Fearless episodes 1 & 2 review

ITV’s political thriller Fearless, from the writer of Homeland, has much to recommend it, not least Helen McCrory in the lead…

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This review contains spoilers. 

Fearless’ gripping first episode introduced us to Emma Banville, a human rights lawyer with a taste for neat vodka, liquorice roll-ups and overturning wrongful convictions. Played redoubtably by the redoubtable Helen McCrory, Banville’s a half-detective/half-lawyer cross bred in a lab especially for television. She’s dogged, principled and, as the title suggests, afraid of nothing. Her accessories include the voice of Sue Lawley, a statement red leather jacket and a statement Volvo the colour of microwaved tea (the statement being ‘I drive a fucking Volvo estate. Problem?’).

Episode one saw Banville take on the case of Kevin Russell, an ex school-caretaker who’s spent the last fourteen years inside for the murder of fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Linda Simms. Banville believes Russell didn’t do it, and is raking up all manner of trouble, and making all manner of enemies, in her attempt to prove it.

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In the first hour, Banville did enough to have Russell’s conviction declared unsafe and him released from prison pending a retrial. In the second, she moved him into her home (where she also keeps lovable boyfriend Steve, played by John Bishop, the wife and son of a British-Syrian doctor wanted for suspected links to terrorism, and a fresh bottle of Stoli in the crisper drawer) before discovering that there’s much more to Kevin’s case than meets the eye.

That much was made clear to the audience the moment Michael Gambon showed up. Forty-six minutes in to episode one, and Fearless unveiled its delicious gooey centre. If you weren’t already sold on Banville driving around East Anglia in a beige estate car finding clues and showing scant regard for the 2003 Clean Indoor Air act (I was. It had me at Volvo), then Gambon’s appearance as Sir Alastair McKinnon, a man with links to US intelligence and reason to want Russell’s conviction intact, should convince you that Fearless is no ordinary ITV crime drama. It’s an Atlantic-crossing political thriller complete with spooks, armed police ops, counter-terrorism surveillance, Michael Gambon, and a Volvo estate.

So far, we’ve seen Banville spend more time coppering than in court. She’s visited crime scenes and interviewed witnesses and spotted tell-tale clues everyone else has missed like your common or garden genius TV detective. As a lawyer building a case, she’s unusually hands-on, which is all the better for us the viewers.

Episode two concluded with a tense counter-terrorist extraction involving a patrol of armed officers storming Banville’s leafy London address. As Miriam Attar (Karima McAdams) was taken into custody for contacting a known ISIS telephone number, she passed Banville an illicit SIM card. Not minutes after that, a new lead in the Russell case phoned up out of the blue. Linda’s murder, it seems, was tied with in a photographer taking ‘glamour’ shots of underage girls, and the US air force stationed at the base at the time of her death. 

That explains the arrival of shady US agent Heather Myles (Deadwood’s Robin Weigert), who’s flown over to discredit Banville and generally get in her way. As the latter says in episode two, “there’s something going on here, there’s a police cover-up or a paedophile ring, or they’re protecting someone on the American base.” All of the above, possibly. I certainly don’t trust Jamie Bamber’s smiley MP with the Linda-lookalike wife as far as I could throw him.

Banville will get to the bottom of it, no doubt. That’s the overriding sense McCrory provides here. She feels as safe a pair of hands as Sofie Grabol in The Killing or Elisabeth Moss in Top Of The Lake, all three of them women with wonky personal lives but determined, and ultimately successful, professional ones.   

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Fearless has taken the trouble to create Banville a personal life, though so far it’s less compelling than her job. Her father is dying, and she and her boyfriend are trying to adopt. She went off the rails as a student protestor, and it’s hinted she may have given up a baby as a younger woman. All that’s just tangy dressing on the salad of really good stuff though – the political conspiracy, and her professional hostilities with two other powerful characters; counter-terrorism officer Olivia Greenwood (Wunmi Mosaku) and Heather Myles.

Greenwood and Myles also have hostilities of their own, keeping things nicely complicated (three women over the age of thirty driving a primetime thriller? Fearless, where have you been all my life?).

A hook of a central case, tantalising layers and complexities, international intrigue and codenames…  put that all together with a performer as strong as McCrory and it adds up to thrilling TV.

Fearless continues next Monday the 26th of June at 9pm on ITV1.