Last night’s TV – Red Riding: 1983

red riding 1983

Nine years on, another Morley child has gone missing on her way home from school, forcing Detective Chief Superintendent Maurice Jobson to remember the very similar disappearance of Clare Kemplay – who was found dead in 1974 – and the subsequent imprisonment of local misfit, Michael Myshkin.

Washed-up and beleaguered local solicitor John Piggott is now convinced of Myshkin’s innocence and begins to fight on his behalf, unwittingly providing the catalyst for Jobson to start to right some wrongs… and by gum, did he ever!

The final part of the Red Riding trilogy was as brilliant as the rest… although I’d have to say, if I was pressed to choose, my favourite was last week’s 1980 Ripperfest.

That said, the majority of the central themes remained consistently magnificent in their sheer dourness throughout, and this didn’t change last night either; the rotten core of the apple that was West Yorkshire police, the unrelentingly grim-up-North personae and environs and above all, the gripping storylines.

There were to be no happy endings here, no forgiving slap-on-the-back camaraderie sessions down the local, no innocents spared the brutality of fitting the suspect to the crime, but overall, even though I now know the stories, this trilogy has made me want to read David Pearce’s novels, so I’ll be hunting them out on Amazon today.

And despite what sometimes felt like deliberate ambiguity and red-herring like direction, this trilogy of dramas has been some of the best TV watching so far this year in my opinion, and it didn’t hurt it one bit that Sean Bean featured large, even though he did sport dodgy haircuts and a hideous dress sense, but didn’t we all in the seventies and eighties?

I suppose it would’ve been asking too much to have him appear in a black tux just for me and my personal entertainment… carrying a tub of whipped cream. Yes, yes it would.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand and last night, we learned a few answers but were left with questions unanswered too. I won’t go into a great deal of detail about the plot in case you missed it and intend catching up on 4OD, but, well, the nasty Vicar dunnit. Oooops. However, I think we all pretty much knew that so still go ahead and watch it on 4OD; you won’t regret it!

Vicar Martin Laws had been heavily involved in a paedophile ring, kidnapping, torturing and killing young girls in a cellar – which to get serious for a moment had disturbing similarities with the hideous case of Marc Dutroux in Belgium and more recently, the Austrian Josef Fritzl – and it was brave John Piggott, played excellently by Mark Addy, who ultimately uncovered the horrific truth and, along with Detective Chief Superintendent Jobson, again marvellously played by David Morrissey, the pair not only saved the latest missing girl before it was too late but they killed the hideous Laws to boot, and good on ‘em I say.

And even though Jobson had been instrumental in framing an innocent lad for the murders in the first place, he came good in the end, so maybe there was a happy ending of sorts to be had there – though one would hardly heave a sigh of relief and feel all warm and Disney-fuzzy while preparing your nightly cocoa after the conclusion of 1983.

Anand Tucker directed last night’s violent and conclusive foray into the past, and a first-rate job he made of it too, but I wonder if the three different directors felt at all constrained by the fact that there had to be certain continuity caveats to their creativity and direction in the three episodes? I’d be interested to know…

So, in conclusion, was Red Riding flawless? No. Was the plot at times eminently predictable? Yes. Would I watch all three, back to back, over and over again? Yes, and I sincerely hope this isn’t a) the last drama of this quality we see this year and b) David Pearce’s work is adapted for television again very soon.

GB84 or The Damned Utd, or indeed, the man’s shopping list… I’d happily watch any of the aforementioned on TV anytime.

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.