single-handed, the Irish policier starring Owen McDonnell as a second-generation policeman in the once-infamously corrupt Garda Síochána, continues with six hour-long episodes from 2010, telling three separate crime stories as well as a broader story arc spanning all six shows. Previous series, airing in 2007, '08, and '09, consisted of single, two-part shows. Its producers may be vying for enough episodes to be able to put it into wider syndication, and they may also be inspired by the success of the similar if much-superior Wallander.
This doubling of effort results in more compelling drama, however, and overall I liked these episodes much more than the earlier ones. single-handed (lower case) is still pretty much a one-trick pony, with the same basic premise as before: one honorable man fighting a hopelessly corrupt, bury-it-under-the-carpet system, set against the strikingly beautiful but oppressively isolated Irish countryside. Nevertheless, the series is intelligent and interesting, especially in the way it completely deglamorizes the romantic Ireland often held by those who don't have to live there.
single-handed - set 2's three feature-length mysteries, each told in two parts (complete with recaps and previews of the next episode), are spread across two single-sided, dual-layered discs. The shows are in 16:9 enhanced widescreen and the disc includes photo galleries of minor interest.
The series follows Garda Jack Driscoll* (Owen McDonnell, Mount Pleasant) and his investigations of three cases: the murder of an elderly recluse; an arson case in which a woman, possibly the arsonist, is found dead of smoke inhalation; and Jack's efforts to rescue a wayward, suicidal teenager from her smooth Dublin pimp.
The stories are increasingly involving, particularly the last, which demonstrates Jack's Herculean, Red Beard-like humanity toward the pitiful but unsympathetic young teenager (Charlie Murphy), who's clearly not (outwardly) anxious to be saved. As is often the case with programs of this kind, the writers (Colin Teevan, Clive Bradley) often thematically link the characters and events of Jack's cases with his own problems at home.
It's here where single-handed really gets interesting. Earlier episodes often revolved around Jack's contentious relationship with his Hank Quinlan-like retired Garda father. These three shows, however, trace the awkwardness Jack and his mother, Eithne (Ruth McCabe, My Left Foot, Silent Witness) feel toward two visitors from Manchester: his newly discovered cousin Brian (Matthew McNulty) and his girlfriend, Gemma (Simone Lahbib, Wire in the Blood).
Brian, long-estranged from his troubled, nearly homeless father (Stephen Rea, a welcome presence), a virtual stranger, and himself on the verge of a breakup with Gemma, decides for them both to plant roots. He uncomfortably transitions from houseguest to squatter in Eithne's home, claiming all legal rights to her property, and even going so far as to lock her out of her own home.
Meanwhile, as Brian's relationship with Gemma disintegrates, she becomes romantically involved with Jack, further muddying the familial waters.
This storyline offsets single-handed's weaker elements, such as Iago-like publican and former Garda Denis Costello's (Sean McGinley) constant conniving, and Jack's useless, spineless fellow policeman, Garda Finbarr Colvin (David Herlihy), who spends all six episodes under Denis's thumb.
Video & Audio
All three single-handed dramas are presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen. The transfers are good, up to contemporary television standards, and the total running time is 304 minutes. The Dolby Stereo audio likewise is up to current standards. Optional English subtitles are helpfully included. A photo gallery for each episode is tossed in as an Extra Feature.
single-handed - set 2 is slight but worthwhile, one-note in some respects but overall Recommended.
* Could his character be named after Bruce Cabot's stalwart hero in King Kong (1933)? I wonder.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes numerous cinema history books and biographies, audio commentaries and other Blu-ray and DVD special features content. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.