TV on DVD Review: George Gently: Series 2 (2009)

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There’s nothing gentle about the murders that the eponymous Inspector George Gently (Martin Shaw) faces in this gripping BBC series but much like another gentleman detective series Foyle’s War, these period based mysteries are steeped in sociological, historical, and cultural richness that use their vintage time and place to take a humanistic “gray area” approach to the police procedural.

Filmed in 2009, the quartet of feature length cases that are contained in this slim-packaged four-disc set serve as the perfect companion to not only the latest installment of Foyle but also the second and greatly improved season of Murdoch Mysteries as well, considering not only the fact that the trio are set in the past but that all three use their setting to comment on issues concerning right and wrong that still affect us today.

Although police procedurals in the UK may be a dime a dozen, considering how often they're produced, George Gently easily rises to the hierarchy of series this past decade for the Agatha Christie level twists and turns that are contained within a storyline. Namely, the series requires as much psychological and philosophical attention as the eerie Ruth Rendell Mysteries or the ever-sophisticated Foyle’s War.

Set in 1964, the series centers on the former Scotland Yard detective George Gently who works alongside his clever but bold protégé Sergeant Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) solving crimes in the North Country of Britain in the ever changing decade.

Based on the long-running collection of Gently novels from author Alan Hunter – not a dud is contained throughout the roughly ninety minute cases include “Gently with the Innocents,” “Gently in the Night,” “Gently in the Blood,” and “Gently through the Mill,” since issues from child abuse to racism, gender equality, secret societies, religious fanatics, gangs, and embezzlers are seamlessly worked into the endlessly layered plots that take at least a half dozen genuinely surprising turns within any given episode.

And while intuition found me guessing the who in at least two of the cases, by the time it was wrapped up in the conclusion, the where, why, when and how always proved either to baffle me considerably or reveal itself in ways I could never have anticipated such as in the bravura opener, “Gently with the Innocents,” wherein a real estate developer finds the homeowner of the purchased property dead in the backyard.

Easily the strongest mystery of the lot and the one that will haunt you afterward the longest, “Gently with the Innocents,” is the ideal starting point to throw you off balance, as you realize that you’re dealing with something much more involved than a typical crime scene series wherein the victims aren’t always the corpses. We find we genuinely care about characters we meet within each standalone case before it’s onto the next one.

This is a superlative series that features two finely drawn characterizations from its lead actors who, fortunately seem like two very different yet respectful individuals as opposed to two halves of the same whole (another overused “sleuthing partner” TV cliché). Likewise, even though I realized you don’t have to have seen the first series of George Gently to be taken in by its follow-up season, I’ll be damned if you’re not aching to check it out as soon as you eject the fourth disc of this irresistibly intelligent collection.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.