The third series of the crime drama focused once more on the friendship between DC Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) and DC Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp). Amelia Bullmore is back as no-nonsense DCI Gill Murray, we get liberal sprinklings of Pippa Haywood as DSI Julie Dodson while Danny Miller joins the cast as DS Rob Waddington. However, the stand-out addition to the cast is guest star Nicola Walker. She's a recurring theme within this series and, unfortunately, that caused some chronology problems, despite how fantastic the storyline was.
The first episode opens with DCI Murray being strangled from behind in her car and threatened with a knife. Then we flash back to eight months earlier. The first case that the team deal with involve the corpse of Eunice Bevan whose decapitated body was found on the staircase of her home while her bedridden husband awaits rescue upstairs. The couple's daughter Helen Bartlett (Walker) is immediately a suspect and those viewers paying attention recognise her voice as the one who took Gill hostage, setting up the season-long strand. Fair enough.
However, to complicate the series chronology, episode two is rightly an episode that belonged either at the end of series two or right at the beginning of series three. Rachel is experiencing difficulties in her new marriage so we go back a few more months to see the circumstances surrounding their wedding and the accusation that Rachel incited her brother to murder. It was a storyline that needed this conclusion, yes, but not at that point. I completely understand why the decisions for the series chronology were made: they wanted a hook for the series, they wanted to establish Helen Bartlett's character as a recurring and important one. They actually trailed the series with Helen being delivered up to Gill by Rachel and Janet. It was the right decision for the storyline but possibly not for the series.
Now - episode content. I actually really enjoyed every individual episode, even though I did have issues with the overall structure. Nicola Walker's outstanding first outing as Helen Bartlett prompted a rather gushy adoration post from me but she kept up that momentum in the four episodes she appeared in, especially as things became more grisly. Another episode that was particularly affecting was episode six which focused on abuse and murder in a care home.
The relationship between Rachel and Janet fractures this series when Rachel goes into self-destruct mode once too often. This provided a nice backdrop to the final episodes. One thing I also appreciated was the remembrance of little details that are brought up throughout the series, both related to personal and professional lives. It was rewarding for long-term fans and added authenticity to the series.
Finally, some of the guest stars were fantastic. Pippa Haywood's returning character, DSI Dodson, was both intimidating and funny. There's a wonderful moment between her and Amelia Bullmore in the middle of a very gruesome crime scene that made me laugh out loud. In addition, Tracie Bennett (who I saw a few years ago in End of the Rainbow) arrives as Rachel's mother, not a character you can like but one who certainly makes your skin crawl. I'm not sure of the point of Danny Miller's arrival as the new DS. For such a good actor the part seems too small but, then again, this is a show centred on the women. Maybe he'll evolve if a fourth series is commissioned.
The niggles I have about chronology didn't detract from my enjoyment of this series. It remained the programme I looked forward to week after week and I'll keep my fingers crossed that the ratings were high enough to secure a renewal. Oh, and ITV? Don't use the ratings for the last episode to judge - that was on a Thursday instead of a Wednesday and you didn't trail it enough to be irritated by any loss in ratings.