This review contains spoilers.
They’re not wrong about that title, Emma Banville really is one tough cookie. Bundled into a van and physically threatened by a suspected terrorist to hand over Miriam’s SIM card, she barely blinked. Buzzed by SO15, who recently broke down the door to her house, she sanguinely soldiered on. Menaced, lashed in the press and told by all corners to get her nose out of this whole business, she stays at it like a dog with a bone.
Banville knows she’s onto something and isn’t about to give up now, whatever boulders are being pushed into her path from the top of the mountain.
Chucking a few fist-sized rocks in her way is counter-terrorism officer Olivia Greenwood, who, in addition to that excellent haircut, also has an excellent line in eye-narrowing. Despite having the kind of low-voiced, fast-talking thriller dialogue usually spoken by the sole Brit in a US movie in which the hero leaps off an exploding Tower Bridge into the Thames, besting the terrorists in a mid-jump fist-fight as he goes, Wunmi Mosaku brings a decent bit of humanity to the role of Greenwood. After a long day’s surveillance, you can imagine her puncturing the film lid of an M&S curry and kicking off her heels to watch Love Island.
Chief boulder-pusher Heather Myles is less convincing as someone who could exist outside this world of shady rendezvous and under-the-table deals. She was born to intimidate witnesses and order people to be hit by vans, which makes her a decent villain – powerful, tenacious and appearing to be without conscience. The temperature drops by a couple of degrees every time she’s on screen. Just what did she spot in that crime scene photograph at the end of the episode to make her smile so? What nasty plan is up her luxurious dressing gown sleeve?
Even Myles, though, is somebody else’s dog to kick. In a scene that mirrored her earlier threat to Greenwood, Myles’ boss made it clear that she’d be fed to the wolves should the Kevin Russell retrial not go their way. The generals deny and survive while the axe falls on the lieutenants, she was told. Mess this up and wave goodbye to the life of a wealthy soccer mom.
Three women, each fighting for their career and survival, pitted against each other in a tale of tawdry scandal and international conspiracy – that’s Fearless in a nutshell, and it’s a good pitch, handled well. With just three episodes to go, we’ve come a long way fast, and the plot promises not to stall anytime soon.
Now at the halfway point, a few things have cleared up about the murder of Linda Simms. Contradicting the story told at trial, she wasn’t struck with a shovel (“the shovel’s bollocks”) but a car. She was also groomed by photographer Tony Pullings (who’d have thought a tabloid paparazzo would turn out to lack moral fibre?) to be an underage attendee at sex parties for wealthy men, where she was abused in exchange for money, or, as fellow victim Siobhan was told, “set for life”.
We also learned that the murder of Linda Simms isn’t what the NSA is really concerned with. They don’t want media attention drawn to whatever was going on at the airbase “three weeks before the Iraq War” on the night she died. Her death is somehow tied up in a much bigger story and Kevin Russell is the scapegoat.
Still looking shadier than an ample palm tree on a blisteringly hot beach is Jamie Bamber’s tory MP, currently climbing the rungs towards leadership while doing all he can to stop Linda’s body being exhumed. His wife too, seemed this week to have a vested interest in keeping Linda buried – her emotional reaction upon seeing the dead teenager’s bedroom (there’s evidence in them there hills) was telling of more than just an overactive empathy gland.
Those two have links with Sir Alastair McKinnon, who’s in cahoots with the US contingent. Michael Gambon has been sprinkled sparingly into Fearless’ mix, popping up to lend gravitas to one short scene in twenty to make us sit up straight and listen.
We’re doing that already, as this is good stuff. Banville’s personal life, however, is still the show’s weakest link, especially in the absence of humanising John Bishop and his Hobnob gambling. I know crime thriller leads aren’t legally allowed on TV without a personal tragedy in their backstories, but watching Emma sit and cry about not being a mother is one tenth as interesting as watching her smash down the brick walls of misjustice, no matter how moving Helen McCrory’s performance.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.