We’re still stumbling into the dark, but the second episode is classic thriller series construction: the lone hero, keeping it all inside makes his first contact with the flambuoyant maverick and the outside edges of the picture are revealed and it’s not a pretty one.
I’m going to be honest and say immediately that I have a serious problem with several characters in this story. Not Ronnie Craven, and certainly not with the ghost of his daughter, still accompanying him at significant moments. Bob Peck is one of the most self-composed characters there has ever been on TV, and even when he is mystified at what the series is growing into, and becoming very much aware that this has dimensions he has never even dreamt of, Craven is a still point, completely focussed.
But we are delving deeply into the secret world, and what’s more the secret world of the dangerous Eighties, when Nuclear War was expected, when dirtiness and a callous regard for we mere people was never far below any surface you touched, when the rightwards swing of politics was gathering momentum and the infamous Spycatcher, evidence of the ferociously Right Wing hardline of the Intelligence services, was waiting to be exposed.
Christ, I hate those bastards! The ones who think that any move towards treating ordinary people decently and fairly, and as human beings, is Communism of the deepest red. And they’re all over Edge of Darkness. Pendleton introduces Craven to his partner, Henry Harcourt (Ian MacNeice), who’s even more smug and intolerable than Pendleton – these boys always act so superior, as if their depths of knowledge create an inbuilt sneer openly directed at everyone for being so much more ignorant than them.
To them, anyone who shows the slightest shade of liberal opinion is a terrorist and a subversive.
The same goes for their ally, Darius Jedburgh, Joe Don Baker unleashed to be as Ugly American as he possibly can, the walking anti-Commie, the Better Dead than Red that instinctively makes me want to turn Communist myself. Baker is unrestrained. he’s more human than Pendleton and Harcourt, redeemed by his openness and general lack of the snidery that runs through Harcourt especially, but both of them, like Blackpool through a stick of rock.
At least the Snide Boys aren’t being presented as anything other as enemies, though of what stripe we’re yet to see, but in his own way, the I-am-right-and-nothing-else-is way, Jedburgh, though a potential ally to Craven, is the same under the skin, and I so do hate these figures.
As for the burgeoning plot, the Police are still treating Emma’s death as an accident, and they think they’ve identified the man responsible, seeking revenge on Ronnie for being put away ten years ago. The episode starts with a powerful scene, men in a room, silent, thoughtful, concentrating utterly on the tape of Ronnie’s interview, as he tries to be as precise as he can as to the events of Emma’s death. From there we go to the unsalubrious lodgings of Terry ‘Tel’ Shields (a young, pre-Blackadder Tim McInnerny), a scruffy, nervous, defensive activist, contemptuous of the Police and Craven, but nevertheless signalling silently that he’s an informer.
This was Emma’s lover. Ronnie’s somewhat incredulous, and he’s certainly contemptuous of Emma’s ghost’s protestations that she loved him – there’s another of those disturbing moments when he repeats Terry’s claim that the relationship was physical in disgusted tones and Emma’s ghost claims he’s just jealous – but he has a point. It’s not just that Terry’s an informer, without even the weaselly courage of his supposedly deep Socialist belief, but that he lives in the middle of a world of surveillance. Every word, every gasp, every grunt, every bedspring squeaked has been listened to. Emma’s sex-life has been without privacy, and what’s more Ronnie realises she will have known this.
But as we move forward, the parameters begin to be established. The name Northmoor surfaces, a secret, private, extremely dangerous nuclear reprocessing plant. Radioactive materials leaked into a Yorkshire reservoir that had to be closed. An enquiry headed by a scientist who dies in a motorway traffic accident. Jedburgh’s file that makes it plain that GAIA sent a team to invade Northmoor, headed by Emma, that was contaminated – deliberately? – whilst in there, and of whom all six have either died or disappeared. And the line that states it is impossible to believe Ronnie didn’t know all about it, and why didn’t he stop his daughter?
This is already a very dirty story, on more levels than we could have imagined last week. It will go deeper.