It's not too often on a police series that you see a detective voluntarily pop three roofies before dousing himself in gasoline in order to try to lure an unstable killer to justice but then again Organized and Serial Crime Unit's newest Detective Inspector Dave Creegan isn't your average copper – televised or otherwise.
Brilliantly brought to life by the charismatic Robson Green, Creegan seems to flourish best in the ever dwindling line between mental stability and insanity as well as good and evil, willing to do whatever it takes to solve the most disturbing of cases brought to the unit.
Still finding his way back mentally and physically after a gunshot to the head left him briefly dead before the resulting nervous breakdown left his personal life in disarray, Creegan is a man who lives purely for the job.
Since his shoes at home have already been filled by his ex-wife's new man whom Creegan respects and trusts to look after his two daughters, the detective realizes that his only purpose for existence is in keeping the villains in check one case at a time, which he does better than anyone else on the clock.
Able to analyze and intuitively empathize as well as give and receive trust in the unlikeliest of circles, initially his new partner DI Susan Taylor (Nicola Walker) and colleague DC Mark Rivers (Shaun Dingwall) are unsure just what to make of his unrelenting passion, drive and attitude that he'll go as far as he has to in order to close a case.
Although the others have the personal power to switch off the job while at home, Creegan doesn't have that luxury and notes that taking responsibility for the victims is the only reason why he came back to work and joined forces with the OSC unit.
Created by Cracker scribe Paul Abbott, from the very first episode, you get the sense that similar to his earlier work on another unorthodox, gritty and near cinematic police procedural saga with a twist, Touching Evil isn't going to be content to play it safe and it doesn't in one of the most riveting opening seasons I've witnessed in the genre. Unfortunately, once Abbott passes the torch as series writer off to others in the following two seasons, Evil suffers greatly.
Namely, we begin to lose patience with the squad's incessant mistakes including laughably poor surveillance techniques in which every suspect seems to get loose, witnesses die at exactly the moment you'd predict and any viewer with half a brain could tell the OSC where a killer has likely fled when instead they have to meet up and rack their brains, giving the psychopaths a ridiculous head start each and every time.
When you couple this with Creegan's increasing instability and his bravura techniques which look great onscreen but don't seem to make much sense logically, Touching Evil needlessly begins to fail as it continues with repetitive cases that are truly chilling but maddeningly handled.
Although Green makes the series work even when the writing doesn't as he dazzles with intensity whether he's talking to his ex-wife or he's cornering a killer, one of the greatest surprises for Evil is the way that the show manages to build quite a role for the Rivers character as it continues which culminates in a truly shocking final season for that detective in question.
And despite a miscast Walker who isn't done any favors with a slightly stale role as Creegan's partner – aside from her one truly memorable standout episode at the end of the second season – the one constant the series has going for it is in its knack for following up on dropped threads, abrupt endings and doubling back on character questions about our officers.
While the kidnappers and murderers may come and go, Abbott's drama never lets you forget that much like what happens to the victims, the officers are included in the damage as some detectives turn on one another, make fatal mistakes or do something they most likely never would have before had they not lived through the horrors onscreen and this factor continues to save Evil long after it begins its decline.
From a lingering question at the end of the first episode that finally gets answered at the end of the third to understanding that – as in the case of Creegan – you have more in common with the “enemy” than you do with the rest, Evil follows in Cracker's lofty footsteps. For, despite the fact that Jimmy McGovern's successful series with Robbie Coltrane is and always will be vastly superior to Evil, Abbott's never lets us forget that despite our tendency to find them interchangeable in some depictions or cardboard heroes in others, the men and women behind the badge are only human after all.
And even though you can count yourself lucky that the OSC won't be running surveillance for real in your neck of the woods as the bad guy always slips away and they never think to look in one of only three places where they would've gone until the final act, it's always a treat to see a decidedly different spin on the police procedural series and a guy who drops pharmaceuticals and gasoline on a whim isn't one you'll want to miss indeed.
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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.
Labels: TV on DVD