Silent Witness: 17.02 - Coup De Grace

Last week wasn’t the most convincing start to a series that Silent Witness has ever had, so did this week improve upon that tepid start? Well yes, a little. The second double episode of this series, ‘Coupe De Grace’, focussed fully on Emilia Fox’s Nikki Alexander. While Fox is a fine actor, as the moral compass of the team, Nikki is a little too pretentious and self-important to be truly likeable.
If you watch enough of these programs you’ll guess the whodunit within the first ten minutes, Silent Witness never makes it that hard. The basic plot this week revolves around an overturned conviction, a myopic police pursuit, a hostage situation, and a serial killer. Nikki puts herself right at the middle of it all by providing evidence that overturns a conviction. Convicted of two murders the release of David Bennetto, who’d been banged up for over five years, coincides with the startup of killings with the exact same MO. Then there’s the lawyer Greg Walker, a suitably charming Tobias Menzies, who schmoozes Nikki and is on a crusade to protect Bennetto from prison. There’s some shenanigans with the Home Office and repercussions for Nikki, while the rest of the Lyall Centre are pretty marginalised. Jack is doing some detective work and advising Nikki against getting too involved, and new boss Thomas Chamberlain is trying to stamp his authority on proceedings. Add to this the miserable, doughty detective Rachel Klein, played with focussed relish by Lorraine Ashbourne, who ignores all the evidence in her crusade to re-convict Bennetto, and you’ve got a rather strange episode.

Throughout the themes are of trust (Nikki and Greg, Bennetto and his family, Nikki and Thomas), and of friendship (Nikki and Jack, Greg and Bennetto), some are true (Jack really is looking out for Nikki), others aren’t (too spoilerish to say which).
And really, that’s it. Apart from trailing the second episode as being a hostage hour, then wrapping that up in about five minutes, it was an eventless two parter. The sidelining of most of the dynamic that makes the Lyall Centre interesting detracted from the episode, hopefully next week will get back to that central dynamic. The bottom line is that whilst Silent Witness is some of the easiest viewing you can get, the odd bout of ultra-gore aside, it also sums up the worst of television procedural drama. Compare and contrast with something as complex and satisfying as Sherlock, which could have just been a crime procedural but is so much more.

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