The British seem to have a knack for crafting better than average crime drama, particularly on television. (I may have said this somewhere before.) And when dramatic heavyweight Martin Shaw is in the lead, it's difficult for a show to fail. Such it is with George Gently: Series 5, in which Shaw reprises his role as the stoic police inspector in Sixties England. It's not an unreserved success, but it is really, really good.
Inspector Gently is joined by the still sloppy and arrogant, but essentially good hearted, Detective Sergeant Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) and PC Taylor (Simon Hubbard). They investigate crimes, mostly murder but other serious offenses such as kidnapping as well, in the turbulent and changing milieu of the 1960's. Bacchus is very much the "new man", wanting to fit into to the new moral and intellectual landscaped. While Gently is of the old guard: not very expressive, calm, studied, principled and straightforward, but with a deep well of compassion and understanding to call upon.
George Gently has always delved into the darker side of human nature, and as a show that deals with the worst impulses of humanity, the urge to murder and worse, it certainly can't be helped. However, it seems that Series 5 is a bit darker and more cynical than it has been in the past, with less room for a glimmer of redemption to leak through. Particularly bleak is the strong anti-adoption theme in the episode "The Lost Child", in which the single mothers and their families are innocent angels, and all those involved on the adoption side are lying, manipulative, greedy baddies. George Gently can be counted on having one "preachy" episode per series, and perhaps they've just gone a tad overboard on this one, but the tone is a bit off putting. It's not that the episode is poorly executed, or performed (Helen Baxendale gives perhaps the best performance of Series 5 as the grieving adoptive mother), but it's hard to puzzle out the why behind the creative choices.
Gently and Bacchus deal with racism, class conflict, corruption, the odd mobster or gangster, and various other immoralities and wickedness. Gently is mostly unflappable, until he is accused of taking bribes and falsifying evidence, and even murder, and has to sort out his enemies from his friends, which turns out to be a difficult task. Bacchus is mostly rash and callow, though perhaps he's learning something from his years under Gently's tutelage. The episodes are all well produced, with compelling characters, and sufficiently tricky mysteries to satisfy the fans. Series 5 consists of four episodes on four discs. Below is a list of episodes, with descriptive text as provided on the discs:
Gently Northern Soul
Gently with Class
The Lost Child
Gently in the Cathedral
Inspector Gently is a strong character, and played with subtlety and wit by Martin Shaw. He and Ingleby as the young sergeant play off of each other well, and interact strongly with the various guest stars, all of whom turn in fine performances. The show is still going strong in its fifth series, and though both Gently and Bacchus seem to be in very dire straits at the end of the last episode, Series 6 is forthcoming, so we can predict that the show will continue on for some time. Highly recommended.