Over the last two weeks, I’ve probably concentrated on New Tricks more than I have over the last ten years. Without a doubt, the highlight of the series has been Alun Armstrong as the team’s fact-finder Brian Lane. It’s a shame then that tonight was Armstrong’s penultimate episode as we saw Brian work his final case for UCOS. Brian wasn’t even the primary focus of tonight’s case as Gerry Standing was front and centre, attempting to solve a murder case that he worked on the first time around.
The case in question was the murder of Lauren Bunce, a crime for which her ex-husband Scott had been found guilty of sixteen years ago. Bunce had recently been released from prison due to new evidence relating to the blood splatters found on Lauren. However, Gerry was hoping that UCOS would find him guilty once again as he felt he and his team convicted the right man. Bunce had always claimed that he’d found Lauren dead on the floor and chased after a man he saw leaving the house. However, his camp neighbour Murray Blaker claimed only to have seen Bunce leave the house that night and no one else. When Brian and Sandra go to visit Murray he seems to have a vendetta against Bunce, mainly for destroying his garden by pouring acid over all of the plants. Meanwhile Bunce’s daughter Lizzie, who still lives at the house in which Lauren died, also believes her father married her mother. It appears that, during the investigation, UCOS want to keep Gerry out of the way and so gets him to visit some of Bunce’s old gang members, who may have murdered Lauren as she wanted Scott to give up his life as a getaway driver. But, as he and Steve go to meet Brian and Sandra, they see Bunce threatening Bleaker and Gerry runs off. The two have a brief confrontation but are separated just in time before they come to blows. Gerry’s only pleasure in reinvestigating the case is that he is reunited with Mike Fleming, on old colleague who worked with him the first time around.
Meanwhile, Brian reveals to Esther that he gave the tape-recording of Embleton to Sarah Kay and was still unsure of what she’d do with it. Esther feels that Brian is living on borrowed time and feels that he needs to find something else to do when he’s inevitably let go from UCOS. She feels it’s time that he tries to build bridges with their son Mark, from whom he’s been estranged for years. Brian goes to see Mark however his son is less than pleased to see him and when Brian finds out Mark is going to be a dad he is sworn to secrecy. Brian later discovers that a key found on Lauren Bunce’s body had gone missing and journeys round to Mark once again in order to use his lathe to recreate the key. After several cross words between the two, Brian breaks down and apologises to Mark for being an awful father. Mark’s reply is to help his father cut the key that ultimately cracked the case as Lauren’s true murderer was revealed. Brian’s joy is short-lived though when Strickland finds out about the Embleton recording and he is unceremoniously sacked from his job.
My feeling about this episode of New Tricks has been the same as the past two instalments, namely that I’ve found the central investigation to be a bit lacklustre. While a step-up from the Gibraltar two-parter where the case was incredibly clichéd. At least here the case had some sort of relevance to the team, due to Gerry’s previous involvement in it. The problem is here that I don’t find the character of Gerry particularly likeable due in part to him feeling like a relic of the Gene Hunt era. In fact the only time Gerry is tolerable is when he and Steve are on screen together as I’ve grown quite found of their partnership. The scene in the apartment block was one in which the comedy didn’t bother me that much as the athletic Steve was able to climb the stairs with ease, while the out-of-work Gerry struggled to make his way up. Thankfully, we had a lot more from Brian again this week as he tries to put his life in order by making amends with the son who he’d neglected during childhood. The scenes between father and son were beautifully written and the awkwardness of their stilted reunion really rang true.
Obviously part of the reason why the scenes with Brian worked so well was because of the brilliant performance from Alun Armstrong who was just excellent as the UCOS memory man. Armstrong is a joy to watch especially when playing out Brian’s lack of social awareness or his excellent ability at cracking cases. Though it seems as if Armstrong is equally at home with the more sensitive subject matter and I felt he played the scene in which he apologised to Mark perfectly. Unfortunately, Brian was somewhat in the background this week as we had Dennis Waterman doing his comedy jack-the-lad material as Gerry. It comes as no surprise to me that Waterman is the only original cast member whose staying on for now as I think he knows when he’s onto a good thing. Though he does share some great chemistry with Armstrong and Denis Lawson, Waterman really falls down in the scenes in which he is forced to emote.
Overall, this was an adequate episode of New Tricks which had a more enjoyable central investigation than last week, but at the same didn’t have enough from Brian for my liking. Armstrong was still the shining star of the quartet and I would’ve liked to have seen more from him and less from Dennis Waterman. Once again it is the chemistry between the leads that really pushes the show and it’s a shame that the majority of the original cast are gradually departing.
What did you think to tonight’s episode of New Tricks? Are you enjoying this series?
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