On Sunday evening, the British crime-drama Vera made its long-anticipated return to our screens. The show’s ninth series opened with an investigation into the brutal murder and disposal of a young prison psychologist. With no immediate suspects becoming apparent, DCI Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) and her team need to establish the facts and discover what happened to this young woman to prevent another innocent from becoming a victim.
Vera is re-joined by her team, DC Kenny Lockhart (Jon Morrison) and DS Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty), bringing their dynamic back and starting the series with comfortable familiarity. The classic light-hearted banter we all know and love remains between the trio, with Vera teasing Aiden about his children ‘taking after their mam’ and Kenny providing invaluable information with an excess of dry wit.
The whole episode was a refreshing change from other current TV dramas. The killer’s identity remained a mystery for just the right amount of time, and the reveals were strategically placed throughout the episode without being overwhelming to the viewer. There was minimal confusion for the viewer as we learn about the victim’s storyline whilst also getting to know the other characters. This prevented Vera seeming superior to her peers and thus avoided a distance being made between herself and the other characters.
Murder mysteries and detective dramas are common features on TV today, and Vera is once again something new to watch. Instead of a smart-talking-Sherlock or a good-looking-Luther, we get Vera, the plain clothed, flat-hat wearing detective who refers to even the most dangerous of murderers as ‘pet.’ Constantly keeping her cool in the face of ignorant colleagues and interviewees, Vera moves away from the idea of the violent police force we see displayed in London crime-dramas. Her team maintains her reputation for being a good-hearted yet assiduous protector of the community. At the same time, however, we do see difficulties of working with police. In this episode, Vera had to interview a fellow officer about how he handled a case before the current events. This man is filmed ‘interviewing’ a suspect in a murder from years past. The video displayed the officer verbally abusing the suspect until he confessed. It’s a dangerous example of how people view the police force as a brutalising force.
Another reason Vera is highly recommendable is that it gives the audience a break from the toxic masculinity that drenches many TV dramas at the moment. There is no expectation for any of the characters to be ‘tough’ or put on a strong facade in the face of tragic events. Instead, throughout the past series, we have seen most characters mourn and struggle with their arduous work lives.
Vera humanises the police force. We get to see their lives outside of work. We hear about Kenny’s dating life and Aiden’s children. Even Vera, who has no immediate family, explores things out of work. Viewers follow her grieving for her father and coming to terms with the complicated relationship that they had. Despite being a crime drama, Vera balances the emotions that viewers can expect to feel, providing enough time to get attached to the characters and grow with them. It brings a light realism to a dark topic instead of the constant doom and gloom that it is so easy to become accustomed to on TV nowadays.
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