I’m quite intrigued by the programmes in BBC One’s “Original Programming” trailer they’ve been showing. Not that one with the Midwives and Miranda Hart. That looks rubbish. But Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong with Eddie Redmayne and that French girl off Gossip Girl (not the princess, the one who rescued and went out with Chuck) looks promising. Of course Sherlock is proving excellent so far. There’s something with that girl who played an aneroxic in Hollyoaks a few years ago which could either be good or bad. And then there’s Public Enemies with Anna Friel and Daniel Mays (star of the The Bank Job and numerous other shows).
It’s a three episode run over consecutive nights that started on Wednesday night. Originally scheduled to start on Tuesday it was postponed by a special Panorama on the Stephen Lawrence trial and Doreen Lawrence. And what a lump-in-the-throat episode of Panorama that was. But someone in the BBC scheduling department did good, because Public Enemies was not an appropriate programme to show that day anyway, and people can wait another week for the new series of Hustle.
It begins with a man holding a girl tied up in the boot of a car, whom we then find out was a convicted killer out on parole. The girl has been murdered and we see his parents, in front of a court, telling the press that they’re angry with the system for allowing the killer to be loose in the first place. And normally reading or watching this kind of news story, I would be on their side and criticise the parole staff, but we see Anna Friel slinking away from the court in tears. We’re then taken to an inquiry where Paula (Friel) is being interviewed about her role as case officer to said murderer. How he had missed one of his mandated meetings with her, but she had let him off and not informed the police, but the next day he had murdered that girl. Paula (Friel) is suspended and leaves her place of work with just a plastic bag of stuff. Outside she’s ambushed by press photographers and the mother of the murdered girl who spits in her face.
Meanwhile we see Eddie Mottram (Daniel Mays) before a parole board in prison. He explains that he’s been on all the courses and training, feels remorse and regret, has grown up and asks for release. Ten years ago he murdered his girlfriend, Georgia; I think he was 17 at the time. Anyway, he does get conditional release and Paula (Friel) back from her suspension is his parole case officer on the outside. Mandated sessions with her, curfew at the hostel he stays at, as well as regular room checks, can’t go into an exclusion zone in a mile radius of where his victim’s parents live, can’t get into a relationship without telling Paula who will tell the person the truth, and if he breaks any of these rules Paula has to tell the authorities and he’ll go back to prison.
Eddie promises to abide by the rules because there’s “no way” he’s going back to prison. Ten years was long enough. So we see him trying to build bridges with his sister and her two daughters. He meets his old friends and it’s awkward. He gets a job at a garden centre and starts something with a co-worker but he can’t tell her why he can’t meet her at night. All very Boy A at this time – that drama with Andrew Garfield about a child-killer who is released and how he copes with real life.
But then the ‘drama’ escalates. There’s an odd GP who is the doctor for both the victim’s father and for Eddie. It seems he used to be friends with Eddie. He prescribes them both pills, but what I’m most bemused about is the amount of time he is able to spend with his patients. My GP never has time for smalltalk. And Paula (Friel) has plenty of time for Eddie too, even though she is meant to have lots of other cases. She goes to his place of work one day to find out where he is. And then the next day she’s there again to take him out for his birthday.
Meanwhile, Eddie bumps into his former girlfriend’s parents in a shopping centre. He runs away in shame. And then he visits the place in the park where she was found and there’s a small shrine to her. He meets her father again and they argue and tussle. He tells Paula but she agrees not to report this as it could send him back to prison. Eddie then has a cryptic conversation with his sister about the ‘truth’. And visits his former solicitor and also makes menacing and cryptic faces. Finally, at the end of episode one, he goes to Paula’s house (he had spied her address on an envelope among her things earlier). He starts protesting his innocence through the letter-box. It’s a conspiracy. He only pretended that he was the murderer (for yet unknown and unexplained reasons). She’s got to help him.
It’s been a gripping solid drama so far, but I’m not too happy about this twist of events. Some twisted conspiracy might cheapen it all but we’ll have to see and I’ll certainly keep watching. Something has got to happen over the next 2 hours. And we don’t need another Boy A because that was so brilliant in the first place. Either way this is shaping up to be “original programming”.