Wednesday, 10 October 2012

DCI Banks series two with Stephen Tompkinson PREVIEW

DCI Alan Banks is back leading the serious crimes team. Pics: ITV1
Rating: ★★★

ITV1: starts Wednesday, 10 October, 9pm 

Story: DS Annie Cabbot is pregnant and about to go on maternity leave, and DCI Alan Banks is going to miss her badly. But then a mysterious phone message draws him to Harrogate to search for his estranged younger brother, Roy.

Banks is back for the first of six new episodes. Series one didn't create a huge splash, but Stephen Tompkinson, who plays Banks, has a quite a following from comfy family fare such as Wild at Heart and the drama did well enough in the ratings to be quickly recommissioned.

This story, Strange Affair, begins with an appeal from the detective's estranged brother, Roy, in a juicy mystery that offers insights into the character's family background.

Banks is trapped in his brother's turmoil
Caroline Catz as DCI Morton
'I've got myself into a bit of trouble and need some help,' Roy pleads. Banks, after a tense evening with his sidekick Annie Cabbot, who's about to go on maternity leave, shoots off to find his brother. Andrea Lowe, who plays Annie, really is expecting, but has vowed to support Banks in future cases – which should entail further romantic tension.

Banks's disappearance causes a major problem because a woman is found with a bullet in her head and he is needed as senior investigating officer. But to complicate matters, in the glove compartment of the victim's car is a hand-drawn map to Alan's cottage, so Banks is a key witness.

New deputy Helen Morton should make Banks look even angrier
This delicate situation is the cause of a bust-up between Annie and her replacement, Helen Morton, who is now put in charge of the case.

Caroline Catz's introduction to the show as Helen adds a fresh spark to the drama. A mother-of-four, she's very efficient but is chucked in at the deep end with Banks's loyal team, who are not happy that she treats him as a witness. It's likely that her stern approach to policing is going to wind up Banks no end.



Banks with his parents (Keith Barron and Polly Hemingway)
Keith Barron as Banks's dad
Also in the cast are Keith Barron and Polly Hemingway as Banks's parents, who seem to prefer the dodgy Roy to steady Alan. However, it soon turns out that Roy's troubles are a lot closer to Banks the copper than he could ever have feared.

Average homegrown TV police procedurals rarely stretch their characters like this, and this is a strong curtain-raiser to the series. Whether fans of Peter Robinson's acclaimed novels will think the series does the books justice is a different matter.

Tragic cliffhanger
Tompkinson has passion – and some powerful scenes here – but he is a bit sour to capture Banks's charisma, stoicism and occasional sexiness.

Still, his devotees will love it, and the episode finishes with a tragic jolt, setting up the next instalment nicely.

Cast: Stephen Tompkinson DCI Alan Banks, Andrea Lowe DS Annie Cabbot, Caroline Catz DCI Helen Morton, Jack Deam DC Ken Blackstone, Lorraine Burroughs DS Winsome Jackson, David Westhead Gareth Lambert, Keith Barron Alan's dad, Polly Hemingway Ida