Waking the Dead: Series 4, Episodes 1 and 2: In Sight of the Lord
Written by Tony McHale; Directed by Andy Hay
Shortly after Waking the Dead’s third series had completed its initial run, it won an Emmy (oddly enough, for what I consider the weakest episode of that series, Multistorey). The result was that, for the fourth series, it received an extended run of twelve episodes, up from the usual eight. The same producer, Richard Burrell, remained on board, and he succeeded in securing the same key writers who had been responsible for the show’s growth.
Oddly enough, though, Series 4 starts with a storyline penned by an outsider. Tony McHale is the creator and current executive producer/lead writer of Holby City; he also wrote and directed several episodes of Casualty between Series 9 and 14. His scripts, particularly of late, have had something of an unhealthy obsession with religion, Christianity to be precise. In fact, it seems to be his goal to get as many storylines revolving around religion as possible in the show under his guidance. This episode of Waking the Dead is no exception, offering up a whole lot of cryptic biblical references in a storyline which involves a serial killer hammering nine inch nails into the skulls of various men who were formerly soldiers in a Second World War army battalion.
This two-parter is unusual in that whereas normally Waking the Dead’s storylines start off reasonably logical and then throw you for a loop in the final half-hour, it’s actually the other way round this time. That’s not to say that the episode is particularly difficult to follow, but, for the first hour and a half, the writing is rather choppy, lurching from one plot development to another without a clear sense of logical progression. Boyd and the team make several rather odd leaps in logic, and while the majority of them don’t end up playing out (such as Boyd’s seemingly out-of-the-blue suggestion that the victims could have been Communists and were therefore assassinated for their political beliefs), I get the sense that McHale knew where he wanted to end up but had a bit of trouble actually getting there.
Actually, of all the Waking the Dead storylines, this is probably actually the most giallo-like of the lot, not only in terms of the killer’s motivation but also his attire: he wears a black coat, black fedora and black gloves, and at one point even employs the sort of harsh whisper that many a giallo killer has been known to employ in order to disguise his voice. The director, Andy Hay, has clearly watched some Argento in his time.
Elsewhere, it’s business as usual. Boyd has sprouted a rather alarming amount of facial hair, which in turn seems to have done nothing for his temper (“I don’t give a shit about your rights!” he bellows at one suspect who has asked for his lawyer to be present). Meanwhile, see if you can spot how often Frankie is conveniently positioned behind a table or another character: the actress, Holly Aird, was pregnant at the time, and, as the series progressed, the production team had to resort to greater and greater lengths to conceal her ballooning stomach.