This review contains spoilers.
It’s mildly apt for Helen McCrory, who’s played lawyer Cherie Booth twice on screen, to be the lead in a series haunted by the ghost of her husband, Tony Blair. As “unreconstructed leftie” Emma Banville in Fearless, McCrory plays a legal mind with a very different stance on the decision to go to war in Iraq. It was a time of lies, says Banville in episode five. Dodgy dossiers, sexed-up intelligence, arrogant men who thought they could get away with anything… including framing an innocent (RIP Kevin Russell) for the murder of a schoolgirl.
That’s fiction, of course, but fiction that Fearless has tied in to real-world international politics with impeccable neatness. The belief in Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction originated from somewhere, this show reasons. Why not from a clandestine air base meeting between US and British VIPs and a now-discredited Iraqi source? What if, on the very night and at the very site of that secret meeting, a girl visiting her boyfriend at the base was killed? Wouldn’t it be in the interests of the CIA and British government to collude in a cover-up to throw the press off the scent.
That’s Fearless’ premise, and it’s holding together nicely. Inch by inch, Linda Simms’ death has widened to incorporate a convincing international conspiracy. Being a British series and thus a compact six episodes, it hasn’t wasted any time in doing so either. The momentum and revelations have come at a satisfyingly steady rate, while McCrory’s performance has classed up the joint no end. This isn’t your ordinary dead schoolgirl TV crime drama. It’s a slick, high-stakes political thriller, and this was its best episode yet.
It’s probably no coincidence that this was the episode to also contain the highest percentage yet of Michael Gambon. Sir Alistair McKinnon has been a sparse presence in the series thus far, popping up to lend gravitas here and there without his role in proceedings being made clear. Now we know precisely what role he played. As a key figure in 2003 government (“one of the powers behind the throne”), McKinnon represented the British in the Suffolk air base meeting. To throw Banville off guard, he copped to that much immediately upon being interviewed. What threw him though, was Banville’s refusal to let the killing of Linda Simms go. That made him afraid and angry. Why, hopefully we’ll find out next week.
Even if she was feeling it, Banville showed neither fear nor anger during her interview with US air force prison officials. (Myles and Banville, separated only by a two-way mirror!) Despite being up to the neck of her signature red leather jacket in trouble, her steely demeanour stayed true to the series title, even though it looked as though it would take a miracle to get her home safely.
A miracle arrived in the form of ex-adversary Olivia Greenwood. Hostilities between the two having thawed somewhat in the previous episode when they swapped the locations of wanted men, Greenwood stepped in to save Banville’s skin and lost her career for the privilege. Now there’s even more incentive for her to team up with Banville, blow this whole thing wide open and find out who really killed Linda Simms.
Key to that will be tracking down Rachel Lee, the older girl who was at the air base that night. I have a theory on that front, so look away now if you don’t enjoy uninformed speculation.
Coast clear? Right then: Rachel Lee is Laura Wild, wife of newly elected party leader Matthew. She’d be roughly the right age, she used to go to parties at the air base so perhaps that’s where she met her Iraq vet husband? And, a couple of episodes ago, she was emotionally taken aback in Linda’s bedroom where, we saw this week, there’s a strip of photo booth pictures of Rachel and Linda.
Arguments against that include the fact that Linda’s mother would likely recognise her daughter’s friend, even without the dark hair and glasses. It also doesn’t quite explain Sir Alistair McKinnon’s personal involvement. Perhaps Matthew was driving the car that killed Linda? Perhaps Rachel was? Perhaps Laura is actually Rachel’s sister? Or Sir Alistair’s illicit… I mean secret daughter?
I’m getting carried away. Whatever Fearless has planned, it’s earned our trust that the solution should be an elegant and believable one. Emma’s relationship with Steve and tacked-on adoption storyline aside, it’s been an elegant and believable thriller through and through. I could watch tough-as-nails Banville school people in the law and call them arrogant bastards all day long.
About that, ITV, how about another series?
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.