Suspects Series 1 Episode 1 Review
Suspects is the first original drama for Channel 5 in eight years, and the broadcaster didn’t pull any punches when its very own brand new crime procedural premiered on Wednesday, thrusting us into the action from the start alongside the three detectives “Sarge” DS Jack Weston (Damien Molony), DC Charlie Steele (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and “boss” DI Martha Bellamy (Fay Ripley) investigating the disappearance of a two year old girl, Hope Wilkins.
The action moved forward through a series of interviews with Hope’s family and a former convicted child killer – who, it is revealed, is friends with the the missing girl’s brother Toby Wilkins (Jamie F Glover) and who, on the night of her disappearance, had argued in the off-licence where he works with Hope’s father Laurie Wilkins (Michael Colgan) – and the discovery of new pieces of evidence, including cctv footage, finger prints, a blood stained t-shirt and phone records.
With a fly-on-the-wall-filming style and the dialogue entirely improvised by the actors, the innovative format successfully created a galvanising and gritty realism, setting Suspects apart from the current saturation of TV cop and crime shows. Fast paced and completely case-focussed, the ‘real-feel’ factor elevated by a twisty turny plot, the episode maintained a suspenseful momentum, ramping up the tension and the emotion as the true facts of the case unfolded.
Throughout, we are invited right into the interview room and the police department, becoming the detectives ourselves as the pieces of the case begin to fit together, but uniquely (and perhaps most surprisingly, considering the entirely case-driven nature of the show, with no character backstory or context given to the lives of Jack, Charlie and Martha) we are also invited into engaging with those characters and the process via the close-up immediacy of, and intimacy with, their own approaches, their reactions and what makes them tick; a magnifying glass made even more visceral by the improvised lines (and also the improvised silences), a moment to moment spontaneity engaging us in a way that makes Suspects not just compelling but compulsive viewing.
In terms of character intrigue, Jack Weston is the current frontrunner and Damien steals the show, not only for a performance with standout moments of expressive nuance – most notably when interviewing Laurie Wilkins about injuries on his son’s body, and when finally arresting him at the end of the episode – but also for his simmering, just contained intensity. We may not see his life outside of policing, but it is precisely that which makes the brief clues to his character the most delightfully enigmatic treasure.
Don’t miss Suspects episode 2, 10pm Wednesday 19th February only on Channel 5.
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