Law & Order: UK quickly became one of my favorite crime dramas on television once it arrived on US airwaves. Yet ever since the end of the previous series, I couldn't help but wonder: could the show survive the departure of two lead actors, including the incomparable Ben Daniels?
Yes, it can. It's not the same show - but it could never be. What it is, is still a fine piece of dramatic television.
Suzanne Morton dies four hours after developing flu-like symptoms, and it's the third inexplicable loss in the same hospital department within six months. That makes it worthy of investigation by DS Brooks and DS Devlin. Matt gets a headache as our heroes get bounced from doctor to doctor, finally uncovering that one may have given Suzanne the wrong meds. Dr. Grant is apprehended trying to flee the country, and claims that he's just the fall guy for a hospital conspiracy. Also, he's not the real Adrian Grant, either. What the deuce is going on here?
Based on Law & Order's first regular-season episode ("Prescription for Death" in 1990), "The Wrong Man" makes the same premise hold up more than twenty years later, thanks to an efficient script by Debbie O'Malley, who last penned the series four episode "Duty of Care." It's not hard to believe that an experienced physician could be a functioning addict whose colleagues cover his back (we now have a whole show based around that idea called House). The plot moves along at a steady pace and doesn't get lost in medical jargon; in fact, there's a nice scene where a confused Matt asks for clarifications, allowing both character and the audience to grasp the necessary information without breaking the flow of the story.
Bradley Walsh and Jamie Bamber are in fine form, with Ronnie and Matt's partnership still full of charm and wit; I nearly spit my soda when Matt actually purred at Ronnie's reference to Deep Throat (leading Ronnie to correct "Not the porn film" with a groan). As fun as they are, though, there's never any doubt that they're a pair of competent coppers. The two actors make everything look so natural that it pains me to remember that Jamie Bamber is on his way out the door; it'll be a tough go to find someone who has chemistry half as dynamic as he has with Bradley Walsh.
I'm not entirely sold on the replacements on the "order" side of the equation just yet, though. As new Senior Crown Prosecutor Jacob Thorne, Dominic Rowan is a solid actor but lacks the intensity that Ben Daniels brought to the position. Daniels had a conviction that was constantly evident in every aspect of his performance, down to the way he'd approach a line. Rowan isn't possessed of that extra bite - at least not in this episode. Ex-Doctor Who Peter Davison fills Bill Paterson's shoes well, but I'm waiting to see if the relationship his Henry Sharpe has with Thorne is as interesting as the one Paterson's George Castle had with Daniels' James Steel. It's still early days, however - apparently for the characters as well as the actors, as Sharpe is seen unpacking in his office - so let us take these concerns in stride and see how the new faces develop. After all, there's a writing team behind them that's not led us wrong yet.
"The Wrong Man" doesn't pop like previous Law & Order: UK episodes, but it's still good drama - and for a series that's trying to forge a new direction after the departure of two regulars, it's a fine start. I'm intrigued to see where the stories and the characters go from here.
Feel free to share your own first impressions below. And in case you missed it: my interview with LOUK head writer/co-producer (and general awesome person) Emilia di Girolamo.