Series Two of Garrow's Law maintains the strong performances and intense courtroom scenes of Series One, but also improves greatly in the portions that focus on Garrow himself and his personal life. It is altogether a better experience.
The great unifying story arc of Series Two is the separation of Lady Sarah Hill (Lyndsey Marshal) and her husband, Sir Arthur Hill (Rupert Graves). Sir Arthur gets the idea into his head that Garrow (Andrew Buchan) is pursuing an adulterous affair with Lady Sarah, and indeed that Garrow is the actual father of Sarah's child. The fact that this idea is pure jealous fantasy is no bar to the obsessed Hill, and the thought of it worms its way into his consciousness and cannot be rooted out. As a result, he files for a particularly nasty sort of divorce with Sarah, which will ensure that she remain penniless and unable to marry, not to mention that, having sole discretion in the matter, he prevents her from seeing her child.
Series Two retains characters from the previous season, most satisfyingly Alun Armstrong as Mr. Southouse, Garrow's colleague, and Aidan McArdle as Silvester, the mostly honorable barrister who is very often Garrow's opponent in the courtroom. But there is also the addition of a deliciously wicked villain, the execrable Farmer (Anton Lesser), a divorce attorney with quite literally no scruples, who is hired by Sir Hill to pursue his separation. Farmer is a much more satisfying antagonist than the haughty Hill, or even Silvester, who opposed Garrow in Series One, and still does, but merely as an honest combatant in court, never out of personal vindictiveness. Indeed, Silvester comes to Garrow's aid in a significant way this time around. No, Farmer is much more enjoyable to watch, in part because he is so emotionally detached from his victim. His client asks him to ruin Garrow, and by prosecuting him for "criminal conversation", code for adultery, Farmer is merely discharging his commission. He has no personal animus for Garrow, and this makes him all the more sinister.
While the divorce and prosecution are the backbone upon which Series Two is built, there are still plenty of cases for Garrow to pursue in the four episodes at his disposal. Most of them are quite interesting, and like Series One based on actual cases from the Old Bailey. They involve such various things as forgery, the forcible drowning of slaves, and corruption and graft at a veterans hostel. The one story that stumbles a bit is in episode two, and involves a wealthy man accused of sodomy, which charge brought a punishment of death at that time. Unfortunately, the writers hewed a bit too closely to a politically correct narrative, which drained a bit of the drama and impact from the telling. But this is a small quibble, and almost the only one that can be made. The courtroom scenes, as in Series One, are sharp and engaging, and Buchan is at his most dashing when he corners a witness with their own lies. This culminates in the final courtroom sequence, at Garrow's own trial, complete with Southouse scouring the city for an unwilling witness, and surprising revelations on the stand. It is very intense and enjoyable.
As in the previous series, the cast is exemplary. Buchan, Marshal, McArdle and Graves all perform admirably in their various roles. But the true standout is Alun Armstrong. He is so human, and endearing, and earnest, and fill in whatever positive attribute you like here. He is amazing. He sinks himself into the role, an avuncular pole star, an anchor to the entire endeavor. He should be recognizable to about everyone, having performed in so many films and television shows, and his long experience shows in the effortlessness and subtlety of his performance. Lengthy declamations that would seem forced or scripted in a lesser performer tumble off his tongue with ease. Though certainly not the main focus of Garrow's Law, in many ways this is Alun Armstrong's show.
Series Two consists of four hour long episodes on two discs. Summaries of the episodes, as provided on the discs, are below:
When 133 Africans are thrown off a slave ship and drowned, Garrow is hired to prosecute the ship's captain - for fraud, not murder, since slaves are considered cargo. Meanwhile, Sir Arthur Hill begins legal proceedings against Garrow.
Lady Sarah has been forced from her home by Sir Arthur, But Southouse insists that Garrow cannot see her. A distracted Garrow turns to his latest case, in which he must determine whether the matter is blackmail, shame, or love.
The Royal Hospital at Greenwich has a duty to care for disabled sailors. Instead, men are starved, mistreated and left to die. When a man speaks out against the abuse, he is prosecuted for malicious libel - and Garrow is charged with defending him.
Garrow scandalizes fashionable London when he's charged with adultery. Still, he looks for comfort with Lady Sarah after losing a case in which a young boy is hanged. Southouse uncovers a secret that could compromise Sir Arthur, but a crucial witness refuses to testify.
Garrow's Law: Series Two retains everything that made Series One great, and adds quite a bit more drama and pathos, in fact, almost universally improving over what came before. It is an exciting period drama, that one hopes will continue for some time more. Highly recommended.
The image is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks very good. There is some occasional posterization, but the colors are deep and rich, and the period costumes and sets are showcased quite well.
The audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and is also quite good. Dialogue is always audible, and no hiss or other issue can be heard. English subtitles are included, but no alternate language track.
Trailers for New Tricks, Foyle's War, and a general one on Acorn releases are included at the beginning of disc one. There are a few other extras as well. They are:
William Garrow: Fact & Fiction
This is the most significant extra, coming in at just under twenty two minutes. It explores the real William Garrow, and the occasional "dramatic convenience" that the producers indulged in to create a compelling television program. Interviews with historians and a biographer of Garrow's are included, as well as one of the writing staff. This is quite interesting.
Less than a minute of behind the scenes pictures.
Exactly what it sounds like, text filmographies for the main cast.
Garrow's Law: Series Two is a great improvement over the first series. It has high drama, intrigue, betrayal, unexpected loyalty, moral dilemmas and true love, basically everything one could want in a good yarn. The performances are excellent, the stories for the most part tight and compelling, and the sets and costumes exquisite. This is a very good show, and one that hopefully will continue to improve.