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.
In the third season, Tony's often complicated life is further burdened by personal insecurities, distracting him from the pressure of his police caseload. Through the course of four new cases, Tony and Carol deal with the kidnapping and murder of children, a mentally unstable killer, brutal killings that bear all the hallmarks of a notorious serial killer and hunt an anonymous sniper. Given that their work is already tense and nerve-shredding, the pair's private lives become equally strained and Tony is even forced to confront his mortality when diagnosed with a brain tumor.
The episodes that comprise Wire in the Blood: The Complete Third 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.
(Spoilers may pop up - you've been warned!)
Redemption, written by Guy Burt & dir. Terry McDonough
Miserable children are being lured to their death and Tony is dispatched to connect the dots between the bodies of three boys found throughout Bradfield – while each victim suffered abuse prior to being killed, Tony discovers that the placement of the corpses is far from accidental. He's able to use this information to help decode what the killer is telling the police – is the murderer helping right wrongs by ending unhappy children's lives? Tony and Carol must race against time as another child's life hangs in the balance.
Bad Seed, written by Niall Leonard & dir. Alex Pillai
A clutch of gruesome murders terrifies Bradfield and Tony becomes convinced that killer William "Mack The Knife" MacAdam is behind them – the newly released MacAdam, who's enrolled as a student in Tony's university class, seems very interested in becoming a media source for serial killers. Tony is overwhelmed by MacAdam's relentless demeanor and Carol's desire to have a child before "it's too late."
Nothing But The Night, written by Alan Whiting & dir. Andrew Grieve
Tony's publicity tour for his new book is interrupted by the brutal murder of a woman – a series of bizarre, seemingly unrelated deaths follow the beating and Tony is forced to create a profile for a possibly schizophrenic killer. Focused on his detective work, Tony must deal with unwanted attention from a woman he met on his book tour and puzzle out whether the killings are related to repression or juvenile abuse.
Synchronicity, written by Niall Leonard & dir. Terry McDonough
Following a blow to the head from an attacker, Tony wakes up in the emergency room to learn that he's been diagnosed with a brain tumor – Carol isn't fazed as Tony's behavior is on the odd side, but doctors give Tony slim chances as to the tumor's fatality. As Tony deals with this grim news, a mysterious sniper is gunning down citizens and the police cannot get a lead on the killer – while attempting to catch the murderer, Tony's behavior grows increasingly erratic and Carol must deal with a furious press corps.
Wire in the Blood is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer, righting a fullscreen wrong from the previous season's DVD set. The image 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 Third Season is accessible from any disc and includes the following: 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 as well as trailers for "Bad Seed," "Nothing But The Night" and "Synchronicity," playable all together for an aggregate of four minutes, 54 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.
Some elements of this review are taken from my earlier review of Wire in the Blood: The Complete Second Season.