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DVD Review: Prime Suspect – The Complete Collection

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Created by Lynda La Plante, Prime Suspect is the award-winning British television crime series starting Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison, a Metropolitan police officer who struggles with criminals, sexist co-workers, and her own self-defeating actions. She’s a very compelling character that’s allowed to be flawed and is one of the most intriguing female characters to appear on television. It aired on ITV in Britain and PBS in the United States. Prime Suspect – The Complete Collection compiles all the previous DVD releases and repackages them with new covers inside a slipcase.

Series 1 (1991) – DCI Tennison finally gets a murder case after years of being passed over. The male officers resent her, especially when she finds their work is not only subpar but may hint at a cover-up. Finally given the chance to prove herself causes Tennison to be so focused and obsessed she neglects her boyfriend (Tom Wilkinson).

Series 2 (1992) – Tennison has to deal with racial issues when a murder she is assigned takes her into London’s Afro-Caribbean community. She is paired with Sgt. Robert Oswalde (Colin Salmon), a black detective with whom she previously had an affair. If the liaison became known, it could cause trouble at work.

Series 3 (1993) – Tennison now finds herself a member of the vice squad after the results of the previous series. The murder of a young male prostitute leads her into the grim world of child prostitution and pornography. Her superiors don’t make her job easier when they have someone spy on her and she has to get creative to see justice served. Tennison also has to deal with a very traumatic personal matter. It’s the darkest series of them all.

Series 4 (1995) – There a few changes from the previous series in this installment. La Plante is no longer involved, Tennison has been promoted to Detective Superintendent, and there are three separate cases. Directed by John Madden, The Lost Child works an abducted toddler case and personal matters from Series 3 bleed over and affect her handling of it. The murder of a country-club manager in Inner Circles pits rich against poor while revealing a political scandal. Scent of Darkness is a very good one for fans as it revisits Series 1. Suspicions are raised that Tennison may have arrested the wrong man on her first case after a series of murders with a familiar modus operandi.

Series 5: Errors of Judgement (1996) – Tennison has been reassigned to Manchester and catches a murder she believes a local gangster is responsible for but he always remains one step ahead of her investigation. She makes poor decisions involving the case and a co-worker, both of which could spell trouble for her career.

Series 6: The Last Witness (2003) – After a seven-year absence, Tennison returned to the airwaves and London. Suggestions of retirement abound from colleagues as she takes on a case involving the murder of an immigrant that has roots in the Bosnian war. British government officials try to get her to stop the investigation but she plows ahead, choosing justice over her career.

Series 7: The Final Act (2006) – Tennison has one last big case before her retirement. Her personal life complicates things as she comes to grips with a lot of personal issues such as dealing with her dying father and admitting to herself she is an alcoholic. This series was previously reviewed here.

Over the course of its run, Prime Suspect is a better character study than a police procedural not to slight the latter. As good as the stories are to varying degrees, watching Mirren breathe life into Tennison as the character deals with her issues is much more captivating than solving the mysteries. It’s no surprise she won Emmys and BAFTAs for her performances.

Prime Suspect – The Complete Collection received no technical upgrades. The video on Series 1-5 is 4:3 fullscreen while the remaining series are 16:9 widescreen. The audio on Series 1-3 is mono while the remaining series are stereo. There are no new extras created for this release either, so this isn’t for fans that have already purchased some or all of the series DVDs. Instead, the set is for fans that enjoy crime dramas and smart television, and they would do well in picking up.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS