices are only natural, but her reaction to another aspect of his being is a surprise.
A reporter (Beth Goddard) finds herself in a terrifying mess of her own doing. McGovern offers several confrontational scenes withAlbie and Fitz that are zingers. They’re drama of the first order.
Acting throughout is persuasive and realistic, with Coltrane’s shrewd Fitz and Carlyle’s cunning murderer Albie especially riveting. Coltrane gives the Irish Fitz a fine, gentle touch to match the toughness.
Secondary characters are keenly defined, and bleak streets and buildings discovered by production designer Stephen Fineren enforce the power of the story.
Ivan Strasburg’s unrelenting camerawork underscores the grimness of the game. Phil Smith’s sound mix is on target, while David Ferguson’s driving score punctuates the shocks of the case.
McGovern, Coltrane and company give TV much-needed depth and quality. Two more “Crackers” are due in as many months. Good!