Detective Anna Travis (Kelly Reilly) learns the ropes of her new job under DCI James Langton (CiarŠn Hines), whose relationship with this latest addition to his team is complicated by his former partnership with her father.
Based on a series of novels by Lynda La Plante (who also writes the teleplays), Above Suspicion plays a bit like an early-days version of Prime Suspect, La Planteís most famous (and best) creation. Itís easy to imagine that what Jane Tennison went through in her early days was quite similar to what Anna Travis is forced to endure here. Unfortunately, Travis isnít as interesting as Tennison; the comparison is unfair, perhaps, but a show like this needs a strong central character, and Travis isnít. She may get there (two more installments of the series have aired in England, and La Plante continues to pen the novels), but it would be nice if sheíd hurry up. I understand that it would be ridiculous to expect Travis to simply walk in and take over, but there are other ways to grow the character. For the most part, though, the show doesnít take advantage of them.
Like Prime Suspect (as well as virtually every British procedural of similar stripe), each installment of Above Suspicion is broken into two or three shorter episodes, the original broadcasts coming in successive daily or weekly airings. The first two features are included here, totaling five episodes. The pilot is broken into two episodes, and itís a bit shorter than it should be. Three episodes comprise the second feature, and itís a little longer than it needs to be. Iíve not read any of the books, so I canít comment on any differences, but the show is largely plot, with very little in the way of character development. Each episode runs roughly fifty minutes, and a total runtime of 150 minutes ends up being something of a long haul for a story that doesnít supply you much in the way of human interest. Conversely, the first featureís 100-minute runtime isnít enough to both introduce the characters and handle the plot.
The first story involves a serial killer, a sadistic bastard who has killed several women over the course of eight years. An odd break in the case presents itself when the killer suddenly changes his M.O. The next story revolves around the discovery of a young woman the media quickly dub ďThe Red Dahlia,Ē as the grisly particulars of her murder indicate her killer was inspired by the infamous Ď40s murder. The path to the discovery of a suspect is winding and thorny, and the resolution of each case involves family secrets, depraved sexual practices, and/or the sort of pop psychology you usually find in this sort of thing. So nothing new or innovative, which is another problem. The mysteries are a bit too familiar, lean a bit too heavily on the ďgenerational evilĒ thing thatís all the rage these days.
That being said, they do still manage to entertain and generate a bit of heat. When it comes to the identity of each storyís killer, thereís usually nothing surprising; the showís still well-mounted enough to make the final rush to bring the killer to justice fun to watch. This is particularly true of the pilotís climax; itís nothing more than an extended police interrogation, but itís extremely well done, shot and edited in an unobtrusive manner, one that allows the castís fine work to really carry the scene.
It would have been easy for La Plante to let gender politics get in the way of everything else, but the showís quite subtle in the way it depicts Travisís entry into a world dominated by men. Itís even smart enough to realize the senior women in the unit would treat her in a condescending manner; you can see how their reactions to her are a byproduct of the way they themselves have been treated over the years. Itís likely that one-upping their male coworkers was the only way they could prove themselves in their early days, and the residue of those days is evident in their comments and actions.
Thereís typically a one-year gap between the original broadcasts. I think spacing viewings out is the way to go here, as itís obvious thereís a gap between the stories themselves. I went from the first story right into the second, and I could tell right away that quite some time in the fictional timeline had passed. Better still, thereís a chance that taking a break will make the somewhat by-the-numbers nature of the proceedings less obvious.
Above Suspicion is presented in its original 1.78:1 ratio, and the transfers have been enhanced for anamorphic displays; each movie gets its own disc. The show has something of a flat, desaturated look, more realistic than unnecessarily stylized (in other words, it looks like most current English procedurals). Taking that into consideration, the image here looks pretty good, although thereís more than a little aliasing, as well as quite a bit of noise in darker scenes.
The sole audio option is a series of Dolby Stereo tracks. Theyíre surprisingly robust, with a very good stereo spread and a fair amount of heft. Dialogue sounds good, although some of the thicker accents may present problems. English SDH subtitles are available.
Two fairly thorough behind-the-scenes segments (51 minutes total) are included, one for each feature.
You also get a series of brief cast interviews (4 minutes).
A couple of photo galleries are also included, as are a text biography of La Plante and filmographies of select cast members.
Itís entertaining enough, but thereís really nothing to set it apart from the roughly nine thousand other procedurals currently glutting the airwaves.