I didn’t rush to this one having found last year’s Aftermath introduction rather unmemorable. Even DCI Banks was unmemorable. To avid readers of Peter Robinson’s novels Stephen Tompkinson is simply not DCI Banks, making him a little bit of a John Hannah’s Rebus. For me, Tompkinson just doesn’t have the face or stature of a copper. He’s more ‘that nice man next door’, the soft and sympathetic one, a kindly brother, a British Forrest Gump type. But, with Playing with Fire I have been pleasantly surprised.
An arson attack on a canal boat leaves two dead. One, a rare and antiquarian book dealer may have been the target as he ‘may’ have been involved in the black market of fine art forgery. The second may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time but her personal life raises many questions, with her family at the heart of it. Banks has returned refreshed from a holiday and has to deal with the competent, ambitious and feisty DS Annie Cabbott, clearly out to make her mark in the investigation.
There was some great and subtle acting in this. Banks’s exchange with the local femme fatale shop owner was one of these scenes, starting with a perfectly on key quiet chuckling groan when he spotted her (see pic above). John Bowe, as the father of the second victim, was superb in a role where nothing is as it seems on the surface. (And who could forget his star turn in the first ever Prime Suspect? He is so good at this.) However, there was an emergency flashing light of warning when we saw his wife. So young she could easily be his daughter, the woman betrayed no emotion whatsoever. She is the as yet blank canvas with a surface waiting to be scratched to see what emerges underneath. All will come out in episode two next week for this atmospheric and edgy story.
It’s good to have faith restored after seeing The Body Farm this week, but will producers please avoid the sloppy? OK, a possible Turner painting may indeed raise eyebrows when found with £20k in cash, but to suggest that rare and antiquarian book dealing would not lead to such money is inaccurate. Where was the forensic pathologist in all this? How can DS Cabbott suggest Banks is in a ‘pissing contest’ with the father of the victim when she was not with him any time he saw him? Bodies in fires are unlikely to be found prostrate because of the effects of the fire on the body.
Having said all that, I am hooked and will be watching next week. Bravo too for the camera work on the emergence of the second body; this was brilliantly done. I am even coming around to accepting Tompkinson as a cop…
You can catch it on ITV Player here.