Hunter: Roy Walker might say, ‘It’s good, but it’s not quite right’

by Lynn Connolly

Hugh Bonneville and Janet McTeer starred in last night’s first episode of this new two-part drama from the BBC which, overall, was intriguing, full of ‘twists’ and suitably dramatic, but nonetheless I felt lacked something… but I can’t quite say what.

Maybe it was that I kept expecting Hugh to say something funny or because I couldn’t quite buy into a lot of the supporting cast, or perhaps it was the nature of the abduction premise. Pro-lifers who threaten to kill seemed something of a contradiction in terms, until you understand their reasoning which seems to be ‘for the greater good, small sacrifices must be made’ or words to that effect.

In case you missed it, Hunter features detective team Iain Barclay and Amy Foster and was written by Mick Ford who also wrote Ashes To Ashes and William And Mary.

The storyline is that pro-life extremists have kidnapped two seven-year-old boys who are from very different backgrounds and although they’re from the same area, there seems to be nothing but geography linking the boys.

Iain Barclay – Hugh Bonneville – is the harassed and overworked officer in charge of the case who, when faced with a relatively inexperienced and unreliable team, calls in his old friend and faithful deputy Amy Foster (Janet McTeer).

She’s supposed to have taken unofficial early retirement but she’s bored stiff and drinking too much, primarily to fill the void that the job left. I really enjoyed McTeer in this role; she was plausible and seemed to fit the character like a second skin. I’d report a crime to Janet anytime.

Hugh as Barclay I wasn’t quite so sure of; he doesn’t look like a copper at all. That said, when – in an unrelated case – a boy’s body was found on a railway line, something about the way he surveyed the scene quietly and came up with a good conclusion as to how the boy got to be there was quite convincing.

However, back to the story; the missing boys were now everyone’s top priority and when emails started to arrive from the kidnappers showing the boys unconscious, the pace quickened. The boys were pictured on white sheets with the word SACRED written in red ink on their arms and embroidered onto the bedding.

Next came a demand; show the film the kidnappers had sent to BBC Birmingham on all the major national news bulletins every four hours or the boys’ lives “would be terminated”. The film depicted an abortion being carried out in as well as the statistics of how many terminations are performed each year.

It transpired that both boys’ mothers had had abortions and the kidnappers said that as their brothers and sisters were clearly expendable, so then could these children be if the ‘cause’ warranted it.

The emails and images were received from untraceable mobile phones miles apart so Barclay and Foster realised that this was a highly professional and organised team of abductors, which made their job that bit more difficult. The man sending the emails – who was in his forties and had a distinctive limp – clearly knew what he was doing and made sure he was never spotted as he disposed of the phones.

In the meantime, we occasionally saw a children’s nurse working in the Special Care Baby Unit of an unknown hospital. She was evidently very good at her extremely demanding job, but we didn’t at the time know how she was connected to the case – other than a little red herring cleverly dropped in by Mick Ford that made it seem this nurse was in fact dating one of the investigating officers. As it turned out, that officer was parking his purple train in a fellow officer’s tunnel, hence the red herring; he wasn’t dating the nurse at all.

We also briefly met the police doctor when she was first was called to check out Barclay’s office manager then again when she arrived to examine a rape victim. She seemed an innocuous but officious sort of a woman; middle aged, bland and somewhat bad tempered, she seemed to be a cameo role sorta gal…

Until the last few minutes that is when it transpired that the dedicated nurse and hufty doctor were in fact part of the team of abductors. They were holding the boys in a makeshift hospital wing that doubled as a bog standard house garage. The boys were sedated but received tender care from the nurse while the doctor carefully prepared their medications.

So, with the plot suitably thickened, I was by then hooked. I’m going to have to see tomorrow’s episode to find out what happens.

I wasn’t over-fond of Eleanor Matsuura as fast-tracked DI Zoe Larson who strutted about like she’d got a sizeable stick lodged in a small and dark place. Nor was I down with the portrayal by Jonathan Slinger of the techie guy Miles who got altogether too excited with the arrival of each email. You’d think he’d never seen such a thing…

I know it was more the content that got his geek dander up, but even still, I can’t really see a real plod shouting “whoa, whoa, whoa!” and literally pulling at his hair when an email from kidnappers arrives… but there again, I’ve never worked in an incident room so I’m just guessing.

Apropos of which, I’m kinda glad I never have because if all coppers have the personal hygiene standards of Iain Barclay, it’d be pretty rank. He didn’t have a shower or anything for at least two days.

He’d already been in the office for an age when this ‘shout’ came in, then he went home, fell asleep in a chair and on waking, changed only his shirt. Ditto the next day but he didn’t even change his shirt that time.

His shreddies and socks are going to walk to the washer under their own methane steam at this rate, and with nary a whiff of deodorant, he can’t be nice to be around!

Let us know what you thought of Barclay and Foster; Super Duo, and as I’m still puzzling over what’s not quite right with it, I’d appreciate your thoughts on what I’m missing!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.