Waking the Dead: Series 1, Episodes 5 and 6: A Simple Sacrifice
Written by Simon Mirren; Directed by Robert Del Maestro
This is probably the weakest storyline of the first series, although not because it’s in any way bad. On the contrary, Series 1 is remarkably solid overall, and this merely sticks out as the least impressive of a very impressive bunch. The plot this time round focuses on the impending release of Annie Keel (Harriet Walter), a woman who, nearly 25 years ago, confessed to stabbing to death her husband and her son’s friend, who was sleeping over at the time, but leaving her own son, Sam, alive. The case is re-opened in 2001 due to two factors: first of all, the evidence appears flimsy and Annie’s confession too pat (the implication being that she is covering up for someone else). Secondly, someone has been sending the police anonymous letters claiming that Annie is innocent and that he/she knows who the real culprit is. Finally, Grace doesn’t believe that the attacks fit the profile of a woman, particularly a mother.
Quickly, it becomes apparent that the key to solving the mystery rests with Sam Keel (Cal Macaninch). Why was he left alive when the other child was killed? It’s therefore somewhat irritating that Boyd and his team take absolutely no steps towards tracking him down until very late in the game. Equally frustrating is the fact that, early on in the second part of this story, it becomes fairly clear who the real culprit, the same person who is now writing to the police, is. This is not because the evidence allows the viewer to work out why he/she would commit the crime, but simply because what we know about the killer’s gender from flashbacks allows us to rule out various other parties, eventually leaving us with two possible suspects, only one of whom is in a position to be sending the police information by the final half-hour.
Systematic elimination of this sort is not necessarily a bad thing (and I’m sure it’s the sort of thing the police find themselves faced with all the time), but it’s slightly unsatisfying in a detective drama because it leaves the audience in a position of knowing who did it but not having the faintest clue why. It also provides us with information that the police themselves do not possess (the flashbacks), which in turn makes their unearthing of his/her identity a bit too convenient. When he/she does reveal his/her motives, during a particularly tense stand-off, they seem fairly pat (his/her reason for killing Sam’s friend is particularly anticlimactic) and don’t really lead to a satisfying conclusion. Far more interesting is why Annie Keel took the blame, and it’s this element that helps keep the episode above water.
Holby connections: a shedload. The writer, Simon Mirren, penned several episodes of Casualty during the Series 13-14 period, while the director, Robert Del Maestro, has helmed many episodes of both Casualty and Holby City over the years. The adult Sam Keel is played by Cal Macaninch, better known as DI John Keenan in Holby Blue, while Rakie Ayola (nurse Kyla Tyson in present day Holby City) has a semi-important role here as a prison officer.