DCI Banks: Friend of the Devil (2011)
Well instead of dark clouds over a bleak cityscape, we start DCI Banks: Friend of the Devil (2011) with daylight breaking over the moors and our first venture into an inverted crime scenario. Gasp as Dr. Elizabeth Waring (Raquel Cassidy), our vengeful coroner, takes a scalpel and slits the throat of the paralysed and universally hated serial killer of children. Our pocket vigilante has taken the time and trouble to push the paraplegic up into the moorland under the looming electricity pylons. Note the continuing use of dramatic images in this television show. It was never going to be enough to have a bit of grass and the odd sprig of gorse as the moor. There has to be the skeletal shape of the pylon, shot from a slightly unusual angle in shadow to make it look threatening. And with good reason, you may think. Instead of the vigilante allowing her victim a pretty view of the moor as she sits defenceless in the wheelchair, facing the prospect of her death, the location is actually terribly significant. This is where the serial killer buried the bodies! How very symbolic.
I know no-one lives on the moors, but it seems there are neither fell runners nor black-pudding lovers out for their early morning constitutional before the ritual eating of the pudding as breakfast. Let’s be honest, the picture of a woman bolted to a wheelchair being unloaded from the purpose-made van and then pushed up through the grass from the road would have been so unusual a sight, everyone would have remembered it. Actually, the idea the coroner could physically have pushed the chair up the hill without a paved path is a nonsense, but we’re not into this story for the practicalities. Further, this is not the kind of patient that could easily be dechaired and lifted into and out of a conventional car. It would need one of these ambulance-style vans with a hydraulic lift. Yet at no point does anyone try to track down such a vehicle. Annie just seems to suppose the completely paralysed victim could walk out of the nursing home into a car and then calmly bolt herself into the chair for her final journey to the dramatic pylons. As if we needed it, this confirms the emerging probability this police force only has one brain, and it’s passed from copper to copper in the hope one of them can abstract a useful idea before passing it on.
When the reports of the dead body under the dramatic pylons reach DCI Alan Banks (Stephen Tompkinson), he gives the case to DS Annie Cabbot (Andrea Lowe) as her first murder case in charge while he goes into small town Yorkshire to investigate a rape/murder. This second death looks to involve the usual steamy hotbed of stereotypes. We’ve got a young girl from a loopy working-class family. She’s gone off to college which is an excuse to get falling-down drunk on a weekend and take out her anger on anyone within earshot. There may be a lecturer at the college with more than her interests at heart, a young student who’s obsessively in love with her but turned away contemptuously, and the creepy older man who runs the gift shop in the high street. Needless to say the victim’s feckless father beats Timothy Randall (Ian Bartholomew), the gift shop guy, to a pulp and Banks finds DNA from Randall on the victim’s clothes. He therefore arrests Mr Retail Therapy immediately signalling he can’t be the guilty one. No-one in shows like this suffers so much so early on and proves to be guilty when the final credits roll. Indeed, when an alibi emerges, our creepy shop owner finally admits he physically examined the body and then rearranged it into a sleeping position. He’s not guilty of anything more than abusing a dead body and obstructing the police. As in snakes and ladders, we slide back to square one on the rape/murder.
After a discussion with Banks on the meaning of justice during which she acts like one of these soldiers with PTSD returning from Afghanistan, our vigilante coroner decides to stake out the alleys around the back of the fatal pub and kills a young man who may or may not be about to attack a girl. Wow! This is really hot stuff. She’s dressed ninja style and can run through the streets of this small Yorkshire town which seems to be ringed with CTTV cameras and no-one notices. There’s just one problem. The man whose throat she cuts is Kevin Templeton (Tom Shaw), one of the police squad working for Banks. This is a masterstroke. Banks was threatening to smile at the coroner, but this brings back the misery in spades and he spends the rest of the show gnawing at the inside of his cheek and threatening violence to anyone in the neighbourhood. Faced with two victims who have knife wounds to the throat, our friendly coroner hacks at the second wound as part of the autopsy. This gives her evidence to assert the second wound was from a strong person, almost certainly a man. It’s (now) obvious different knives were used, one a scalpel and the other a serrated knife. This seriously confuses the investigation because evidence emerges the dead girl’s father has recently bought a hunting knife.
On the first murder, one of the foot soldiers actually comes up with a sensible suggestion. Why don’t we use our time to find out who knew the serial killer’s identity at the nursing home? Obviously, it’s his turn to hold the department’s brain. This was the best line of investigation from the moment the victim’s false identity was first revealed, but Annie has been solidly in the groove of looking for her suspects from the families of the children who were killed. We now get the arrival of an obsessed detective from the Yorkshire coast with a cold case file. When Annie finally consents to talk to him, she hears the story of a rape survivor and the later killing of the suspected rapist. Ah ha! says Annie and more seriously turns her attention to the coroner. We then get another of these ghastly melodramatic confrontations as Banks and Annie charge into the mortuary. Annie coaxes a confession out of our stone-cold vigilante who stands with a knife in her hand. Banks lurks in the shadows, listening. Did I mention Banks also solves the rape/murder case as well. I can’t say as I cared. Because of the CCTV cameras, only one person could have done it. . . except our ninja coroner could escape detection. . . ah well, no-one cares that much. I didn’t think it possible after the first story, but Friend of the Devil is worse.