In The Responder, on Britbox, Martin Freeman gives a tour-de-force performance as Chris Carter, a Liverpool cop trying to keep it together as he slogs through night shifts populated by junkies, bums, idiots, and small time gangsters. His “mate” Carl (Ian Hart) is breathing down his neck to help him find a junkie who ripped him off, his wife may or may not be cheating, his mother is dying of cancer, and he’s just been saddled with a by-the-book rookie named Rachel (Adelayo Adedayo). Meanwhile, he’s in mandated counseling sessions with an overworked therapist. We don’t know if he will make it through the week. Seriously. However, the series is not as humorless as it sounds, and there are even moments that will make you smile.
Chris and Rachel
We learn, as the series goes on, that Chris WAS a Detective Inspector, and “a good sergeant” before that, but was demoted to police constable for corruption. It’s obvious that Chris works outside of the rules, and is even inappropriate on the job, in a stealing-pills-from-a-dead-person’s-nightstand way. But he maintains that he was never corrupt. Now he’s a loner, working on his own, building (sometimes hilarious) relationships with all the street people on his beat. When Rachel is assigned to Chris for the week, it doesn’t start well. She is so green and straight laced, she gets ridiculed by some bums about her shiny boots. Rachel is frustrated that they don’t arrest the small-time criminals that they bust, but Chris knows its pointless. Meanwhile, Ray (Warren Brown), the detective that got Chris demoted in the first place, enlists Rachel’s help getting evidence that Chris is bent. But Chris and Rachel are starting to build a rapport.
Our Take on The Responder
I have to confess that I was dreading watching The Responder, because I thought it would be unrelentingly grim. But it’s not. Chris’ banter with the people on his beat can be both funny and touching. And the series takes the time to develop some side characters in a way that makes you understand why Chris cares, despite the fruitlessness of their lives. My only beef is that I’m not sure why Chris is on duty, even, since he tells anyone who will listen that he’s going to crack. Also, it may be the likability of Martin Freeman, who is channeling Stephen Graham here, but he doesn’t seem THAT close to the edge. He’s making some bad decisions, and his priorities are out of whack, but there’s no substance abuse or other self-destructive tendencies that we’ve seen in many TV cops. Still, there is a feeling of dread that permeates the series. If you are looking for an engaging character study in gritty Liverpool, The Responder is for you.
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