Prime Suspect 1973 episode 5 review

Prime Suspect 1973's penultimate episode sets the stage for what promises to be a grimly compelling finale...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

This review contains spoilers.

With Terry O’Duncie in custody for the murders of Julie Ann Collins and Eddie Phillips, DI Bradfield switches his attention to the incriminating tape recordings made by local radio enthusiast Ashley Brennan. He listens to them at Tennison’s prompting, and instantly recognises the voice of one of the speakers as Cliff Bentley. As soon as it dawns on Bradfield that something shady is going on with the Bentley clan, his interest in the Collins case wanes, to the alarm of Sergeant Harris, who angrily warns him not to get sidetracked by his desire for revenge. This follows a visit from DCS Metcalf (Colin Mace), who, alerted by Harris, comes to urge Bradfield to make further progress on the murder investigation. Even Tennison argues with her boss – who’s also now her lover, as we’re reminded in a few sweet, stolen moments – about his priorities, but he reminds her that he’s had to console his fallen colleague’s widow again at the memorial held each year, while the officer’s murderer still walks free.

The episode steadily builds up our sense of foreboding around Bradfield’s obsession with Bentley’s guilt; we’ve seen enough now to know that the DI’s a determined man when it comes to getting what he wants, and that he’s willing to take major risks in doing so.

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Bradfield’s bent on tracking the movements of the father-and-son team, and sets up a stakeout in order to establish exactly why they’re sending furtive radio communications using the Eagle’s Nest call sign (and for those of you who noticed the deliberate mistake in last week’s review, apologies – I’ve apparently been watching too many US political dramas, to judge by that ‘Eagle One’ slip). Bradfield and several of his officers end up surveilling Silas Manato’s café from the discomfort of a cramped van, a dull task enlivened only by some banter from DC Hudson (Tommy McDonnell) as he and DS Gibbs sit smoking with an enthusiasm that is very last century (‘Always thought you’d suit a pipe, Sarge. A big one, like Sherlock Holmes.’ ‘Piss off’.)

The key to the would-be bank robbers’ downfall, however, is to be found on the inside. Cliff Bentley’s losing his nerve, and a phone call to kingpin Clay Whiteley asking for more time ends in thinly veiled threats to Renee Bentley’s safety. Renee has other, even more serious concerns; she’s stumbled upon David’s treasured photo of himself and Julie Ann, and is unsatisfied with his cagey response when she challenges him on it. Cliff can’t believe that his son would ever hurt a fly, and brushes her fears away as he fights back his own rising panic at the prospect of completing the biggest job of his career.

Silas is thoroughly spooked by Cliff’s uncharacteristic voicing of these concerns in front of his co-conspirators, and heads to the station to reveal all. Anthony Skordi’s effectively conveyed the clammy fear that’s haunting the café owner throughout his previous appearances. His convincing portrayal of a man crumbling under the pressure of planning a crime he never wanted to commit makes Bradfield’s stony insistence that Silas go through with the robbery so that the coppers can catch the perpetrators in the act all the more startling. Harris is appalled and takes him aside to say so, but Bradfield won’t budge on the matter. Back home, Bentley and family are panicking at their accomplice’s sudden disappearance, and John suggests running off with all the money rather than giving Whiteley his cut. On the night of the job, however, Silas is there as planned with a story to cover his absence.

The stage is set for a tense and dramatic finale that ends with a scene of startling tragedy. If its consequences are as feared, it will explain much about the inauspicious beginnings that made Jane Tennison the isolated, steely figure we know from Helen Mirren’s portrayal.

The calm before the storm is also revealing in its own way, with two very different paths confronting Tennison as she reflects on her future, both within and outside the force. Morgan’s won a coveted position in CID, and finds time in an emotional chat to warn her friend again of the dangers of getting involved with a fellow officer when aiming for professional success. Back at home, the dreaded wedding finally comes off, and Tennison gets to wear a spectacularly 70s bridesmaid’s outfit, while bonding with both sister Pam and her worried mother. When Tennison’s day off comes to an abrupt halt as she races to the station to join the investigation into the robbery, her colleagues are stopped in their tracks by the pink-and-white vision hurrying towards them and missing, as Gibbs points out, only a glass slipper to complete the effect. The whole series has been drenched in period atmosphere throughout, but costume designer Amy Roberts worked wonders in this episode on a wedding party straight out of any number of family albums. It’s an appealing moment of lightness before what looks set to be a grimly compelling final episode. 

Read Gem’s review of the previous episode here.

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