ITV's critically acclaimed crime drama returns, starring multi-award winning actress Brenda Blethyn as DCI Vera Stanhope. Based on the bestselling Inspector Stanhope books by renowned writer Ann Cleeves, Vera and her team are faced with a series of daunting challenges.
ByprisrobTOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 31 March 2016
DCI Vera Stanhope of Northumberland is my kind of detective. In this series 3 she has a new haircut, which is more akin to wind blown and the absence of a hairbrush. She dresses for warmth, not style, although her raincoat is fashionable, and her sturdy shoes look as if they are handmade. All this discussion of her sense or lack of style is necessary to get the full picture of this detective. She is someone you feel you can trust, however, you cannot pull the wool over her. She knows when you are lying. Vera is down to earth, dresses for warmth, eats when she can, drinks more often, and her life as a DCI is her life.
Brenda Blethyn plays Vera, and she is absolutely brilliant. She has the ability to transform herself into Vera, her actions, her speech and her essence demand respect. In this series we are privy to more information about Vera's life, as she relays bits and pieces to her new DS Joe Ashworth, played by David Leon. DC Holly Lawson is played by Wunmi Mosaku, who is feeling bullied by Vera. Jon Morrison plays long time DC Kenny Lockhart, and Paul Ritter plays Billy Cartwright, the pathologist.a
Series 3 as usual, provides the best in acting, writing and directing. The episodes are all new and reality driven. We can see this happening in any neighborhood. These episodes take place in Northumberland, the moors, the desolate places and the nicer neighborhoods. Vera has a cast of characters who are all put in their place, she wants them to work harder, do more, bring in the clues and help solve the crimes. In series 3 there are four 90 minute episodes, The Ghost Position, Silent Voices, Sandman Years, and A Certain Samaritan. I am such a fan of Brends Blythyn and Vera, and I look forward to each episode.
ByFriarofdoomTOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 17 September 2013
Vera returns for a third series and credit to all involved for not simply sticking to the same formula.
Brenda Blethyn continues to shine as the reclusive and somewhat grumpy DCI. Although still a sharp tongued and impatient boss she has mellowed just slightly. The continually grim outlook has some chinks of light and her appreciation of her team is more easily seen. A new detective joins the team and instead of her usual bullying Vera encourages and listens to him. A living relative of hers is also introduced, will she meet them or remain her usual aloof self and avoid contact? I'll not spoil it.
Elsewhere things are changing, David Leon's DS Ashworth is getting more confident and challenging his boss more often. He is also getting fed up with her refusal to take her own health seriously and keeps pushing Vera to get her act together, a bone of contention between them as her drinking becomes heavier, more frequent and more public.
Jon Morrison as Scottish DC Kenny Lockhart becomes a more sympathetic character too. The episode where he dyes his hair adds humour but some warmth to his character too.
Even Paul Ritter's philandering Pathologist Billy Cartwright crumbles emotionally and shows affection for Vera.
The stories themselves are a far more diverse collection than the previous 2 seasons. The first episode is quite similar to what has gone before but the second, `Poster Child', is a twisting tale of apparent abduction that keeps adding new plot revelations and by the end has completely turned everything on it's head. It is both topical and engrossing. You'll think you've sussed everything 30 minutes in but give it time. The third episode, `Young Gods' takes place around an outdoor pursuit camp and an exclusive school. A git of a leader is offed and the teenagers who saw him die have little evidence to give but the trail leads to his old school and just about everyone involved has secrets to hide. The fourth & final episode, `Prodigal son', See's the team go into overdrive at the death of an ex-copper. He turns out to have been a womanising swine but is that what lead to his murder? Again the plot twists are pretty convoluted and make for an interesting 90 minutes.
As ever the plots are inventive and enjoyable but it is surely the characters themselves that have audiences coming back for another series. Brenda Blethyn continues her sterling work in the title role and a slightly warmer and open side being revealed is welcome. Her team are perhaps not quite as developed as they really should be considering this is now 3 series' old. Certainly Ashworth's family are little more than a footnote and the rest of the team barely visible at times. Surely the incorrigible Billy the pathologist could be given a bit more to do? Still this is called `Vera' so I suppose the show revolving around her is to be expected.
This remains an easy to recommend show and introduces some extra dimensions to a few characters and takes the settings beyond just a windblown & desolate Northumbrian countryside. A good solid return for this enjoyable show.
VERA is a new, contemporaneously set British television series made by ITV. The British mystery series, in its 2013 third season, returned to record ratings in the United Kingdom. The series has aired in the United States on PBS channels. It is based on the best-selling mysteries of British author Ann Cleeves, and like her work, is set in the extreme northeast of England, just under the Roman-built Hadrian's Wall, which separates England from Scotland. It stars two-time Oscar® nominee Brenda Blethyn (LITTLE VOICE, SECRETS AND LIES, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, ATONEMENT) as DCI Vera Stanhope, a solitary, obsessed, caustic investigator with a messy persona and private life. She's 40 pounds overweight, a bit disheveled; dresses for comfort and warmth --think female Columbo -- in the brutal Northumberland winters.
Stanhope pursues the truth in the cases of murder, kidnapping, and blackmail that occur on her patch of Geordie-land. She's driven by her own demons; fails to follow the rules of proper nutrition; hides her loneliness well; drinks more than she ought. We're told she lost her mother as a young child, was raised by a distant father, is estranged from her only sister. She's a complex character: a brilliant, independent cop with a dumb private life; a character that undoubtedly requires an actress of Blethyn's skill. Unusually enough, when on the road with her DS, Vera, rather than Joe, generally drives. Control issues, anyone? In addition to Leon, who characterizes his part with an odd, bowlegged walk, as if he was malnourished as a child and had rickets, she's supported by Paul Ritter and Jon Morrison. Guest stars include Liam Cunningham, (GAME OF THRONES); Saskia Reeves, (LUTHER); Dean Andrews, (LIFE ON MARS). And Julie Graham, Gina McKee, Judy Parfitt, Nicholas Gleaves.
The episodes are:
Disc 1 Episode 1: Castles in the Air Three girlfriends spend the weekend partying at an isolated country retreat; one ends up dead with a shotgun blast to the chest. A local hunter is the prime suspect. Stanhope realizes, too late in the game, that the dead woman may not have been the intended target.
Disc 2 Episode 2: Poster Child A respected surgeon is murdered; his two teenage daughters abducted. A wife and mother is left distraught; Stanhope, at a loss for a motive.
Disc 3 Episode 3: Young Gods An extreme sports fanatic plunges to his death from a cliff after an apparent fight; Stanhope begins to search for potential enemies.
Disc 4 Episode 4: Prodigal Son The fatal stabbing of a former police officer outside a Newcastle nightclub sets Stanhope on an effort to recreate the victim's last movements. What she finds ultimately leads her back 25 years. Particularly strong, we thought.
The episodes have been filmed in the original villages of the Cleeves crime novels; the lonely landscapes of Northumberland look good here. But there are some problems with script continuity; in the beginning of a scene we may have snow on the ground; it will disappear by scene's end. The acting is uniformly powerful, with particular praise due Blethyn. In contrast to the female leads of most American TV cop shows, she's not young, pretty, sexy or well-dressed. She doesn't have a husband, or a lover, and doesn't seem interested in getting one. She's interested in getting her perps, man or woman, and she does. Highly recommended.