'Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection'
(Helen Mirren, Frank Finlay, Tom Bell, Mark Strong, et al / 9-Disc DVD / NR / 2010 / Acorn Media)
Overview: Tenacious, driven, and deeply flawed, Tennison rises through the ranks of Britain’s Metropolitan Police, solving horrific crimes while battling office sexism and her own demons. Seen on Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! and created by crime writer Lynda La Plante, 'Prime Suspect' features some of Britain’s biggest stars, including Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Zoë Wanamaker (Poirot), David Thewlis (Harry Potter), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes), Ciarán Hinds (Jane Eyre), Tom Bell (Reilly: Ace of Spies), and Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting).
DVD Verdict: Watching Helen Mirren's Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison rise through the police ranks series after series is much like watching a cobra stalking its pray. For, whilst all the men around her rush through their latest murder cases, joshing and winking with one another, embodying that for of internal male camaraderie that only the cop genre can portray, Jane Tennison tidied up the pieces, sorted out the cracks in the alibis, formulated the real truths of each case before her.
Indeed, and quite unceremoniously, it's when DCI Shefford dies of a sudden heart attack, that Tennison demands to take over his position - getting it, grasping the opportunity with both hands, she then becomes the squad's first woman to head a murder investigation.
And she, aside from her head-spinning turn in the seventh, and final series, never looked back!
As we see from the on-set, Tennison, our central character of this acclaimed, award-winning British television series, has a nice home life with Tom Wilkinson - until the time her job title changes and she loses it. Indeed, as we see through the series, never to ever regain such a thing again. The brilliant, and seemingly always everywhere on British TV for many years, Zoë Wanamaker plays her usual depth of character here, but it's Mirren's infamous quote in the first series that has been reproduced over and over again! To a young police officer that refers to her as M'am, she retorts, "I don't like M'am. I'm not the bloody Queen". Ahhh yes, but if only she'd known what was cinematically in store for her!
Tom Bell is grizzled, searing and against all a female superior should stand for, in his book, as are much the group of males she works with. But come the end of series one, when the capture and conviction has (supposedly) been made, she is finally one of them - and they show it.
Note: In this first series, be aware there is a lot of blood, some mutilated bodies, and the gorgeous Wanamaker bares her perfect breasts too!
In series two, Bell is nowhere to be seen and the series falls a little flat due to it. Tennison is seen in bed with a black, younger fellow police officer, and is also seen to have had an affair with an American book writer. At work things have have boiled over on the racial front and if her unit don't act soon things will only get worse.
The halftime break of series ends in a VERY abrupt manner so don't get too comfy! And, as much as the second half of this series plods along somewhat too, Tennison's boss finally get his promotion he'd been angling for, whilst Tennison herself finds that the only way to go is to hand in her formal request for a transfer, come case end.
In series three Tom Bell is back and thankfully is on top form! Tennison has now moved up a notch in the force and is head of the Vice Unit - of which Bell has been asked to join due to a batch of serial killings. A very young David Thewlis (Harry Potter) is in this one most all the way through and is quite brilliant in the role of the protagonist.
For some strange reason a lot of the upper ranking police officers have a passion for a high end drag club, finding themselves there a few nights a week, wondering why their names keep coming up once the place is investigated! I wonder why!! Add to that and their desperate attempts to steer her away from the murder case and, well, more is afoot here, me thinks! Anyway, in this series, Tennison finds herself off sex and off smoking, the latter meaning she chews gum in most all scenes ... and it ain't pretty!
The portion where two cops dress up in drag is hilarious, the fight they get into with a suspect raw, and yet funny too! And a nod should go out to Peter Capaldi who plays Vera in this series as he is quite outstanding in the role. The ending of series three is a big, indeed HUGE reveal and has to be watched to be appreciated. I would stop from revealing here, but as the next series opens with her leaving hospital, well, let's just say she made a (horrible) maternal choice.
Series four - a 2-disc, 3x 1.5 hr set instead of the usual one episode, two-parter - begins with 'The Lost Child,' where Tennison enters a hospital to have her voluntary procedure taken care of (see above). And yes, some of those scenes of her being wheeled around either before or after on a gurney will be hard for women to watch. But then, and nearly immediately she is faced with an abducted baby case back at work! Timing, as they say, is everything.
Now a Superintendant, Tennison is surrounded in this episode with the case dealings of a missing baby, but the finding of said baby an hour in changes the face of both the episode and her. This is a very intense episode, but just after the hour mark you suddenly guess who snatched said baby and why! This episode also reveals something very personal about one of Tennison's police colleagues.
In 'Inner Circles,' a new team is behind Tennison, save for her series regular, Richard. This is the first story in the series that dragged and come the hour and a half mark it had moved so slowly that I was actually glad for the episode to be over! The story revolves around a man killed and defiled in his own home, but there's much more to it - a vicious triangle, if you please. A young, and very beautiful Kelly Reilly ('Sherlock Holmes' - Mary Morstan) is in this one and plays her role to a tee.
In the final episode of the series, 'The Scent of Darkness,' an old foe in the form of someone she put away in an earlier series seems to be killing again (although not the same actor as before) - from the inside of his cell! Some say she made a mistake and put the wrong man away. Others say, high brass wise, she is done with the job, suspended and needs to make way for others. Either way, Tennison finds her home life better than ever before as she has taken up now with the shrink from the 'Lost Child' episode!
In this episode, Tennison is seen smoking more, definitely drinking way more, and not caring about her appearance. That said, she is the one that figures the case out whilst not on duty, BUT come the final scenes, well, we are left with a HUGE what happens next scenario come Series 5!
And, of course, DS Tennison's side-move job wise from the Met to the regular police force brings her an investigation into a drug related murder - that just keeps growing in depth day after day. 'Errors In Judgment' is another two-parter opens with Tennison in her new, luxury flat overlooking London and still a high-ranking cop!
This episode is strong, given what happened recently in this series, and smacks of being born from the actual streets they deem to be 'acting' within. In one scene, her boss's sexual side leaps up and he tells Tennison, "I want you ... now!" To which Tennison replies, "Well, so does the desk sergeant and he asked first!"
The first-part ending is a real cliffhanger, the opening of the second part heartbreaking. A little mistake is that Tennison claims she's going on Crime Land (TV show), but it's quite clearly shown as Crime Night! Oh well, moving on, and the ending is great, it is really well acted out, and shows the actor portraying The Street (Steven Mackintosh) as one VERY accomplished actor.
Come Series 6, and Tennison and a tortured and murdered young female body leads an investigation into Bosnian illegal's. From the off, as in real life there were seven (7) years between this series and the last, Tennsion is having her MOT! She passes, even looks good too, and although this is much of a long slog through story-wise, it does keep you watching.
A prime suspect is put in the frame, but not all evidence leads his way - even when he admits to a set of murders! In this new series, Tennison has none of her regular squad members around, but a team of new ones to work with - and for us to get used to; or not, as some cases turn out. In this episode she even manages to exude the word 'f**k' a few times, so times have changed for the series!
There's a mysterious, dark eye examination scene that is overly long, and nastily open; and for my money didn't need to be so on any level. It's explained in the special features behind-the-scenes featurette as a true face-to-face for Tennison and the prime suspect, but (and even though I've been through the same exam in real life) it's still VERY hard to watch!
The end of part one is brutal, cutting, clean and precise and leaves you stunned. We also, as the second part unfolds, get to meet her father for the first time - the brilliant actor, Frank Finlay. Of course, Tennison sleeps with a friend along the way, as is her want, but there's not as much smoking or drinking for her this series.
The ending is expected, seen from a long way off, and the special features of a behind-the-scenes featurette may well be some 24 mins long, but about 16 of those minutes are nothing more than scenes from series 6!
In the final series 7, aptly entitled 'The Final Chapter,' Tennison is 60, a month from retirement, drinking heavily, her father is dying of cancer, and yet she is still determined to find the killer of a teenager. Of course, regardless of the title, we all know this will be her last case, but it becomes very emotional, very suspenseful early on for our heroine.
Waking up from a drunken night, late for work, basically out of it, Tennison is determined to catch a killer of a young girl. With this final episode comes across more like a movie in its filming, even the score sounds/feels movie-style, the killer is someone you may well think you can easily guess within just 10 minutes - but you'd be wrong, for the most part!
But, her drinking is getting out of hand, even at work - "I know you like a drink because you smell of alcohol right now," she tells a suspect. "That's not me, that's you" he retorts back, matter of factly. So, we see her head to AA where she runs into the brilliant Tom Bell. But, it has to be said that Bell, as an actor, is far from his brooding days, slow in his speech, and gaunt, so you know he's only back for one reason - to be killed off!
Part 2 of this final season opens with that and from then on in it's a slow, methodical slog to a) who got the 14 year-old girl pregnant and who actually killed her. The main suspects daughter, Penny is played by Laura Greenwood and wow, is she GREAT in this role. Playing her part to a tee, she smiles when needed, scowls when needed, spits venom when needed. Sadly, Tennison's father passes away before she gets to retire.
As the episode/series comes to a close, it actually also comes full circle when another of her DC's call her M'am - "Don't call me M'am, I'm not the Queen," she smiles back. The ending, the final reveal of the actual killer is sad, but understandable. The Behind-The-Scenes Special runs for 50 minutes, and features less film clips this time and more chats with writers, directors and actors galore - and is very nice to watch, in truth. These are all Full-Screen Presentations (1.66:1) and come with the Special Features of:
'Prime Suspect' Behind-The-Scenes Special (50 min.)
Series 6 Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (23 min.)