This review contains spoilers.
You know when you come home from a funeral and you’re having a couple of drinks and scrolling through all the nice funeral photos you took? The usual snaps – digger shifting the soil, coffin being lowered, the cutting of the funeral cake, grievers doing the hokey cokey?
No. Of course not, because no one takes photos at funerals. Only an alien or a soulless tabloid paparazzo at a celebrity interment would do such a thing and John Bishop’s character in Fearless is supposed to be neither. So why was he snapping away at Kevin Russell’s final goodbye like a tourist at the Tower of Pisa?
It’s hard for crime drama fans to also be sticklers for realism – contrivance, manipulation and false trails are more or less the name of the game. This finale though, went beyond the bounds. It took a classy, capable cast and a high-stakes premise and trampled it into the dirt with predictable twists and genre clichés.
Last week, I suggested that Laura Wild was really the disguised Rachel Leigh in a moment of wits-to-the-wind silliness. When I asked ITV for a second series, it must have been done in the same mood. That, or I was high on the combined presence of Helen McCrory and Michael Gambon and taken in by the sheen of respectability.
Gambon was noticeable for his absence in episode six. A single shot of Sir Alistair face-down on his desk having washed down a load of pills with a bottle of booze was our lot, disappointingly.
Banville won, you see. Having made a deal with Greenwood and worn a wire, she took down an international conspiracy and had the major players brought to justice. The goodies prospered and the baddies were brought to account. I said realism wasn’t top of Fearless’ list.
In another disappointment, we were also denied the sight of Banville finally coming face-to-face with Heather Myles (other than via a two-way mirror). Myles was dispatched as quickly as McKinnon, led away into a police car and stripped of her diplomatic immunity. It was a perfunctory exit for Fearless’ chief villain, as if she were cut off mid-sentence.
The same goes for Banville’s resolution with her dying father, which was tied up in a single wordless scene. That may well have been for the best, as the recurring dream thread wasn’t this promising series’ most compelling, but it added to a sense of the finale rushing to tie up loose threads.
Perhaps the six-episode format was responsible. Writer Patrick Harbinson and co. had twice as many hours to work with in a series of Homeland so it could be that the home-time bell ringing after hour six came too soon. A similar thing happened with BBC Two’s The Replacement. Great cast, gripping set-up, insubstantial and rushed finale.
A lack of time explains the clichéd use of a dementia patient inadvertently revealing crucial evidence at precisely the right moment – a useful but now over-familiar crime drama trick. See Exile, The Missing, and countless others for examples. Kevin Russell may as well have awoken from his coma and started reeling off hitherto-unheard clues.
Consistently strong, however, was Helen McCrory’s performance, even with dialogue that at times, did her no favours (“Have you really buried Kevin Russell?” “I don’t know”). In addition to its casting, Fearless’ global ambition and the number of central roles it had for women (over the age of forty, no less) were also top notch.
A mixed bag overall, then but plenty to recommend it prior to the conclusion.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.