Vexed Episode One: Toby Stephens returns with new partner Miranda Raison for a show that is lacking in chemistry but full of chauvinism!

by Matt D

When you have a cop show that features partners how well the programme succeeds is almost always based on the chemistry between the two leads with male/female partnerships being the most difficult, as there’s always a question of whether they’ll ever get it on.

A few weeks ago we had Case Sensitive in which Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd’s Charlie and Simon eventually ended up getting it on, while in the first series of BBC2’s Vexed the characters played by Lucy Punch and Toby Stephens were very close despite her already being attached.

Vexed is back tonight and despite poor reviews for its three part 2010 run the series has been extended to six episodes, while Stephens’ DI Jack Armstrong has a new partner something as we see at the start of this instalment is an idea that he’s not exactly on board with. Armstrong has asked for a male partner but when he finds out that he’s called George it’s not hard to work out that it will turn out to be a woman and indeed Jack is soon confronted by Miranda Raison’s DI Georgina Dixon. While Jack’s relationship with Punch’s neurotic Kate Bishop was extremely knockabout it seems that, based on this episode at least, he’ll try to look smart in front of his rookie partner who has more passion for the job than he seems while she also seems to have been on every course under the sun.

Armstrong and Dixon’s first case together is to solve the murder of cocky car salesman Karl Mercer who has seemingly been based on the head before being stuffed into the boot of a smart car which Jack describes as looking like a cross between a dildo and a vacuum cleaner. In the competitive world of car sales it appears that Jack has a few rivals namely Emma an extremely attractive woman who relies on flirting with men until they eventually buy a car from her. Karl was also about to get married to Debbie the daughter of head mechanic Dave who didn’t think favourably to his daughter’s new squeeze because he found him to be cocky and arrogant. Finally there’s aggressive mechanic Ryan, Debbie’s ex-boyfriend, who feels that Karl stole her away from him and is Jack’s most likely suspect for the murder though when it is revealed that Karl was in fact poisoned by the fumes from his car the investigation is turned on its head.

Though a cop show like this does have to have a central mystery I felt that the team behind the show were more concerned with Jack trying to prove his dominance as a senior partner but more importantly as a man. One of the subplots in this episode of Vexed is Jack trying to defend his classic car, which is constantly breaking down, to Georgina who as a modern woman drives a more up-to-date vehicle. Jack is taken on several test drives with the seductive Emma who uses all of her feminine wiles to try and get him to sign on the dotted line however Georgina saves him from buying a car that he just doesn’t want. The pair are presented throughout as mismatched as he is lazy while she does as much work as possible almost too much however he warms to her after he finds new evidence in the phone records she’s asked him to scan through. As you could imagine at the end of the episode the two form a grudging respect for one another and he drives her home in his classic motor after she’s had too much to drink at a post-case celebration.

I have to say that I was one of the few people who spoke up in defence of the first series of Vexed as I found it fun to watch and that Punch and Stephens bounced well off one another while another of my friends liked it as it was a mystery show without all the violence that is contained in something like Line of Duty. Going by the first episode of this new series though I feel that the negative criticisms may have been justified as the majority of what was on show here irritated me no end. Firstly Stephens seems to have turned Jack into some sort of chauvinistic caricature with his forced deep voice being one of the most annoying things about him as well as his arrogant nature which I found to be off-putting rather than adding to the character. These attributes may have been more noticeable as this time he has little chemistry with his female partner instead trying to show her that he’s the boss but failing miserably. To her credit Miranda Raison does the most with the character she’s been given even if Georgina is the stereotypical woman police officer who has trained so much at her job that she doesn’t have time for a personal life. Though the writers did give Georgina a sympathetic edge where we discover that previous partners have told her that she’s too full on, I personally didn’t think we were given enough reason to care about her that much.

My main problem with this first episode though was that the case was secondary to trying to establish the dynamic between Jack and Georgina and while I do realise that we have to get to know these characters, I feel that it shouldn’t be at the expense of them actually solving the case. As not much importance was placed on who it was that killed Karl Mercer I didn’t really feel anything when Georgina eventually cracked the case, as all of the suspects were fairly two dimensional. I have to say that it may be too early to judge whether this series of Vexed will be truly terrible, as in fact the clip of the second episode looked quite entertaining, but based on this installment it’ll have to try really hard to improve. Overall the second series of Vexed didn’t get off to a particularly good start due to a lack of focus to the central mystery as well as an extremely irritating lead character who seems to have got progressively worse. Crucially at this early stage the two partners have little chemistry which is an issue when you’re basing an entire show around their relationship.

Did you enjoy Vexed? What did you think to the new partnership? Leave Your Comments Below.