Koch Vision // 2002 // 292 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // October 19th, 2005
Enter the mind of a serial killer.
The evidence continues to mount: Britain has some of the best television in the world. Wire in the Blood is so good it doesn't even feel like watching television. This first season is like having a great movie trilogy, each with the penetrating psychological power of Silence of the Lambs. The format works far better than the episodic crime thrillers on American television, and any fans of CSI and psychological thrillers in general owe it to themselves to find out what they've been missing on this side of the pond.
Tony Hill (Robson Greene, Touching Evil) is a brilliant but troubled clinical psychologist. He has a knack for understanding the criminal mind, which mostly gets him into a lot of trouble. It also lands him on a number of murder investigations, in the hopes that he can help profile and hunt down serial murderers. In the first episode of the series, he is introduced to Detective Inspector Carol Jordan (Hermione Norris, Separate Lies). Although they have very different approaches, they soon find that their skills complement each other, and that they will only solve these horrible murders by working together.
This first season of Wire in the Blood contains three episodes, each approximately the length of a feature film, split into two segments:
* "The Mermaids Singing"
A serial killer has been torturing and murdering men using classic techniques. Tony Hill is brought in to help, and works with Carol Jordan for the first time.
* "Shadows Rising"
The bodies of several teenage girls are discovered together in a lake, and the investigation keeps leading to a big-shot television celebrity. How are he and his wife connected to the killings?
* "Justice Painted Blind"
When a new series of murders closely resembles the slaying of a young girl from years before, the police are quick to haul out an old suspect. Hill is sure something feels different this time, but will have to work quickly to uncover the truth.
I will admit, Wire in the Blood doesn't have much new to offer the psychological thriller genre. The series relies on formula to tell its grisly stories. Each episode begins with a murder, and follows the investigation until the killer is caught just in the nick of time. In the end, though, it doesn't matter that we aren't offered a new storytelling style. The episodes are smart and well enough designed that they never feel worn out, and the characters have a remarkable amount of depth. Also, Wire in the Blood puts the focus on the ethics of police investigations, which gives the series a unique feel.
The two lead characters are at the core of the show's success. Tony Hill is a unique and fascinating character, striking the perfect balance in his approach. His ability to understand the criminal mind isn't shallow and mundane, but it also doesn't feel like some mystical power. Watching him work is always believable, as though we were truly watching someone who has spent years honing his ability to gaze into the abyss of the human soul and make it back out again. He can't do that without picking up some scars along the way, though, and his obsessive nature is every bit as believable. Carol Jordan is an equally strong character, a woman who battles with the challenges of the job more than battling with the challenge of being a woman on the job. She is tough and vulnerable and has a cynical edge that contrasts nicely with Hill's confidence. It's a role that could have easily become a sounding board for Hill's brilliant ideas, but Jordan always holds her own, in ideas as well as action.
This is the closest any film or series has come to matching the riveting blend of clue hunting and suspense of Silence of the Lambs. It never uses cheap thrills to create suspense and horror, but instead relies on the true fear that comes from peeling back the thin layer of civilization that covers the human psyche and seeing what lurks beneath. This kind of sustained suspense doesn't work in a regular television series, and I like the longer format, even if it means much shorter seasons. In fact, it's hard to come up with an equivalent North American show to compare Wire in the Blood to. I don't think there is one. It's more graphic than American network television, but never seems as exploitative as our TV thrillers.
A shorter season also allows for great production values. Although Wire in the Blood lacks the gloss of a feature film, it uses plenty of locations and has been very well filmed. The only things that could have improved the series would be a its having been shot in a widescreen aspect ratio, and the removal of the gaps in the middle of each episode. The DVDs are well produced as well. Each episode is presented in its original full frame ratio, with a stereo track that's always easy to understand. There aren't many extras, just some text biographies of the stars and author Val McDermid, who penned the books the series is based on.
Uhhh...there are only three episodes per season, though that hardly seems reason to complain when the show is this great.
Wire in the Blood is as good as television gets. It uses the format to its advantage and manages to be fun, exciting, creepy, and thought-provoking. Any fans of psychological horror need to hunt this series down as soon as possible. Just don't come whining to me if American crime shows seem shallow and trite afterwards.
Not guilty. Bring on the next season.
Review content copyright © 2005 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 292 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated