I realize that police procedurals are a dime a dozen – every major television production company around the world has several in production at any given moment – but there’s something to be said for the adherence to quality set by the Chief Inspector George Gently serials.
While the series was created by Peter Flannery, the stories are adapted from the novels of Alan Hunter. They’re all set in the early 1960’s at a time when the morals of a society were in flux – the English were still dealing with recovering from world wars, discrimination was something folks were actively dealing with, family life was in a constant state of change, etc. – and all of those circumstances are brought to life in this vivid tales involving an aging chief inspector and his brash, young protégé.
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of characters and plot. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d suggest you skip down to the last paragraph for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The second season includes four 90-minute stories, as follows:
“Gently With The Innocents”: The elderly Alfred Peachment is found murdered on the grounds of a large estate he’s shared ownership with his wife (they’re now separated) for years. When Gently (played by Martin Shaw) and his assistant John Bacchus (Ingleby) are initially drawn to a reclusive land developer – Cora Davidson (Jill Halfpenny) – they’re surprised to uncover a curious relationship between her and the property … and a secret that threatens to perhaps indict a whole town.
“Gently In The Night”: The body of the late Audrey Chadwick (Sian Breckin) is found laid out peacefully on the altar of a nearby church. When Gently and Bacchus investigate, they find out that Audrey was living a double-life of sorts – her parents believed she was a successful nurse relocating to London for her career, while she was secretly a high-end cocktail waitress for an exclusive men’s club. What they uncover will not only challenge the stories of a local businessman but also the credibility of some notable citizens.
“Gently In The Blood”: A sting to capture someone dealing in stolen passports leads Gently and Bacchus to something they never expected: the rape and murder of Maggie Alderton, a clerk in the local passport office. What seems to be an open-and-shut case begins to unravel, perhaps indicting some local Muslims who were dealing in several possible criminal affairs. However, when the detectives dig deeper, they realize one family’s secrets – if revealed – might lead to even greater consequences.
“Gently Through The Mill”: When Patrick Fuller (Joe Duttine) is found hanged in the flour mill he manages, Gently and Bacchus begin to suspect foul play instead of suicide. Of course, things are never what they seem, and, as they peel back the layers of conspiracy surrounding the man’s business, they find infidelity may have played a factor. Before all is said and done, Gently will have to investigate a pair of shady politicians, while Bacchus will have joined the Freemasons!
I can’t tell you how thrilled my wife and I have been since we discovered these George Gently tales. Initially, I was given a copy of his fourth season; we viewed it in a single weekend, and we immediately set out to get a copy of the first season, hoping to see where it all started. What we learned was that, yes, there was a solid foundation for the two leads – Gently and Bacchus – in those early shows, but they weren’t necessarily required or relevant viewing for what we’d already seen in the fourth series, nor the second. Of course, some of the smaller moments make greater impact when you know where they came from and how their partnership came to be (in particular, there’s some solid development in the last episode from this second season that puts the pair in a kind of creative cliffhanger), but they can be enjoyed independently.
For the record, this second season has been my favorite (so far!). The stories are all terrific, with some wonderfully fleshed out moments for even secondary characters. “Gently With The Innocents” is, arguably, the darkest of the programs we’ve seen, but “Gently In The Blood” is such a tremendous stand-out to this individual series. In fact, the story is so solid that Gently and Bacchus probably spend less time on-screen, surrendering much of the narrative to people who’ve not yet seen before in order to have them tell their story directly. It’s a very strong tale, one that explores more family secrets than one family should have.
GEORGE GENTLY: SEASON 2 is produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Company Pictures (for the BBC), Element Pictures, and the Irish Film Board (funding only). DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Acorn Media. As for the technical specifications, these four discs all look and sounds excellent; clearly, no expense has been spared in bringing these stories to life. Thankfully, the discs are produced with an English-subtitling track for those of us who occasionally struggle with foreign accents (count me in). Lastly, there’s a brief interview with the series regulars as a special feature, otherwise that’s about all there is. While I’d personally love to know more, I can certainly understand that there’s probably little need for further commentary here.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. If you don’t know who Chief Inspector George Gently is, then you’ve no idea of what you’re missing. These detective procedurals are set in the early-to-mid-1960’s, they cover the gamut of social influences of the time, and they’re grounded in some excellent writing (adapted from novels) and exceptional performances. Rest assured: if you haven’t seen the first season, then there’s no problem jumping on here, as these cases pretty much all stand on their own, though you’ll miss some of the characterizations put down in those earlier installments.