Decent TV shows are sometimes like buses. You wait ages for one and then they all come at once. To signal the start of the new season, ITV is rolling out no less than three new dramas this week including fugitive serial Mrs Biggs and post-war crime procedural The Bletchley Circle.
Kicking-off the week in simmering style last night was the first of episode of two-part thriller A Mother’s Son starring Hermione Norris and Martin Clunes. Norris and Clunes lead as affluent second-marriage couple Ben and Rosie, whose extended family’s life is thrown into turmoil when a 15-year-old female student at the couple’s children’s’ school is found dead in a nearby farmer’s field, and circumstantial evidence points to Rosie’s angst-ridden son Jamie.
There was more than a hint of Jimmy McGovern about the script, which had morality and family loyalty at its heart. Given the time invested in the characters and their pasts; we learn that Ben visits his dead wife’s grave regularly, the obstacles faced by Rosie and her ex-husband David made for believable and engaging viewing. Much of the show’s success must be credited to Norris, whose nearing-breakdown Rosie was a different kettle-of-fish to her listless Karen in Cold Feet and Wire in the Blood’s detached workaholic DCI Carol Jordan.
Visually, the show was a treat, with repeated interspersing of stark and lingering farmland shots and delicately swaying wheat, adding a chilling edge to the crime and evoking bleak real-life crime spots such as Saddleworth Moor. It was as if director Ed Bazelgette was forcing us to recognise the relevance of Chris Lang’s screenplay.
That’s not to say A Mother’s Son was perfect however; there were some cracks that no amount of low camera angles and expressive farmland pans could cover. I found it extremely hard to believe that Jamie, an intelligent teenager, would hide blood-spattered shoes under his bed where they could be, and were, so easily found. There will need to be a serious plot-twist to explain this ‘if the shoe fits’ narrative hinge. I don’t like the look of Ben’s son Rob, so perhaps he’s the one who has been doing the hiding to fit his step-brother up.
There was also the ineptitude of the East Anglia constabulary for the family of the murdered girl, Lorraine, and for the audience to contend with; virtually all of the leads in last night’s episodes were discovered either by Rosie or David as was anchored by the second episode preview, which showed us pot-smoking Sean being arrested after a quick internet search flags him as a previous violent offender.
Overall, A Mother’s Son was a flawed but pleasingly unsettling drama that for the most part, hit its targets. Though there were some holes in the plot, the restrained performances of all involved meant that their characters were easy to empathise with. This, alongside a story that didn’t feel obliged to move along at an unrealistically break-neck pace means this drama has so far proved to be a breath of fresh air. Roll on episode two tonight.