Jason Isaacs returns as brooding, country music loving, Scottish private detective Jackson Brodie, in Series 2 of Case Histories. Brodie is still as charming and loveable, and self-destructive, as ever, and Isaacs' presence is a big reason why the show continues to work so well.
Series 2 picks up some time after Series 1 left off. Brodie's ex-wife and daughter Marlee (Millie Innes) have moved to New Zealand, and he's broken off his relationship with DC Louise Munroe (Amanda Abbington) to spend a couple of months with his daughter, and to do a very sketchy job in Germany. That job affects him deeply, and when he returns to Edinburgh he's something of a broken man. Zawe Ashton returns as his long suffering secretary Deborah, and a few other characters from Series 1 are back as well.
The format is somewhat different this time around. Before, three of Kate Atkinson's original novels were adapted, with two hour long episodes for each. In Series 2 there are three ninety minute episodes, and only the first is based on one of Atkinson's books, with the other two being original creations. The cases range from a young woman searching for her birth parents, to a standard "is my husband cheating" investigation, to looking into a long ago death that was ruled an accident.
The performances are absolutely top quality, as before, and Isaacs, with his piercing blue eyes, easy manner and intensity that he can turn on and off at will, is the engine that powers the show. Brodie is slightly less empathetic in Series 2 however, if only because, though he really wants to do the right thing, he will so often make choices that bring him and others pain and suffering. And Brodie does suffer, a lot, both physically, psychologically and emotionally. This is a somewhat more dour series than the previous, but still quite enjoyable. The only quibble as far as writing I could lodge is a somewhat inexplicable decision Brodie makes in the final episode, which has some bad personal consequences for him, that doesn't seem to have been strictly necessary. Regardless of that, the stories are tightly written, well-acted, and expertly staged. The mysteries are intricate enough to satisfy, though it's really the characters moving about in them that are important here, and not the puzzle.
Below are descriptions of the episodes, as presented on the discs:
Started Early, Took My Dog
Brodie agrees to help an Australian woman who was given up for adoption find her real parents back in Edinburgh. His investigation leads him to a 35-year-old secret that has darkened the lives of everyone involved in it. Brodie must decide if this is a time to let the law take its course or do what he thinks is best for a child.
A young woman hires Brodie to see if her fiancé is cheating on her, and during his inquiries he is also hired by the man's ex-mother-in-law, who suspects the fiancé of murdering her daughter. As a straightforward investigation turns into a cold case, matters get more complicated on the domestic front when Brodie's daughter, Marlee, moves in with him.
Jackson and the Women
Brodie takes on two new cases. In one, a teenage boy asks him to discover what really happened to his mother, who was murdered on Christmas Eve when he was three, and in the other, a family hires him to locate their missing 19-year-old daughter. What he discovers in both is painful for all concerned but at least provides two young people with a chance of moving forward.
Case Histories, Series 2 is just as complex, emotionally intricate and well-drawn as its predecessor, if perhaps somewhat more dark and brooding. You really can't ask for a better cast or a better execution. This is mystery, but with a focus on the human element. It's top flight television. Highly recommended.
The image is 1.78:1 widescreen, and generally looks quite good, with only some mild grain and the occasional bit of darkness to contend with. The colors are bright and rich and the mostly practical locations are very well presented, lending a feeling of weight and solidity to the endeavor.
Audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, with available English subtitles. The sound works well, but isn't anything special. The dialogue is always audible, and no hiss or other problem can be heard. No alternate language tracks are included.
There are a few extras included. The behind the scenes featurette runs to a little over eighteen minutes and has interviews with most of the main cast, as well as the executive producer Helen Gregory and director David Richards. It's pretty insightful and interesting. There are also individual short interviews with Gregory and the main cast.
Case Histories, Series 2 appears on the surface to be a traditional detective show, but it delves much deeper into the characters and their internal lives than most formulaic shows would. Jason Isaac's portrayal of Jackson Brodie is raw and honest, but also subtle. And his costars are all up to the challenge of working opposite him, especially the always impressive Amanda Abbington. This is good stuff. Fans of good television should seek it out.