TV Review: Vera Series 5 Episode 1: ‘Changing Tides’

In a rather uneventful episode, Brenda Blethyn steals the show. reviews the launch of series five

Image: ITV

Blethyn leads a good cast in the new series of Vera. Image: ITV

★★★☆☆

After a weak fourth series, ITV’s premier northern detective has returned in an episode that is slightly better, but still lacks the magic of the first three series. Vera stars Brenda Blethyn as the wry titular investigator in stunning North Eastern surroundings. Vera storms into each scene with a floppy hat and coat with a dialogue that neatly blends wit and plot development. This opening episode of series five introduced us to DS Aiden Healey (Kenny Doughty) who replaces fan favourite DS Joe Ashworth who’s got a promotion (plot talk for the actor leaving the show). Although we didn’t get to see much of him, it seems Healey will neatly fit into the place vacated by Ashworth.

The episode started very well, with a fire at a caravan park shortly after a stag party had taken place. The usual hidden love affairs, lies and illegal drug growth then followed. Last Tango in Halifax’s Katherine Rose Morley, Wayne Foskett and Katie Brayben were all well cast as some of the suspects.  Despite their undeniable talents, Blethyn steals every scene that she is in. It remains very rare to see an actor so clearly embody a role, to make a character utterly believable. She can make a rather dry aside come to life with just a glance, which is what makes Vera so watchable. The character originated in a series of books, and their author, Ann Cleeves, says she now writes with Blethyn’s voice in mind, such is the power of her performance.

Martha Hillier’s script was ok, but that’s all. There was little spark in the plot development and, apart from an awkwardly shot suicide attempt, very little excitement.  Critics mocked Poirot and Foyle’s War for their slow approach to plotting, but the past few episodes of Vera have lacked their intricate plots and interesting characters to make it worthwhile. In this episode, Vera went from one rather bland character to another, from one interview scene to another, and after eighty five minutes a snippet of conversation solved the case.  Vera doesn’t have to be like this; several earlier episodes were much better structured with the occasional fun set piece, which was sadly lacking in ‘Changing Tides’.

However, Vera remains well worth investing your time in. The cinematography is beautiful; the opening scene could have come out of any feature film, with atmospheric lightning across the North Sea foreshadowing the danger yet to come. The casting is very good, if you excuse one or two “interesting” interpretations of a northern accent. Despite my earlier criticisms, even the plot is rather fun; if only to play the “who-dunnit” game with whoever else is watching.  It’s good to have Vera (and her hat) back on ITV, I just hope the scripts will rise to the high standards of the rest of the production over the course of the series. It was rather bland, but with the promise of greatness.

6 comments

  1. Don’t you mean ‘lightning’!?

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    • 19 Apr ’15 at 11:05 pm

      Rhys Thompson

      I did indeed! Sorry, I don’t know why I put that instead. I always notice when other people get it wrong, but I didn’t this time and I’ve changed it to be correct now.
      Thank you for pointing it out.

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  2. I am enjoying the new series though I really miss Joe Ashworth and Billy the wisecracking pathologist who left the show even before Joe did. The acting is superb and it’s worth it just to see the scenery of Northumberland. The cinematography is wonderful. Seems to me the plots are even better this season.

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    • I so agree about Joe and Billy, though there are plenty of great actors still. Disagree about the plots. Binging through now and season 5 has hit with a thud, at least through the first two episodes. 2 is particularly weak.

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  3. Does anyone know where it was filmed?

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