Judge Kristin Munson's vice is baby ducks. She can't eat just one!
Are these the worst coppers in England?
Two seasons in and the Manchester Vice unit still operates more like the Keystone Kops than an actual police force. There's no criminal they can't lose; no case they can't hopelessly bungle; no informant they can't put in harm's way.
Facts of the Case
The last time we saw the Vice unit, PC Dougie Raymond was in deep trouble because his affair with a call girl wrecked a sting operation and the rest of DCI Chappell's crew had called out their boss for not being around to stop it. Now it's several months later, Dougie's off the force, and the team has started to pull itself back together.
Yeah, that's not going to last.
• Walking on Water, 1 and 2
I'm still trying to figure out what it is The Vice is trying to achieve. It's not a mystery, since we usually know who did it, and if we don't there's only two or three suspects to choose from. It's not a procedural, because the Vice unit seems to have no idea what procedure is or how to go about it. It's definitely not a drama because the only characters that get any development are the ones that are going to be killed off.
The title sequence—a split-screen where the same events play out in the hallway of a police station and a seedy club, with pimps and cops side by side—implies that there's no difference between the two sides of the law and that's about as deep as the show gets. Small-time pimps and major criminals are shown to be abusive, cruel, and bullying and then the noble vice cops ride to the rescue, using the same methods to intimidate victims into testifying. This would be an interesting concept for the episodes to explore, except we're clearly meant to empathize with the equally immoral cops. The whole series operates on this maladjusted philosophy. "Look at how exploited these poor women are. Isn't it terrible? Here, have some ta-tas."
Thankfully, this season cut way back on the pointless nudity, but the characters are as unlikable and incompetent as ever. When the unit tails a 13 year-old runaway to get at a suspected pimp, Chappel wants to wait until after the girl's been prostituted to move in and get her out, so he can charge the pimp with a higher offense. He then reveals his snitch to a dangerous criminal and, because this is apparently the sort of news you can only deliver face-to-face, drives to the witness's home to warn them, giving the dangerous criminal plenty of time to get their first. It's also pretty hard to take a detective's moral outrage seriously when he starts dating the mother of his murder victim.
Instead of a cohesive series, the season is like an anthology of four separate stories where the Vice cops are crammed into pre-written roles, whether they make sense or not. "Walking on Water" benefits from some double-crosses and a more focused plot, but in the rest of the episodes it's business as usual: the cops come across at vital clue by total coincidence, contrived confession, or someone else takes care of the criminal for them. In the last minutes of "Lovesick" a detective suddenly makes a racist remark, because it's the only way to get Joe out of serious trouble and back on the squad for season three.With only one season and six episodes behind it, the series is already repeating itself: Chappell tries to get Cheryl removed from the squad again and, with no Dougie to kick around , it's Joe the writers send spiraling out of control in the big finale.
This time around, most of the cast doesn't even try to add some nuance to their slender, thankless parts. Ken Stott (Shallow Grave) has two emotional modes: normal and raving, and all Carolyn Catz (The Bill) does this season is pout. Marc Warren (State of Play), the one cast member who understands subtlety, is only around for half the season and the writers still change his personality in every installment.
The stereo track on all three discs is fine, but the full-frame transfer has a few issues. Outdoor night scenes are grainy and the actors sometimes interact from opposite edges of the frame, like they were filmed in a different aspect ratio. The opening credits are in letterbox format and I'd just assumed that was to accommodate the split-screen effect, but now I'm not so sure. And if MPI can fit four episodes to a disc without any difference in quality, why not combine the second half of the season on a single disc and cut back on the cost? As it is, if you're region free, you can have the whole series for about the same price as one season. You know, if you're a masochist.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The MPI release of Season One had the honor of housing some of the worst subtitles I'd ever seen. They were so awful I re-watched the entire set with them turned on because the spelling errors, mangled slang, and transcription problem were the only humor the series had. This time around nearly every line was letter-perfect. In fact, in scenes where characters can be seen and not heard the conversations were still subtitled.
I can put up with spotty storytelling when there are interesting characters to watch and I'll tolerate one-dimensional characters in a tightly woven plot but The Vice doesn't want to give me either. While MPI has made improvements on the discs, the show is as nasty and nonsensical as ever.
Guilty. Someone get these officers off the streets and into a training course.
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