The Responder stars Martin Freeman as police first responder Chris Carson, who – as the job suggests – is always first called to any incident that’s reported in, before assessing to see if any other services are required. This also often leads to him getting the mucky end of the stick.
We first see Chris in therapy, talking about the stress of the job, and whilst seeing him in the job itself, he’s very hot-headed, frequently effing and jeffing, even when dealing with apparently basic neighbourhood disputes.
He’s frequently drawn into conversations with Carl (Ian Hart), a ghastly man who’s less a friend and more an associate, and who wants him to get involved with finding a woman called Casey (Emily Fairn) in relation to a particularly sizeable debt, and a story which involves local scally with terrible bowl haircut, Marco (Josh Finan).
Why Chris gets with such dodgy people is anyone’s guess, and he really needs to get a grip on his life. However, while I’ll avoid spoilers, it’s safe to say that he has very questionable morals, including when he has to attend a sudden death for an elderly woman, but while waiting for the doctor, he seems so unfazed by it all that he’d happily polish off the soup her grandson brought round for her.
Along the way in the first two episodes which I’ve seen, Chris deals with drug dealers, plus other grim discoveries. The other cops think he’s a bit odd – possibly bordering on corrupt – including rookie Rachel (Adelayo Adedayo), and before long, they’re going to be paired up, much to his annoyance given that he prefers to work on his own.
This drama rather reminds me of Warren Brown‘s 2012 drama Good Cop, where he also played a cop with questionable morals, and that was a great series, albeit just four episodes. As you can see from the cast list, he’s in this, too, and his character has a history with Chris, and they clearly don’t like each other.
Elsewhere, Chris’ wife, Kate (MyAnna Buring) has her own secrets to hide, and his mum, June (Rita Tushingham), is in a care home.
At times it can be amusing given the scrapes he gets into, albeit unintentionally so, given how it shifts between dark humour and dark drama as he struggles with his own demons. The billing makes reference to Freeman’s character and his mental health, but to me, it’s less a mental health thing, because the character is just not a particularly likeable one due to the fact that he brings all the problems on himself.
The acting is on top form with this, and given that I had the first two episodes (of five) available to view prior to broadcast, I was gripped by both of them, watching them back-to-back. However, it does take a while to get used to Martin Freeman with a Liverpudlian accent.
It’s interesting to see him summarise his philosophy of life as: “Life is shit, and there’s no harm in crying about it, once in a while”, and with that you can see from where his general tone comes.
UPDATE Episode 3:
UPDATE Episodes 4 and 5:
I didn’t have much to add for the fourth episode as it was just continuing the story and I didn’t want to give spoilers. Now it’s all over, I will say something about the final, and it was certainly a powerful episode. At first I wasn’t sure how Steve’s direction to Rachel of “Get in the cupboard” would force her to stay in there even after he’d left, but as it was confirmed on Twitter, it was all about coercive control. I’m glad she broke free of him in the end.
There was a bit of running around with the big bag of drugs, along with a bit of misdirection for how that eventually ended up, but I’m glad things sort-of worked out for Chris, rather than going down the tired situation of just bumping him off. It also leaves up the potential of a further series, although you’d hope he’d learned his lesson.
The Responder begins Monday January 24th at 9pm. Episode 2 is the following night, while the remaining three are the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week. It’s available to pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD , ahead of its released on February 28th.
After episode one has been broadcast, I expect the whole series will be on the BBC iPlayer.
Episode 1: 8.5/10
Episode 2: 8.5/10
Episode 3: 8/10
Episode 4: 8/10
Episode 5: 8.5/10
Director: Tim Mielants
Producer: Rebecca Ferguson
Writer: Tony Schumacher
Music: Matthew Herbert
Chris Carson: Martin Freeman
Carl Sweeney: Ian Hart
Rachel Hargreaves: Adelayo Adedayo
Raymond Mullen: Warren Brown
Kate Carson: MyAnna Buring
Tilly Carson: Romi Hyland-Rylands
Casey: Emily Fairn
Marco: Josh Finan
June Carson: Rita Tushingham
Lynne Renfrew: Elizabeth Berrington
Trevor: Victor McGuire
Davey: David Bradley
Omar: Tahir Shah
Sgt Bernie Wilson: Dominic Carter
Karl Collins: Colin Westfield
Stevo Marsh: Sonny Walker
Kevin: Michael Starke
Mary: Sylvie Gatrill
Lexie Sweeney: Lois Cringle
Jodie Sweeney: Faye McKeever
Barry: Mark Womack
Stew: William Travis
Mrs Robinson: Pat Winker
Liam: Harry Burke
Iris: Debra Radcliffe
Doctor Sutherland: Paul Campion
Phil O’Rourke: Dave Hart
Ian: Philip S McGuinness
Adam Mullen: Jude Cooper-Kelly
Kyle: Connor Dempsey
Enno: James Ledsham
Smiggy: Keith Carter
Steve: Phil Barantini
Ellie Mullen: Kerrie Hayes
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.