TV Review: The Responder

A stunning lead performance from Martin Freeman makes gritty police drama The Responder a must-see

“You’re an angry arsheole with a chip on his shoulder”

Written by former Merseyside Police officer Tony Schumacher, The Responder stings with hard-earned authenticity as it takes a grimly grounded look at life on the force for a long-serving and long-suffering officer in Liverpool. Demoted from Inspector for reasons not initially clear, going to therapy to deal with trauma and rage and barely holding his family life together, Chris Carson is having a ‘mare of a time. And he’s on nights.

His life takes a further turn for the worse when old pal Carl gives him a call to ask him to find a drug addict called Casey who has stolen a stash of cocaine from him. He initially turns him down but his inclination to do the right thing leads him into worlds of trouble as he tries in vain to help the unpredictable Casey while Carl’s suppliers turn the screws over the missing drugs and any hints of previous loyalty go right out of the window.

Martin Freeman plays the grizzled Chris with a real conviction that I don’t think I’ve seen from him before. He sinks entirely into the role and as shadows of possible corruption loom large, there’s a brilliant ambiguity threaded through his work. Adelayo Adedayo also impresses as the probationer who is learning the hard way that the job isn’t anything like the recruitment material says (the sting in her tale is a real doozy too).

The Liverpool tourist board might not thank the series for the way the city is portrayed but there’s actually something really compelling about seeing its underbelly this way, little glamourisation at hand but an acknowledgement of what much of Britain is like. There’s also strong supporting work from Ian Hart as Carl, Elizabeth Berrington as the overworked therapist, MyAnna Buring as Chris’ grimly tolerant wife Kate and a startlingly effective Christine Tremarco as a devious doctor, plus brilliant cameos from the likes of David Bradley and Matthew Cottle in roles you wouldn’t expect. Highly recommended.

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