‘Prime Suspect: 1973’ Episode 2 review: ITV’s new Jane Tennison prequel continues

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Prime Suspect 1973 isn’t primarily an exercise in nostalgia.

Even so, it’s clearly set in a more innocent time when criminals could carry pneumatic drills and sledgehammers into a café that’s next door to a bank, in broad daylight, without attracting any suspicion.  How the ‘bank job’ subplot ties into the murder enquiry is not yet clear, other than the least enthusiastic of the burglars fixating on newspaper reports of the killing.  It’s unlikely to be just mere coincidence – although it is possible.

There’s already quite the network of coincidence running through the story.  The mugging of the burglars’ mother was interrupted by WPC Tennison last week; and the father was responsible for the death of a copper in a case with which DI Bradfield was involved.  Alun Armstong as the father is still in prison, from where he is orchestrating the burglary and, given the period, it’s hard not to imagine his scenes as taking place inside Slade Prison.  If a wily Scots prison officer pops up next week to interrupt the plotting I won’t be at all surprised.

Back to this week though, and there’s another reminder of ‘the olden days’ when Tennison has to submit forms “to the GPO” to get a list of phone numbers.  As is often the way of crime dramas, the cops have most but not all of the number, and before the GPO even has chance to respond Tennison stumbles upon the number.  Cue more nostalgia, reminding us of an age where you would write your phone number across the dial of the phone.

In fact it’s the home phone of the murdered girl’s parents, prompting a police examination of their house.  I can’t help but think that nowadays this would already have been done, if only to look for stray hairs to match DNA, but I guess it’s just something else that was different in 1973.  Sure enough, in the late girl’s room the police find locks fitted to the windows and doors to keep somebody in; and scratch marks on the door where somebody wanted to get out…

My money’s on it having been a misguided attempt by the parents to get their daughter off the drugs, an enforced cold turkey, but as far as this week is concerned it’s sufficiently damning evidence to have the father arrested, thus giving us a second prime suspect in as many weeks.

Inbetween all the police work, young Jane even finds time to (begrudgingly) attend her sister’s wedding rehearsal; and to go boozing with Bradfield.  Despite giving otherwise superb performances, surprisingly neither actor is at all convincing when called upon to ‘walk drunk’.

So for a tight, gripping crime drama, make sure to keep up with this series.  If, however, you’re mainly interested in convincingly boozy coppers in an early-seventies setting then track down Life on Mars instead.  Now there was a great show, I really used to love that—

But no, I think that’s quite enough nostalgia for one week isn’t it!

Aired at 9pm on Tuesday 9 March 2017 on ITV.

Buy the complete original Prime Suspect series box set on Amazon here.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let us know below…