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Vera, Set 3
Vera is a mystery crime series based upon a series of bestselling books written by author Ann Cleeves, who continued her work writing these novels after the creation of the TV adaptation, reportedly influenced by the performance from lead Brenda Blethyn (Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice), whose mannerisms and charm in the role is a large part of its success. This quiet mystery drama unfolds in each episode with a episodic approach where each part plays like individual books in an ongoing series of stories set with the same primary characters in the investigative roles.
The main character is Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn), a tough and determined Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) working for the (fictional) population of Northumberland with their city police. Vera's work is to do the sleuthing and piece-by-piece unfolding of mysteries by asking various individuals connected to the latest crime about the person or events that unfolded and to get to the bottom of it all. In each episode, Vera is the key to solving the mystery and goes about her incredible work with immense ability and with her unique charm. She's a strong-headed and smart person; arguably the most essential in the work of her company and she goes about each day with as much wit and skill as the day before.
Her companion on her job is Detective Sergeant (DS) Joe Ashworth (David Leon), a person whom she finds a bit of a connection to (even if they tend to have small quarrels). It seems as though the two are close in a mother-son sort of way, but not in a paternal sense. Sensing that Vera sometimes needs a little help and guidance from him, Joe tends to look out for her, helping guide her through some issues she has with her own personal demons - her alcohol problem and issues with her health that she struggles with and often pushes aside while working on her cases.
In Set 3 (Season 3) of the show, four new mysteries are brought to television with a combination of brand new stories told exclusively for the series from the writers who work on the production and adaptations of previously published novels written by the creator of the character, Ann Cleeves. This balance seems to work well for the series as it allows for the show to be both something fresh for viewers who have already read the books and want something new and simultaneously offering up adaptations to those who want those for the popular book series inspiring the ongoing mysteries of Vera and co.
The episodes featured on this set include: Castles in the Air, where a woman was discovered shot dead while on a vacation with some friends and Vera must piece together this complicated story. In Poster Child, a surgeon is shot dead and his two daughters are kidnapped, but one is adopted and there is more to her history and how things unfold is surprising at every turn.
In Young Gods, a man drowns and the death may have had more to it with a menacing letter and an idea of a possible poisoning before his drowning. In Prodigal Son, a complicated plot unfolds about a murdered retired cop who was discussed as beloved by some and looked down upon by others. Who murdered him and for what reason? This episode unfolds with many red-herrings and a ending one can't see coming from the storytelling, but it's an edge of your seat thrill ride (along with the rest of this season of stories).
For those who look forward to mystery of the week type series productions, Vera is a higher quality one than most and manages to stand apart as a distinctive creation due to the quality performance from Brenda Blethyn in the main role. Her acting is immensely good here. She manages to delve into this character with confident finesse, creating a deeper layer to the part than the writing alone offers, though one would expect nothing less from such a talent who has been nominated multiple times for Oscars in her film roles. Through the characters mannerisms brought to life by Blethyn's thoughtful considerations as a gifted actor, the storytelling excels better than it would have otherwise. Vera is a quality mystery program which continues to be entertaining for audiences with its third season outing.
Vera: Set 3 arrives on DVD by Acorn Media with a four disc set containing one feature length episode per disc. One would think that this decision means that the encoding quality would be good because of the idea of separate discs for the episodes, but the quality is unfortunately an inconsistent part of this release. Color reproduction and detail is often good but the series also has difficulty with dark scenes and there are numerous spots where bad compression artifacts distract from the presentation and take this release down a few notches for discerning picture quality enthusiasts. This is a bit underwhelming for such a modern production, and at times it almost seems to just be the level of quality one would expect from standard steaming services like Amazon Prime and others.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio presentation is basic but does a good job with the dialogue reproduction. There isn't much fancy audio-work here and the series is sparse with music and sound effects, so this isn't really a show where one should expect a stunning and memorable audio design. The audio works just fine though with this drama mystery series.
English SDH subtitles are provided for the deaf and hard of hearing.
The main extras on this release are text based interviews with Brenda Blethyn and David Leon. Each would take about two minutes or so to read and offer a little bit of insight into their own approaches on the series. The set also contains a slideshow style group of production photos.
Vera: Set 3 offers up the third season of the mystery series in a decent set with quality episodes and good characters to keep things a bit more interesting than usual. Each segment works as a standalone feature length film and with a solid mystery (even if sometimes the writers make things too difficult for someone to properly guess the ending before it happens on the show). Fans of the genre will be pleased by the production values, the acting, and the overall vibe created from this excellent series. Set 3 presents another successful season for the fans.
Inexplicably, Acorn Media delayed the release of Vera: Set 3 for a long time I thought this was the season prior to the latest upcoming season (based on the broadcast dates). Fans can look forward to knowing that the DVD release of Vera: Set 4 will release in October of 2014 and know that a fifth season will begin airing in 2015 (on ITV stations: the US airdates are to be determined).
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.