Prime Suspect 1973 episode 6 review

ITV's Prime Suspect prequel comes to a moving end in its finale. Spoilers ahead in our review...

This review contains spoilers.

The shocking event with which last week’s episode ended is quickly revealed to have been every bit as devastating as it seemed. After the explosion, the officers surveilling the British Savings Bank branch rush from their hiding place to search the burnt-out ruins for survivors. Cliff Bentley and café owner Silas have already fled the scene, although Cliff’s shocked look back confirms that he knows son John couldn’t possibly have escaped with his life when the blowtorch ignited. They find Gibbs bloodied and deafened, but conscious; Morgan’s more seriously hurt, but alive. The charred bodies of John Bentley and his co-conspirator Danny Mitcham (Nick Nevern) are soon located in the bank vault, but it takes longer to make out the lifeless form of Len Bradfield through the dense smoke. His dazed colleagues desperately try to revive him, but to no avail. Tennison’s soon on the scene, but Hudson has to restrain her from entering the building, an action that tells her everything she needs to know about the horror within. Stefanie Martini plausibly conveys Tennison’s intense grief and shock, in an episode that puts the young WPC through the emotional wringer and, as the series concludes, shows us the makings of the woman she will become. 

The station falls quiet as the reality of Bradfield’s death begins to sink in, but his friends have little time to mourn. Harris, revealing the stoicism and compassion behind the wisecracks, orders them to start the search for the surviving Bentleys. In his view, keeping busy is the best way to deal with trauma, a viewpoint Tennison evidently shares as she gratefully accepts an offer from DC Ashton (Daniel Ezra) to accompany her male colleagues on the house-to-house search. At the Bentleys’ flat, they find a defiant Renee, still refusing to share any of her knowledge of her husband’s whereabouts even when brutally confronted with the news of John’s death. Tennison soon realises from contradictions in Renee’s answers that she’s seen Cliff; he kept the terrible news from her as he went on his way, while David, unaware of his brother’s fate, had earlier made his own escape with his mother’s blessing and the savings from his previous jobs that Cliff had squirreled away for a rainy day. Renee is taken in for questioning but maintains a stony silence until Tennison brings up Julie Ann’s green bracelet and asks about the murdered woman’s relationship with David. Renee breaks down and reveals her discovery of the incriminating photograph. 

More misery is yet to come as Gibbs, out of hospital and determined to avenge his boss, takes Tennison on the hunt for Cliff Bentley’s associates. When they arrive at a local pub owned by one of the ex-con’s mates, he enters alone and is soon coshed over the head by Cliff. (Gibbs seems to spend an awful lot of this episode concussed, poor bloke.) Tennison watches the landlord scarper and calls for back-up, but it’s then that she spots David Bentley on the roof. Her desperate pleas for him to come down elicit a confession, but not the one she’s been expecting. David loved Julie Ann and wanted to flee the estate with her, but he made the fatal mistake of confiding in her about the bank job. When his brother found out she knew too much, he murdered her. It was David who found his girlfriend’s body and made the call to the police. Cliff comes upstairs and the truth emerges about John’s death, but disaster strikes when David grapples with his father and Cliff’s gun goes off. With Tennison’s cry of ‘Coward!’ ringing in his ears, Cliff tries to make his escape, but is caught by Harris. David dies as Tennison tries to save him, with his last words ones of love for Julie Ann. Blood-covered and shocked, Tennison comforts him as best she can before the end. Martini and Jay Taylor do fine work in this moving scene as the tragic David finally escapes his father’s murky world in the only way that was ever really open to him. 

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Hackney’s finest assemble to bid Bradfield a fond farewell, and look on with sadness as the funeral cortège approaches the church. Tennison’s there in a strictly professional capacity, her uniform neat and her face composed. The chief mourners are her lover’s wife and children, whose existence she only discovered when Harris set off for Bradfield’s home to break the news to his family. The crushing disappointment of the lie is eased a little by Gibbs’ kindly reassurance that their boss truly cared for her, but she knows that the brief bond they shared must go unacknowledged in future. Bradfield’s memory, as a superior who believed in her when it counted, will live on. As she returns to work, looking around at her colleagues as life begins again, she permits herself a smile. Jane Tennison is right where she wants to be.  

Read Gem’s review of the previous episode here.