Recently screened on PBS to much acclaim is Prime Suspect 7 really going to be Jane Tennison's final act? Or will Jane perhaps be bought out of retirement sometime soon? The pundits and even Helen Mirren herself say no, and that this is definitely Jane's last foray into the underbelly of London's crime scene. But I think not, one thing is for sure, Jane will definitely be back.
In this last chapter we meet a beaten-down, cynical and desperately lonely Jane Tennison, whose impending retirement and restlessness is exacerbated by her love of drink. The Detective Inspector has devoted for life to rooting out the bad guys, but now in her sixties, without a partner and childless and alienated from her family - with her father (Frank Finlay) dying of cancer - life has become a time of reckoning.
She had devoted her life to this work at a tremendous personal cost and now through the through the misty miasma of a hangover, which Tennison nurses with vodka before driving off to work, she leads an investigation into the disappearance of Sally, a 14-year-old girl. When her body is eventually discovered and it is learned that she was pregnant, suspicion immediately falls on her black boyfriend, and then on her devoted father Tony (Gary Lewis).
Perhaps it is only Penny (Laura Greenwood) Sally's best friend who can unlock the key to what happened to the girl. As the investigation continues and Jane and her colleagues work to identify their prime suspect, it soon becomes evident that Sally had an inappropriate relationship with Penny's father Sean (Stephen Tomkinson), who also happens to be a headmaster at one of the local schools.
Jane must conduct her search for Sally's killer whilst also trying to keep her desperate need for alcohol hidden. When the emotional fallout from the murder eventually starts to take its toll on the distrustful and world-weary detective, Jane lets her guard down and is inexplicably drawn to Penny, as this wayward girl begins to capture the order woman's heart.
Jane is certainly living on the edge here, she desperately wants to close this case, but she's too obsessed with battling her own demons. In one instance, during Jane's first interrogation scene, the initial suspect points out that Tennison reeks of alcohol, and her boss later asks her to use up her remaining leave and seek treatment.
Ms. Mirren imbues her character with such a dangerous beauty that it is impossible not to be flawed by the betrayal. Facing a reluctant retirement, Jane is resolutely mocking, troubled and self-destructive, yet always appealing and oddly heroic, rising to the occasion just when you think there is no more fight left in her.
Mirren has indeed made her Jane Tennison exasperating, larger-than-life and intimately human, and there hasn't been a moment when Mirren is not thrilling to watch on screen. Director Philip Martin instills this episode with a type of foreboding and gritty realism, and without a doubt, the streets and council estates and parks of London are the extra characters in the story. But make no mistake; this is Helen Mirren's show as she makes this character her own.
In this final installment Jane is forced to ask the question "why" - were all of her life's sacrifices really worth it? Why did she give up so much to do this often unappreciated and agonizing job? Thanks to Mirren's restrained, controlled and totally compelling performance, the answer is an unambiguous and unequivocal, yes. Mike Leonard December 06.