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Waking the Dead: Series 2, Episodes 5 and 6: Special Relationships


Written by Stephen Davis; Directed by David Thacker

Around a year ago, the body of Home Office Advisor Katherine Reed (Francesca Ryan) was discovered by burglar Ricky Taft (Del Synnott) during a routine break-in. Flash forward to the present, and Taft has just been acquitted of killing her. With the investigation closed, it becomes a cold case and is immediately sent the way of Boyd and company… along with a humourless Home Office auditor (the two are completely unconnected, naturally). The team’s investigations reveal a maze of conspiracies and cover-ups, and the more digging that is done into Katherine Reed’s private life, the less it makes sense.

This is probably the most convoluted Waking the Dead story so far, and one that firmly establishes the series’ penchant for outlandish explanations. It appears that almost everyone is/was screwing everyone else, both literally and figuratively. In order to delve into this and show just how mixed up everything is, I’m afraid I’m going to have to enter into spoiler territory.

Highlight below to reveal spoiler text:

Katherine Reed was what Grace describes as a “professional feminist”. Convinced that men are an “evolutionary mistake” and are pre-programmed with violent tendencies, she wrote several books on the subject and was a prominent campaigner against the male-dominated social hierarchy before, for no clear reason, abandoning her principles and joining the very establishment she previously attacked as an advisor to the Home Office. This apparent abandoning of her principles is never adequately explained and is, I feel, the episode’s major oversight, but what does become clear is that Katherine was if not a lesbian then at least bisexual, and that her marriage to Professor Ray Levin (Anton Lesser) was a sham.

Initially, I thought the episode was going down that well-trodden television route of portraying all bisexuals as unable to keep their pants on and willing to sleep with anyone and anything, and initially the evidence does seem to point in this direction, but there is a quite intriguing twist in it all which shows that the writer of the episode, Stephen Davis, is above such simplicities. A key piece of evidence which emerges is the fact that, on or close to the night of her death, Katherine had sex with a man (semen is found inside the body). In one of his trademark “rule-breaking to get results” moments, Boyd pilfers the razor of a key suspect, Sir James Beatty (Corin Redgrave), allowing Frankie to match his DNA to the semen found inside Katherine. Add to this the fact that Katherine was involved in a secret (albeit seemingly very loving) relationship with her husband’s colleague, Lorna Gyles (Amanda Root), and was at one point discovered in bed with another woman by the aforementioned husband, and Katherine is really shaping up to be a bit of a slapper.

The rather brilliant twist, however, is that Sir James Beatty did not in fact have sex with Katherine, either on the night of her death or at any other time. He was having an affair, but not with Katherine: rather, he was engaged in an illicit tryst with his secretary, Ann Hardingham (Kika Markham). His wife, a deeply deranged former GP by the name of Lady Alice Beatty (Patricia Hodge), killed Katherine, believing such an affair between her and her husband to be taking place, and planted her husband’s semen inside the body. Alice, whose status and money all came from her husband, therefore now had a perfect means of preventing him from leaving her: if he did, she could, without much effort, set in motion the events which would lead to him being convicted of Katherine’s murder.

See what I mean about complexity? And I haven’t even got into Boyd’s past relationship with the investigating DI in Katherine’s murder, Jess Worrall (Ruth Gemmell), his signing and flouting of the Official Secrets Act, an interview with an extremely uncooperative CIA operative and a grand conspiracy involving Boyd suspecting either MI5 or the CIA of assassinating Katherine. There’s a massive amount of stuff going on here, and I’m not convinced that it all comes together in an entirely satisfying way (the Home Office auditor, in particular, feels somewhat tacked on and is brushed aside just over 20 minutes into the second part, when Boyd sends her packing), but it does strike me as quite clever in its own way. It also helps that, as with the previous episode, also penned by Stephen Davis, this one is rather witty, poking fun at the Boyd character and his thinly-veiled fear (or perhaps misunderstanding) of tough women. The angry, over the top Boyd of later years is definitely beginning to take shape here, by the way, culminating in him bawling out Grace, to the best of my recollection the first time this has happened. (Oddly enough, it would take Grace a further four years to declare “enough is enough”.)

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 2:00 PM
Categories: Reviews | TV | Waking the Dead

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