Trial and Retribution: Set 3

Trial and Retribution

On DVD: 
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The three disc Trial & Retribution: Set 3 contains the three episodes of the popular British crime drama that aired between 2005 and 2007.  Creator Lydia La Plante of Prime Suspect fame wrote each feature-length installment with David Hayman and Victoria Smurfit returning as DCSI Mike Walker and DCI Roisin Connor.  As is customary in Trial and Retribution, each episode follows a single case from beginning to end: from the initial crime through the investigation and legal proceedings to the final adjudication or resolution, leaving the viewer to decide if justice was served. 

In “The Lovers,” a new husband is in Covent Garden with his wife and he disappears after going to get a cup of coffee.  Connor heads up the investigation to find him, but since she and the rest of the team believe he left on his own, it is given low priority until the wife’s father has a heart attack and dies during police questioning.  The more intense investigation turns up similar cases and unearths a suspicious man with a cast.  Throughout this, the wife conducts her own search and eventually disappears, as well.  This episode is well-plotted, the courtroom scenes are excellent, and Miriam Heard was outstanding as the desperate but determined wife.  Michael Feast is also excellent and spine-chillingly creepy in his role as the grocer who despises gluttony.

The second episode, “Sins of the Father,” is heartbreaking and disturbing.  A successful, ambitious teenage girl is found crumpled at the bottom of her cellar stairs, where she had been lying for over twelve hours.  The girl’s mother suffers from OCD, so she had thoroughly cleaned the house before police arrived.  The body was moved, evidence and DNA were destroyed, and the family is hiding all kinds of secrets.  Focus in the case quickly shifts to a suspicious neighbor boy, but all is not as it seems.  Walker has his own subplot as his son becomes increasingly troubled and finds an outlet in torturing animals.  “Sins of the Father” takes a harsh and depressing look at parenting and the effect neglect or suffocation can have on kids.  Flashbacks are used particularly well here, and I was especially impressed with the court scenes and the ending.  David Hayman shone here as a worried but embarrassed father completely out of his depth.  So confident in his work, he was at a loss here, and my heart broke for him even as I recoiled in disgust from his seriously disturbed son.

“Closure” is, hands down, the weakest episode.  In fact, it’s pretty bad.  A two-month investigation of a brutal rape and murder goes nowhere until Walker sees similarities between the current case and one of his unsolved murders.  The team finds other like cases and Connor seeks help from a visiting American profiler.  The serial killer is both obvious and completely illogical from the beginning, the red herrings are more irritating than interesting, and the office politics lead to some unwelcome character development.  DCI Connor, who had been occasionally cranky and cold in “The Lovers” and “Sins of the Father,” lets job insecurity make her downright nasty here.   She blames Satch for the lack of investigative progress at every opportunity, and while some fault does fall on him, the bulk lies squarely with Connor.  She is apparently suddenly incompetent (did she really not go to the crime scene to check a witness statement?) and would rather drink herself into a stupor than see the murderer in front of her face.  The whole episode, with its noisy but ineffective smoke and mirrors, gigantic plot holes, and improbable ending confession, is a mess.

The video quality is about what you would expect from a television show.  It’s a bit soft in places, but fine overall.  The audio is also decent with all dialogue easily heard.  For extras, there is a biography of Lydia La Plante that has appeared on previous sets and a new 46 minute documentary that takes you behind the scenes of the show.  It’s interesting with a lot of discussion on the split screen technique and an in-depth look at some of Trial and Retribution’s more memorable villains.  There was also a nice spotlight on David Hayman’s humanitarian work and I especially liked the segment on the make-up used to create the more gruesome effects.

Trial and Retribution is an above-average crime drama, and the first two episodes in this set are engrossing.  This was my first experience with the series, but I was able to pick up the characters and context easily.  I like the trademark split-screen effect used to show different perspectives and angles.  It adds depth to the show and helps the viewer get a broader view of what’s going on.  I very much enjoyed “The Lovers” and “Sins of the Father.”  “Closure” was disappointing, but two out of three isn’t bad.

Review by Michelle St. James