"Brotherly Love": Against the backdrop of death and birth, Fitz must figure out how a suspect, David Harvey, arrested for the killing of one prostitute, can be tied to two other similar crimes committed while Harvey was in custody.
"Best Boys": A scandalous relationship between a teenage boy and an older man turns deadly when the duo goes on the run, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. Fitz must try and stop the spree before more innocent people are killed.
"True Romance": When a fanatical admirer of Fitz twists her affection into serial murder, the psychologist must track down the identity of the perverted paramour before she takes out her dismissal on Fitz's family.
Fellow DVD Talk critic John Sinnott handled the release of the first two series of Cracker for this website, and there is not much more that can or could be added to his insightful and accurate comments. Cracker is indeed a fantastic show, a highly recommended addition to any DVD collection. For the uninitiated, Cracker does produce quite a few "where have you been all my life moments" ; instances where the formulas and laziness of most television crime shows are tossed in the waste bin to allow actual human drama to unfold right before our eyes. The genius stroke here is having affable goof Robbie Coltrane, known more for his comedy than his serious roles, become the unbearable, egomaniacal and exceptionally brilliant forensic psychologist able to break suspects and cases wide open with nothing more than his big, fat brain. But this is not CSI in the British Isles or UKPD Blue. Cracker celebrates the joys of intelligence, the amazing attributes of articulation and the electricity of a cracking quid pro quo. For many, a first look at the series will showcase a lot of talking heads spewing sustained speeches of exposition and character. But beneath the surface of such loquacious leanings lies the energy and invention of Cracker. It thrills because its ideas, not its incidents, get under the skin and spread.
Series 1 is about as perfect as broadcast television can get, filled with such evocative writing and amazing performances that you can hardly believe that something this special could come from the mind of a typical TV writer. But Jimmy McGovern is not a archetypal show scribe and his Cracker is nothing short of Shakespearean in its scope and splendor. You can see the Series begin to buckle, if only at the most infinitesimal, sub-atomic level, once McGovern turns over some of the writing duties to Ted Whitehead (Series 2 "The Big Crunch") and, more significantly, Paul Abbot (Series 3 "Best Boys", "True Romance" and the bonus 2-hour movie "Lucky White Ghost"). While Jimmy is at the helm, Cracker holds its own among the classic tragedies and character studies of traditional literature. The three Series together create a brilliant, operatic storyline, worthy of the epic poems of Homer and Virgil. Viewed individually, they entertain in a cliffhanger capacity that makes you long for what came before and since (even in the initial Series, you immediately find yourself wondering "where did this guy come from and what made him this way?") So, perhaps, the best way to experience Cracker is to go out and purchase all three DVDs (a rental will simply be a waste of money for what you will already be aching to buy once you've seen it) and watch them consecutively. In doing so, you will witness one of the greatest 23 hour movies ever conceived, a rich tapestry of heroics and foibles made flesh by some of the most compelling characters ever created.
Now this may sound like hyperbole on a supernova-like level, a celebration based in blind love for a show that is really no more than a slick piece of excellent entertainment. But that is simply not true. McGovern and his creative associates manage something with Cracker that few shows ever attempt: they build a complete world working within its own metaphysical and philosophical dynamics and then populate it with people who challenge and try to change that ideology. Maybe it's the Manchester setting, about as far away from America and its police profile parameters as an uninitiated citizen can get. Or it could be the more metropolitan culture of Britain, with its cityscape circumstances and public house patronage. But perhaps the real reason why the universe of Eddie Fitzgerald feels at once foreign and yet familiar to us is because it is one based in steadfast human belief. All the characters in Cracker have their honored ethics and try like the Devil to stick by them. But McGovern and the others constantly challenge their beliefs, allowing the drama to flow directly out of the reaction and rectification to such tests. Cracker therefore is a show about having all the answers until the situation actually arises. Then it's time to put your moxie where your mouth is. The level of accomplishment towards this task is at the heart of the show's splendid shape and subtext.
If there is a pinnacle to Cracker, a single episode that concentrates everything that the show stands for into a single installment of 50 mesmerizing minutes, it would have to be part three of "Brotherly Love". To give too much away about what happens would be criminal, but let's just say that it's the culmination of a myriad of storylines; a strange amalgamation of vengeance and sadness mixed with the complexities of every character in the series to boggle and befuddle your mind in a manner befitting Cracker's brilliance. It's hard to imagine a better run of shows than the installments that make up McGovern's "Love", but Paul Abbott gives it a shot and his two storylines here. They really expand and extend the Cracker hierarchy. The most magnificent aspect of "Best Boys" is the manner in which the affair between the teen boy and the older man is handled. In America, this near pedophilia-ish, mostly platonic plot thread would require some ancillary scenes where a "specialist" discusses the "rationale" for such an "abnormal" relationship. It would be excusing the behavior before we even knew if it was actually occurring. In Cracker, it's just another characteristic of the plot, a logical extrapolation of interpersonal interaction. Frankly throughout the course of its run, this series has always handled homosexuality with a maturity and normalcy that shames most US broadcast buffoonery.
With the final (to date) Manchester based offering "True Romance", we see the tired template of an obsessed fan/serial killer work wonderfully because it makes Fitz confront his anti-social sensibilities and confess to his personal idiosyncrasies. Instead of distancing the investigator from the investigated, the two become so intertwined that to witness how Fitz eventually removes himself from the circumstance highlights what is best about this bravura entertainment. The fact that we can feel one iota of sorrow or pity over Eddie Fitzgerald and his egomaniacal manipulation of the entire human race speaks volumes to Cracker as a concept and Robbie Coltrane as an actor. Good old Hagrid from Harry Potter (along with dozens of other roles) really elevates this series by making his characterization of Fitz inexcusably arrogant and self-centered. Trading on his size to show the emotionally "small" man within, Coltrane gives his cad a core of goodness that manifests itself at inopportune moments and a steely determination that can occasionally blind him to the truth. There has never been a more complex and craven center to a supposed heroic cop show than Eddie Fitzgerald. And that's because an old Greek ideal of what a "hero" is (a superman with a fatal flaw) makes up the heart of Cracker's concept. Along with the rest of the cast, this is television at its finest, and there is nothing subjective about said statement.