Waking the Dead: Series 6, Episodes 9 and 10: Double Bind
Written by Richard Warlow; Directed by Andy Hay
Confession time: the first time this episode aired, I gave up on it at the end of the first part. That, for me, is incredibly rare. Generally, if I start watching a show, I stick with it, especially if it’s part of a long-running series I’ve been following since the beginning. For whatever reason, though, something about this episode served to distance me from it so much that I just couldn’t continue with it. Maybe it was the dizzying jump cuts, time lapse photography and clumsily “trippy” scenes. Maybe it was Miles Anderson running around gurning like a ninny and doing a piss-poor job of portraying a man off his face on LSD. Maybe it was the fact that Grace barely appears in the episode. Or maybe it was because I was feeling under the weather at the time - I can’t actually remember.
The point is that something about this episode was so unpalatable to me that I did something I almost never do. What makes this double strange is that, watching it for a second time, and actually watching both parts instead of just the first, I didn’t get the same feeling of revulsion or apathy (whichever it was). For reasons that I’ll go into in a moment, this is not a particularly good episode, but it’s far from the worst of the season or indeed the series as a whole. Basically, the story goes that, as a teenagers, Daniel Lennon (Miles Anderson) stabbed both his parents to death and has spent his entire life since then incarcerated in a psychiatric unit. One day, on the way back from a trip to the ophthalmologist with his psychiatrist, Dr. Caroline Ritter (Jill Baker), he forces the car off the road and, in the confusion, escapes. The first thing he does is to log on in an Internet café and send an email to the owners of a house in Hampstead, telling them to dig up their flowerbed. Surprise, surprise, there’s a body buried there, and a post-mortem reveals that the death is likely to have taken place weeks before Lennon killed his parents. Is he another of Lennon’s victims, or is (in Waking the Dead tradition) more going on than meets the eye? Meanwhile, Grace has had enough of Boyd’s erratic behaviour and, declaring that she can’t work with him any more, walks out on the team.
I’m still not entirely sure why Grace was all but written out of this two-parter. In terms of characterisation, it makes sense for her to walk out, and it actually comes as something of a pleasant surprise to hear her finally telling Boyd that enough is enough. The problem is that it’s never resolved. Grace leaves, comes back briefly (in Part 2) to interview a key witness, then leaves again, but come the next episode, it’s as if nothing ever happened. As someone who stuck with the show for so long because I enjoyed the characters and their interaction, this feels like a complete slap in the face. Okay, I’ll grant you, there is some nice writing here and there, with the team’s discussions often petering out or reaching dead ends because, without Grace there to provide the psychological perspective, a vital component of what makes them work is missing. It’s also mildly amusing to see Boyd rooting around in Grace’s office, pouring over some of her textbooks and trying to figure out the psych angle himself, but, bereft of the character, the show feels remarkably empty.
The central mystery that is the focus of the episode can’t make up for this lack either. While it starts out reasonably promising, with Part 1 raising numerous questions and the web of clues and suspects suitably tortuous, the pay-off simply doesn’t justify the setup. To be blunt, the explanation to the mystery is utterly mundane, meaning that the journey to get there hardly feels worthwhile. Oh, and a certain character’s identity, a major issue particularly in the second part, is staggeringly obvious you wonder why the writers even bothered trying to set it up as a puzzle.
On a side note, my reviews have now caught up with my viewing. Now I just need to watch Yahrzeit and Series 6 will be done and dusted. I can’t say I’ll be sorry to see the back of it.