Nothing ever ends well that starts with someone walking alone late at night. In the case of this week's of this week's Law & Order: UK, you find a severely beaten homeless guy face down on the lawn. Brooks and Devlin quickly identify the victim, but who attacked him is a particularly thorny question.
Matt and Ronnie discover that Roland Kirk also happens to be manic depressive and isn't exactly on the best of terms with the neighborhood. Everyone seems to conveniently have gone deaf and blind when it comes to the crime. One particularly annoyed man is unashamedly pleased to hear about it. Our boys poke into the neighborhood business and what they find isn't pretty. Each resident seems to have a motive, if not several motives. This annoys Matt, but not as much as other things have recently; his episodes-long case of permanent personality disorder seems to have come to an end, much to my relief. Not that I don't love him either way, but it just couldn't have been good for his blood pressure to be that wound up on a consistent basis.
Steel finally singles out Harry Morgan (Pirates of the Caribbean's Kevin McNally), who describes Roland as having "made my life a living nightmare." Yes, that's right, James Steel does his own investigative work, and doesn't just send his second chair out to do it for him. Ben Daniels spends a considerable part of this episode reacting to other people's monologues, and he does it beautifully; he doesn't get to say much, but you can see the wheels turning in his head. It's a prime example of what's great about Law & Order: UK - even when nothing appears to be happening, something is always going on. You just have to pay attention to the subtleties.
Further breaking the Law & Order mold, Morgan isn't arrested until the beginning of the final act, at which point he starts claiming self-defense, much to James' disbelief. Colin Salmon (Prime Suspect, Keen Eddie) makes his second appearance as defense attorney Doug Greer (following "Buried"), and takes far too much glee in needling James when his key witness recants in open court. It's another one of those moments where it'd be perfect to see Ben Daniels deck somebody, but of course, Steel is too polite to do that, and I love him for it. Daniels is not the guy who's going to go into histrionics; he's got poise and class, and that's what makes Steel a memorable character. Unfortunately for him (and for us), he loses this round, but you can't win them all. Even if the bad guy basically admits his guilt to your face after the verdict.
The fact that I'm seeing this episode at this time is cause to get a little somber; "Community Service" is based on 1993's "Volunteers," which was the second episode of Michael Moriarty's final season. It's also the first Law & Order: UK episode I've watched since having to break the news that Ben Daniels and Bill Paterson are both leaving the series. It's an inadvertent reminder of one departure at the same time I'm preparing myself to deal with another. At least I've got two and a half more series of Ben Daniels' work to take solace in. No matter what the case or circumstances, Daniels and the rest of the Law & Order: UK cast always bring their 'A' game. This episode is no exception to that standard. It only makes me wonder: when the cast changes, is that impeccable quality going to change with it? I certainly hope not. I just hope the new people can keep up.
Need to catch up with Law & Order: UK? Full show coverage is available in the Law & Order: UK category on my blog, DigitalAirwaves.net.