TV on DVD Review: Murphy's Law: Series 2 (2004)

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Easily the strongest UK police series since Cracker, Colin Bateman's second season of the show he created for charismatic Irish actor James Nesbitt takes a startlingly gritty turn just moments into the first episode, “Jack's Back.”

For a fleeting moment, we see a lighter, happier Tommy Murphy (Nesbitt) as he looks forward to the future for the first time perhaps since his daughter was killed by the IRA. But just as it did before, death grinds everything to a halt, knocking the wind out of him with the murder of a loved one that makes the hard edges of his beaten expression even colder and more unforgiving.

From that moment on and although he consistently diffuses everything with his extroverted Irish charm, devilish grin and throwaway quips that flow in his world as an undercover police officer, Murphy the man is one who is a walking ghost. And this is a ghost that's harder than he'd already been before as he becomes an even darker force to be reckoned with as he goes about solving his colleague's death and working on the five subsequent cases contained in this slim-packaged two-disc set.

While any one of the episodes would make a compelling film or novel in their own right and Bateman's series was initially inspired by his own novel, throughout I kept noticing that the strongest entries by far were the ones that Bateman himself wrote. And although the other writers are superb, most likely this feels thus because -- when we benefit from his complete understanding of the character and Nesbitt's transformational portrayal of the man and his input as the series' creative consultant -- everything just clicks into place and the result is endlessly gripping television.

Whether he's playing “Bonnie and Clyde with mops,” as an undercover janitor, going “in the front like any fake priest would do,” joining the homeless, a corrupt police squad, a crew of high class car thieves or discovering a bereavement group that's turned towards vigilantism, you simply can't take your eyes off of Nesbitt as he's able to go undercover in our lives as well, transcending Nesbitt and his role as Murphy to become whomever it is he's pretending to be.

This is particularly evident in the final installment as Murphy learns something that those up on high had been hiding from him regarding the death of his child and we ache once more right along with him as he's torn between primal instinct, male pride, morality and his sworn duty to uphold the law.

While at times, some clarity as to just how long he's been undercover to garner so much trust so fast would be beneficial in aiding in the show's supremely impressive authenticity overall, witnessing Nesbitt in top form going beyond the role of a cop to that precarious gray area in which real people live as he's caught between worlds is what makes this show so phenomenally compelling.

Offering English subtitles for the hearing impaired along with a biography of the lead actor, Murphy's Law: Series 2 comes highly recommended, save for an extremely frustrating menu design that barely illuminates an episode to let you know just which one you're watching, making the back of the boxes that much more important to ensure you're viewing them in the correct order since you won't want to miss a thing.

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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.