A little bit "CSI" (if "CSI" wasn't forced to hold back by appearing on a major broadcast network), a little bit "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and seasoned liberally with a dash of starchy British whodunit, the award-winning, critically acclaimed Wire in the Blood has captivated Anglophile mystery fanatics on the Yankee side of the Atlantic for three seasons (and counting) on BBC America. Based upon Val McDermid's best-selling novels, the crime drama stars Robson Green (who, so help me God, strongly resembles Bob Odenkirk of "Mr. Show" fame) as Dr. Tony Hill, a clinical psychologist skilled at digging deep and empathizing with both victim and killer, as well as maintaining a sideline as a university lecturer.
Dr. Hill's colleague on the local police force, Detective Inspector Carol Jordan (Hermione Norris) is an intelligent, highly motivated officer who relies upon Dr. Hill's ability to efficiently profile killers and get into the minds of criminals, helping crack cases that might otherwise go unsolved. Set in the fictional English city of Bradfield, meant to evoke a more sinister side of northern England, Wire in the Blood elevates the standard police procedural with a combination of sharp direction, superb acting and a willingness to show what other crime shows only suggest – the tightly wound scripts don't hurt either.
Show producer Phil Leach said on the BBC Web site in advance of the second series' debut: "We are building on the strength of a hugely successful series. The new episodes stay true to the shock value and terror that we established first time around, and take Tony Hill and Carol Jordan into bigger investigations and ever more dangerous territory." Indeed, the grisly setpieces are even more so and the tension thickens considerably during the course of these four 90-minute episodes.
The episodes that comprise Wire in the Blood: The Complete Second Season are each contained on their own discs, with the bonus features accessible on each DVD. The series is housed in a fold-out digipak that slides into a handsome, if unremarkable, slipcase that features a list of glib summaries of each episode as well as chapter stops.
Still She Cries, written by Alan Whiting & dir. Andrew Grieve
A case hits a little too close to home when a student from Dr. Hill's university is kidnapped; the doctor further complicates the investigation when he encourages one of his more attractive female pupils (Amber Batty) to assist him. In addition, Dr. Hill persuades the police to re-open a child-killing case in order to recover bodies for the grieving families. When the police are distracted by the abduction case, the recently released child-killer is suddenly free to resume her previous homicidal activities.
The Darkness of Light, written by Alan Whiting & dir. Nicholas Laughland
As the Norton Hotel digs a new foundation, a 500 year-old corpse is discovered, which results in Carol being called in to investigate. When two more bodies are uncovered and the hotel is burned to the ground, the police realize they've got a case on their hands. Dr. Hill, who's called in to help solve how these victims were slain, is forced to challenge his experience and beliefs in the face of considerable opposition.
Right To Silence, written by Jeff Povey & dir. Andrew Grieve
After fingering one man for a pair of murders, Dr. Hill and the recently promoted Detective Chief Inspector Carol believe they've scored a major victory – until they realize the man responsible is already in prison. A high-level figure in the Bradfield gang (Christopher Fulford) is incarcerated but apparently still committing crimes and it's up to Dr. Hill and Carol to puzzle out how that's possible. Dr. Hill's trap to catch the killer requires a lot of faith on Carol's part – but will she trust him?
Sharp Compassion, written by Niall Leonard & dir. Terry McDonough
A mysterious killer is targeting Bradfield's vulnerable hospital patients – Carol is stuck between warning the public and fending off MI-5. In addition, a domestic murder case that Carol's working takes a strange turn when the victim, recovering in the hospital, is murdered. Dr. Hill, who has little to go on, suggests that the killer is a religious fanatic "healing" his victims; the tense hospital staff turns more suspects and MI-5 does become involved when Islamic terror becomes a line of inquiry – things become dicey when Carol's boss falls ill and her colleagues become less than trustworthy.
Wire in the Blood is presented in a 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer (a pan and scan presentation of the show, which was originally broadcast in widescreen ... tsk, tsk, Koch) that looks sharp and clean – there's a strong hint of PAL–to–NTSC transfer occasionally, but overall, the image is clear and free of defects.
Presented in Dolby 2.0 stereo, Wire in the Blood cries out for a full-bodied 5.1 mix in more than a few scenes but what's available is adequate; the episodes sound clear and free of distortion throughout.
The supplemental material for Wire in the Blood: The Complete Second Season is accessible from any disc and includes the following: interviews with Robson Green, Hermione Norris, Val McDermid, Sandra Jobling and Phil Leach, playable separately or together for an aggregate of 20 minutes; a one minute, 50 second non-anamorphic widescreen behind the scenes montage; biography/filmography screens for Green and Norris; a biography for McDermid; a two minute fullscreen trailer for Wire in the Blood: The Complete First Season and trailers for "The Darkness of Light," "Right To Silence" and "Sharp Compassion" from the second season, playable separately or all together for an aggregate of two minutes, 24 seconds.
Wire in the Blood is a tightly wound and finely crafted crime drama imported from England that has satisfied fans on both sides of the Atlantic for the last three years – with a crackling intelligence and well-wrought characters, this second season is a must-have for fans and would serve as a great introduction to Dr. Tony Hill and company. Recommended.