"Men Should Weep" is about rape, and it certainly doesn't skirt around the issue. Anyone looking forward to an episode like "To Say I Love You", with plenty of humour and a not-too-hard-hitting storyline will probably be taken aback by how bluntly the issue of rape is handled here. That is not to say that it is not handled without sensitivity, but let's just say that after watching this you won't have any delusions as to how devastating rape is.
Floyd Malcolm (Graham Aggrey) is a black taxi driver. When he overhears his white boss, Tom Carter (John McArdle) making a racist joke to his colleagues, Floyd rapes the man's wife at the swimming pool where she works. The rape scene is shocking but not exploitative in its violence. Floyd wears a hideous mask while he rapes Catherine Carter, and he covers her head with a black hood. When it's over, he sits with her and tries to strike up a conversation ("Was it too quick for you?"). He combs her pubic hair, then throws her into the pool itself, to cleanse her of forensic evidence. As we later learn, Floyd knows all the "tricks of the trade", because he's raped and been caught before.
This episode would probably have had less impact, had writer Jimmy McGovern not decided to have one of the main characters, D.S. Jane Penhaligon (Geraldine Somerville), become a victim of rape herself in the course of the story. By doing this, we are hit with the full impact of the crime, and even then McGovern doesn't flinch from showing us how relationships complicate and disintegrate as a result of rape.
This is generally accepted as the point in "Cracker" when the personal lives of the main characters became perhaps more interesting than those of the criminals. Penhaligon's attack was a clever move by McGovern, because the alcoholism and gambling addiction of Fitz (Robbie Coltrane), while still interesting, would probably have become a little monotonous as the series progressed.
There is an almost Shakesperian air of doom and gloom that surrounds this episode. After Penhaligon's rape, the humour that characterized many of the earlier episodes disappears almost entirely, and the incidental music enhances the feeling of oppression and fear that prevails throughout the story. It is all deeply unsettling, and once it has finished you will probably breathe a sigh of relief, so depressing is the subject matter.
It is hard to fault "Men Should Weep". It is wonderfully acted, heart-breakingly sad, depressingly convincing, and utterly riveting. You will not be able to tear your eyes away from it. As I said, not the most cheerful of episodes, but at least it's honest and true, unlike your average, cosy, 8:30pm ITV cop show.