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A Disturbing Episode, But A Great Crime Series
on June 25, 2009
I have all seven Prime Suspect films in their HBO-produced DVD release, which replicates the original UK broadcast language and technical quality. (Yay!) Why? I consider this series to be on the same plane as The Sopranos in quality, style and substance. It gets brought out regularly for viewing because of the compelling story lines, intriguing characters, fine ensemble acting, and Helen Mirren's multi-layered development of her character, DCI (later Detective Superintendant) Jane Tennison, as she matures during her long career.
Full disclosure: I too was a female who worked hard and struggled for decades to be promoted within a traditionally male profession, long before women became accepted and respected members. So, Jane's professional competence and occasional brilliance, workplace struggles and personal failings resonate with me.
IMO Prime Suspect 3 is the best but most disturbing film in the series. It's not for everyone. This is the very dark and graphic depiction of the abuse of disturbed and homeless boys by pedophiles who have operated unchecked for years, and of one underage male prostitute's murder that threatens to expose the coverup of some high-ranking officers' complicity and crimes. Tennison's dogged pursuit of Connie's killer is the only uplifting thing about this sordid subject.
What truly distinguishes PS3 is a plethora of brilliant and unusual guest star turns. In particular: Peter Capaldi as an empathetic gay drag queen; Ciaran Hinds as an oily operator of boys shelters; David Thewlis as a savage prostitution ring recruiter; and Tom Bell as an old-school detective and Tennison's one-time nemesis. IMO the casting directors for this entire series were geniuses, but they outdid themselves in this episode.
In my view, PS3 may be too rough an introduction for the first-time viewer of Prime Suspect, but the entire series should not be missed by people who enjoy watching intelligent crime/action programs. I also think that like The Sopranos, Prime Suspect episodes are best appreciated when seen in chronological order. So is Ms. Mirren's work as Jane Tennison. Like good wine, they all improve with age.