The role of women in the workplace has provided much provocative televisual drama in the post-WWII era. The first series of the police comedy/drama WPC 56 focused on the work of woman police constable Gina Dawson (Jennie Jacques), or WPC 56, as the first female police officer to serve the Brinford community of Birmingham. In an industry dominated by men, Dawson finds herself initially serving her male colleagues instead. Despite the position this puts her in, she works with them to solve the central crimes of the series, which involve two missing boys, while also developing a budding relationship with her partner, Detective Inspector Jack Burns (Kieran Bew).
Series two opens with the episode “Cry, Cry, Cry,” in which a travelling fair sets the bustling scene for a foreshadowing crime. A couple engaged in a carnival game are quickly interrupted by an oddly suited man, watching from a distance. The man in the couple realizes they are being followed and a suspenseful game of cat and mouse ensues in a room of distorted mirrors. The couple escapes a mysterious shooting and encounters WPC Dawson, who asks about a girl in a photo, previously shown bumping into the woman. They are only able to direct her so far, which then leads Dawson to the fair owner, Brendan McCormack (Francis Magee). The missing girl’s name and age are revealed as Tracy Nicholls, who is 15. The owner is aware of the girl, who had a previous conflicting relationship with his son.
The office environment changes as the episode makes a significant turn away from the last series’ motif of sexism. The initiative not only involves a transformation of Dawson’s character but also an increase in recurring female cast members by placing more women in the office. Dawson’s step forward occurs as she returns a cunning remark to her colleagues when asked to bring them tea. Striving for gender equality while maintaining a realistic outlook of the times, the men still attempt to degrade her position.
Another aspect of Dawson’s character development is ironically DI Burn’s resignation. He reveals his wife has been released from the hospital and his family needs him at home. The male colleagues are rather indifferent, and some even suppress a celebratory reaction, while Gina experiences the detachment from her unrealistic expectations of their romance. The removal of Burns, however, allows Dawson to focus on herself and her career without distraction.
In place of Burns, new DI Max Harper (Ben Turner) wastes no time undertaking the duties of his predecessor. While the Brinford police force is assigned to maintain order amongst the “gypsy community” during the fair, Harper and Sergeant Fenton (Charlie De’Ath) investigate the death of a town Councilor. Harper later learns from Dawson that a redheaded woman accompanied the Councilor at the fair. This sparks the beginning of a partnership between the two.
Overall “Cry, Cry, Cry” may have juggled more crime scenes and new character introductions than it could manage. Although the pilot’s ambitious storyline left little time to process the events, the highlights of the episode include brief comedic moments with the aid of characters seemingly ill-fitted for law enforcement. Notably, Police Constable Tommy Perkins (Liam Jeavons), an awkward, well-intentioned pushover of the team, ends up in predicaments while trying to fit in with his colleagues. With more subtle humorous gestures, Desk Sergeant Swift (James Barriscale) serves as a loyal yet shallow assistant to Chief Inspector Briggs (Mark Healy), whose nameplate misspelled as Biggs, forms the basis of multiple office jokes.
After a successful first series, the future of WPC 56 series two remains optimistic and the desire to vicariously solve crimes through a leading female officer will only continue to grow.
Series 2 of WPC 56 starts on 10 February 2014 at 1415 on BBC One