Red Riding 1983 Review: Where Angels Fear To Tread

March 19, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

RED RIDING: 1983, Thursday 19th March, Channel 4, 9.00pm Alert me

“To the north, where we do what we want.�

West Yorkshire: a hellish hole filled with cops that chug out more crap than the monstrous cooling towers that blot the skyline, preferring to protect their own selfish interests over those of the people.

Young Hazel Atkins has recently gone missing, with her disappearance bearing similarities to the murder of Clare Kemplay, previously investigated in Red Riding: 1974. Kemplay was found in the foundations of John Dawson’s (Sean Bean) development with 4LUV hacked into her chest and swans wings sown to her back. The angelic image of innocence is twisted up and spat out in this grim tale of abuse and sexual assault.

Scruffy solicitor John Piggott (Mark Addy) speaks to Michael Myshkin (Daniel Mays), a man clearly suffering from learning disabilities, who was originally charged with the murder of Kemplay and three others. By probing a little deeper, Piggott discovers that Myshkin’s confession and guilty plea may have been obtained under duress by police and his solicitor. In a crushing paradox, Pigott’s protection of the innocent leads to some harrowing discoveries a little too close to home.

To say that the police are not painted in a great light in this series, you may as well refer to Hitler as “a bit of a lad”.  1983 focuses on police corruption with graphic scenes of full on torture – this is not the programme to watch if you have a weak gag reflex, or intend to get a peaceful night’s sleep.

The brutality is metered out with an abundance of darkly comic realism. Leonard’s girlfriend Tessa visits Piggott and starts poking around his flat. When she looks inside a jar he says, “Don’t snort that will you?�

“What is it?� She replies.

Piggott deadpans, “Me Mam.�

The casting throughout the Red Riding series has been exceptional and this episode is no different. Daniel Mays does a great job of playing the challenging role of Michael Myshkin, although he does get a touch of the Gollums at times (his crazed grin slathered with spit, I was just praying he didn’t say “precious”)  .

Anand Tucker’s direction is mesmerising, employing spoken word and animal imagery to give the piece an anti-storybook feel, as the wounds suffered by the young female victims will be impossible to heal with a nursery rhyme.

The final gripping scenes (featuring the eerie swing blowing in the wind aptly embodying Piggott’s emotions; a man on the edge, possessed with an uncharacteristically determined last bid for justice) are something that  will stay for me for a long time.

If only all television was this faultless.

Sally McIlhone