New police drama in the UK The Responder it’s so authentic, and so true to its Liverpool backdrop, that I had to stop my preview after 20 minutes.
The accents of Martin Freeman and the cast were so strong that I felt like I was missing too much dialogue. Instead I decided to wait and watch with subtitles. I’m glad I did because this is a ripper of a series, and it’s clear that Freeman is delivering a tour de force performance.
Freeman plays troubled demoted cop Chris Carson, who works the graveyard shift alone while raising a young family with his wife Kate (MyAnna Buring). But life is sad, turns into ungrateful neighborhood squabbles, finds dead old people alone in their apartments and captures moments with family at the kitchen table like ships in the night.
Chris also undergoes therapy to cope with the demands of his job.
“I want to be a good bobby… I want to be normal,” he says.
There are also telltale signs of trouble at home, with an empty hole that has been punched in a wall.
These are all authentic touches from writer and ex-cop Tony Schumacher.
“Every night there’s spit in the face, blood on the boots and it never stops,” she tells her therapist. “I think it’s a stunner… I can’t remember the last time I did anything right.”
He is also subject to the demands of local drug dealer Carl (Ian Hart) who pressures Chris to find a local drug addict “Town Centre” Casey (Emily Fairn). But how corrupt and obligated is Chris?
“Bring me Casey so we can put him to bed,” he is warned.
While there are signs he wants to be benevolent, Chris is also heavily flawed. As the opening chapter progresses, he finds himself more trapped by circumstances and poor choices, and falls further behind the blue line.
“You’ve been disappearing these past few months,” warns wife Kate.
There are also scenes with Chris’ mother (Rita Tushingham), whose life is deteriorating in a nursing home.
“I did a good thing for someone who doesn’t normally matter,” he tells her.
Freeman is outstanding in this role, elevating the nuances of Schumacher’s script that never fits comfortably as a police hero. As the title suggests, frontline workers endure intolerable amounts of anxiety that can’t simply be turned on and off based on work shifts.
The Responder it’s one of the best things Freeman has done and I can’t wait to see where it goes, with my subs intact so I don’t miss a thing.
The Responder screens Wednesdays at 9.30pm on SBS.