Waking the Dead: Series 5, Episodes 9 and 10: Undertow
Written by Oliver Brown; Directed by David Thacker
Undertow is actually a rather better episode than I’d remembered, but it still suffers from the problem that plagues the other Series 5 episodes that don’t focus specifically on the past of one of the main characters: it seems almost like filler, as if the writers were really excited about delving into regulars’ back-stories and were simply treading water with the episodes in between. Here, the chance activation of the credit card of a murder victim sets in motion a chain of events that leads the team to suspect Steven Hunt (Stephen Moyer), a man currently serving the final stretch of a prison sentence for benefit fraud, of a series of past murders and attempted rapes. Lacking sufficient evidence, and meeting only hostility from Hunt and his family, Boyd decides to have him tailed when he is released, hoping he slips up and they get the evidence they need to pin on him before he finds his next victim.
As with Subterraneans, there’s no real effort made to conceal the killer’s identity: if there isn’t a giant sign saying “Guilty!” over Hunt’s head the moment he is introduced, then it’s well and truly lit up and flashing in neon by the one-hour mark. It’s not a negative as such, but it’s the second storyline of this season to follow such a formula, although at least this time round the audience isn’t constantly several steps ahead of the police. Actually, the writer of this episode does a rather good job of exploiting the team’s frustration at being 99% sure of the culprit’s identity but unable to do anything about it. For me personally, the most interesting aspect of the storyline was Grace’s use of the geography of the various attacks to help work out the killer’s identity, working from the hypothesis that most people don’t go further afield than they have to.
That said, particularly in the second half, things get a bit farcical, with Boyd first trying to drown Hunt, much to Grace’s consternation (“Why didn’t you just slap him about like you usually do?” she demands frostily - me thinks someone somewhere is taking the piss), and then agreeing to a completely asinine entrapment scam with Stella as Hunt’s bait. (We’re supposed to believe that, despite having been tasked with tailing him in the most obvious manner imaginable, Hunt isn’t going to recognise Stella as part of the police force.) As such, we end up in a situation where Part 1 is superior to Part 2, a problem which also plagued the two previous storylines in this series. I don’t dislike this episode by any means. The interplay between the team is still as good as ever, and the banter is often highly amusing, but it’s a minor effort overall.