Waking the Dead: Series 4, Episodes 7 and 8: Anger Management
Written by John Milne & Andy Hay; Directed by Andy Hay
“Not now, Grace. I’m having a post-crisis depression.” - Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd
A curious episode, this one, and one which, particularly in its first half, adopts a rather unconventional structure, telling the story in a non-linear fashion and shifting back and forth between different time periods (in fact, the first thing we see is the last thing to happen chronologically). I wonder if this explains the crediting of the director, Andy Hay, as co-writer - the only time this has happened for a Waking the Dead script. I try to imagine the episode playing out in a linear fashion and do have my suspicions that this how it originally started out, with the material being re-ordered to spice it up.
Either way, the result is probably the best episode of the season, primarily because of the humour that ensues from Boyd finally going to see a therapist about his temper - something I’m sure we all agree has been a long time in coming. The therapist, played with acerbic glee by Kerry Fox, forces him to face up to his unpleasant behaviour:
Varley: “When you pace about, how do you react?”
Boyd: “I pace about, I raise my voice, you know…”
Varley: “Stamp your foot and say ‘I want it now’?”
Varley: “That’s what toddlers do.”
Much of the humour comes from the fact that Boyd’s behaviour, as a result of bottling up his anger, becomes increasingly more absurd, making his team feel even more uncomfortable around him as a result. And, naturally, by the next episode, everything’s back to normal, but still, this slightly more even-tempered Boyd, while brief, makes for a nice change of pace.
The main case, meanwhile, focuses on the death of a man in a hostel, found with a bullet in his skull. The police assume it to be a suicide, but Frankie is convinced that the investigation has been botched and organises for the Cold Case Squad to take a look. Suspicion soon falls upon Sam Jacobs (Nigel Terry), a man who has just completed a stretch in prison for viciously assaulting a man who raped his wife. Sam claims to have put his violent past behind him, but, through a series of flashbacks and encounters with people from his past life, we soon come to learn that his acts of violence extend far beyond merely beating up a rapist.
Nigel Terry, the individual playing Sam Jacobs, is a gifted actor who shows up quite often in British TV series (you name it, he’s probably been in it) and, in my opinion, doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He was excellent in the opening two episodes of the previous series of Casualty as an animal rights activist whose home-made bomb unintentionally detonated in a crowded street, and, in Anger Management, he gives what I feel is his best performance that I’ve seen. Sam is a complex character, and, while there’s never any doubt that he has secrets to hide, the precise nature of these secrets remains unclear until the end, and he is portrayed in such a manner that, even when we learn the full extent of his dark past, it’s hard to lose sympathy with him. The dual nature of his life is nicely realised in many ways, among them a curious scene in which he and his family, despite being Buddhists, are shown to still bring in the Sabbath (their background is Jewish). Props also to the director for the rather inventive flamenco dance sequence which is intercut with a character preparing to break into CCHQ to retrieve some vital evidence.