DCI Banks: Dry Bones That Dream (2012)
In DCI Banks: Dry Bones That Dream (2012) we confront a fundamental truth. Every now and then, these tales of the lives of those who live in darkest Northern England have to include a family which has a little brass. If for no other reason, it matches the idiom there has to be a little brass amongst all the muck. Except, of course, the brass is nearly always ill-gotten gains. In this opening sequence, we have a rich man’s home invaded, his daughter and wife tied to chairs. The man of the house is dragged outside. The body is found in the garage with the head removed by shotgun blast. Obviously his life as an accountant was not as boring as comedians would have us believe is the norm for that profession. Despite being less than honest over his time sheets which led to him being fired from his last job, his finances have remained in robust health. The man was obviously a credit to his profession. Except the night he was killed was his wedding anniversary and it turns out he was less than faithful. Another woman, Pamela Jefferies (Patricia Potter) comes forward when the victim’s photograph appears in the newspapers. She leads them to a flat where he had a second home — a fact confirmed when his fingerprints are found on all the obvious surfaces (not Pamela’s, of course, she takes a shower every now and then).
To make life interesting for our dour bobby, DCI Banks (Stephen Tomkinson), he’s warned off talking to a local MP Martin Fleming (Patrick Baladi). Apparently there’s a major corruption investigation in progress led by a rival of his called DCI Burgess (Richard Dillane). Then a local solicitor called Daniel Northcliffe is reported missing. Needless to say, our unstoppable force for justice (Northern style) ignores instructions and talks to Martin Fleming. Not that it gets him anywhere, of course. It’s far too early in the episode for it to do any good. In the midst of all this, the accountant’s son comes back from America and explains why he chose to absent himself. It seems he disapproved of his father having a relationship with “another woman”. When shown photographs, it proves to be a third woman. Gasp! Not Pamela Jeffries who’s now been beaten up in her own flat by an unknown assailant. This accountant who seems to be a downtrodden weed at home with his dominant wife, is actually a womaniser who can attract birds from the tree just by whistling a little tune. Well that conjures up all kinds of possible motives for removing his head.
Meanwhile, back in the dark reaches of the police station, DI Helen Morton (Caroline Catz) seems socially maladjusted and her attempts at fitting in are not a success. When told to make an effort by cracking a joke about the people she works with, the result is so cringeworthy, you wonder how she ever managed to survive as a human being, let alone get promoted to a senior position in the police force. As penance for being less than a complete human being (although she does have children so something is working right for her somewhere in her life), she gets to lead a SWAT team in pursuit of the man who attacked Pamela Jeffries. This involves lots of running through dark passageways with water on the floor. Such exercise is always good for the soul in Northern circles. And no, it’s not a sewer. It’s Thruscross Reservoir with everyone running around inside the dam(n) wall. Meanwhile, without asking anyone’s permission, Banks has cracked the case and calls a meeting at the seaside, buckets and spades optional. What makes this rather artistically placed house so memorable is that the salt from the sea would be rotting all the wood and metal in the fabric of the building. The cost of maintenance must be phenomenal. Worse this heap of rotting masonry was filmed in the same dark, Satanic mill style. This cliff-top mansion was intended to become a home based on love, yet it turns out it was just as cold and cloudy as the rest of the scenery in this series. The only things missing were a storm, forty-foot high waves and a monster singing a lullaby in duet with the foghorn of a nearby lighthouse.
Thematically, we’re all supposed to be thinking about identity. Here’s this mild mannered accountant who’s been quietly living different lives like he had multiple personality disorder, while both Banks and Morton have personal issues to resolve. Oh dear, Banks is having an argument with a rival officer and he’s potentially attracted to Pamela Jeffries, both a witness and then a victim who lends him her prized possession. As a detective, he’s a dinosaur when it comes to technology and doesn’t know his twitter from his elbow. What use is a policeman who only has his intuition to rely on? Well you’re all going to have to suck it up because he gets enough evidence to arrest the MP and earns the “thanks” of his rival. Because he has to suffer as a character for being Northern, he sends the prized possession back to Pamela Jeffries, and he finally persuades Morton to sit down and have a drink with the rest of the team. We expect Stephen Tomkinson to be robotically unhappy (like all the men in the North), but Caroline Catz as Helen Morton is beyond belief. In these first two episodes, she’s gone from ghastly stereotype of humourless female in a senior management position, to drowned rat in a reservoir who ends up with a dead suspect on her hands, to one of the gang playing cards and knocking back the hard stuff, without any particular rhyme or reason to any of it. There’s some ingenuity in the methodology for committing the crime and irony that borrowing the Scottish reluctance to open the wallet is the cause of the downfall (obviously, you should leave penny-pinching north of the border). But Dry Bones That Dream is a tedious grind from start to finish.