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DVD Review: Trial and Retribution – Set 4

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Trial and Retribution is a British crime series that has been unfairly (yet favorably) compared to Law & Order. The comparison is unfair because Trial and Retribution offers much that is beyond the scope of Law & Order. As a die-hard Law & Order fan, I find that Trial and Retribution is far more complex and often more puzzlingly ambiguous.

Both shows dramatize similar crimes, and trace them “from commission to courtroom.” Since Trial and Retribution episodes run in excess of two hours, there is more time devoted to plot and, especially, character development. This set of three “feature-length mysteries” presents cases that will have viewers guessing throughout, and still musing at the end.

The episodes are considered “volumes,” and Trial and Retribution – Set 4 contains “Volume XII: Paradise Lost,” “Volume XIII: Curriculum Vitae,” and “Volume XIV: Mirror Image.” All three are intense. They feature three characters, Det. Supt. Michael Walker (superbly understated performance by David Hayman), DCI Róisín Connor (Victoria Smurfit), and DS David Satchell (Dorian Lough), and excellent supporting casts. DCI Connor’s romantic life—or inability to sustain one—complicates matters in volumes XII and XIV.

“Paradise Lost” tells the story of a young man whose girlfriend is murdered. He is covered in her blood and claims he has no memory of the previous evening. Since the couple was biracial, the shadow of racism haunts the investigation. DCI Connor must evaluate her own feelings on the subject as well as prove her case.

“Curriculum Vitae” is a disturbing episode about a baby who dies while in the care of her nanny. While the nanny is the most likely suspect, there are indications that the mother is not all she seems. Victoria Hamilton deserves kudos for her performance as Suzy MacDonald, beleaguered mother of the possibly murdered little girl. Sinead Matthews, as the nanny with a special talent for calming babies, is convincingly odd and suspicious. Both Hamilton and Matthews capably lead the viewer in a variety of directions, undermining what at first seems a clear-cut case.

Twin brothers reminiscent of the Menendez “boys” are the focus of “Mirror Image,” in which politically prominent, wealthy parents are murdered in their home while their sons are out clubbing. As the story unfolds, the family’s sterling image is rapidly tarnished. Extramarital affairs, gambling, drugs, child abuse, and intra-family animosity are discovered as the investigation progresses. During the first half, just as the viewer decides that the resemblance to the Menendez case is not accidental, DCI Connor mentions the notorious brothers. While Lyle and Erik did not have a terrific alibi, the Delany brothers (Robert and Jonathan Timmins) do—there is a closed-circuit television tape proving they were in a nightclub at the time of the murders. Watch for Kim Thomson in the role of Nicole Mandray; her vixenish outcast act provides the viewer with suspicions throughout the episode. Robert Timmins and Jonathan Timmins are exceptional as the enigmatic twins.

Trial and Retribution employs a split-screen technique to enhance the visual storytelling. Often two or three images are shown, allowing the viewer to see concurrent events (in different locations) at the same time, the accused and the testifying witness in the courtroom, or someone describing a crime and the crime itself. This process is especially effective when a witness or the accused is testifying and the investigators react to what is being said.

With its extremely complicated plots and multifarious characters, Trial and Retribution offers challenging entertainment designed for a thinking audience. It concentrates not only on crime and detection, but also the aftermath of crime—how victims, suspects, and their families are emotionally scarred by the sudden eruption of violence among them.

Special features include photo galleries, a biography of Lynda La Plante (creator of the series), and cast filmographies. A Google search is actually a bit more satisfying in providing information about the series and cast.

Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream Trial and Retribution? Yes, I’d be inclined to buy the series based on its excellent production values, complex plotting, and intriguing cast of characters.

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About Miss Bob Etier

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz Alan Kurtz

    Miss Bob, for a real-life Trial and Retribution, check out my latest BC article in Sci/Tech, Web Site Review: I Write Like. I mention both you and FC, among other BC writers. And congrats for being one of the Top 5 for June! In my book, you are always among the Top 5, whether your name appears there or not.