I’ve been catching up on the latest series of Sally Wainwright’s police drama, Scott and Bailey, this week. I’ve always enjoyed the programme, with its perfect blend of sharp writing and great acting. But what has really gripped me about this latest (and last) outing for the Manchester detectives is the intriguing modernity of the subject matter.
Bailey has recently returned from the Met to a temporary promotion within her former department at the Greater Manchester Police. Never one to waste time on diplomacy, Rachel manages to rub her colleagues and friends up the wrong way pretty much immediately, in one case with heart-wrenchingly tragic consequences.
The personal dramas are always beautifully played in this series but for me, what is particularly striking, is the subject matter tackled in this three-parter. The central theme is how the Internet and smart phones have changed the nature of crime. This topic is explored through the murder case being investigated by Bailey’s team alongside a storyline involving Janet’s sixteen year old daughter and her fifteen year old boyfriend.
From the minute this sub-plot began to unfold, I realised that I was watching something that was utterly required viewing for any parent with a child approaching their teenage years in the digital age. In the era of snapchat and Instagram, it was immediately obvious to me that Wainwright had captured a snapshot of the minefields that lie ahead for our children, and that I’d be a fool not to take very serious notice of what she had to say.
It takes an accomplished writer to tackle issues before they have entered the public zeitgeist. It also takes courage to make an extremely popular prime time crime show evolve in the fundamental way in which this one has. Gone is the fabulous Amelia Bullimore’s Jill, the fast-talking, no-nonsense DCI who delivered investigative procedure like a verbal Gatling gun. But she’s been replaced by a subtler, more melancholic humour which matches a series that is clearly set to be a dark one, with a nihilistic conclusion which will undoubtedly negate any hope of a future return for the pair.
Despite the change of tone and pace, this instalment is looking like it might be my favourite. There’s no necessity for a romantic interest to be added to the story of either lead character. Scott and Bailey are simply our protagonists, not required to be defined by their relationship with a man.
Scott and Bailey has always been my preferred of Wainwright’s dramas, with Happy Valley being too self-conscious in its quest for northern authenticity and in being ‘hard-hitting’, whilst Scott and Bailey achieves this aim apparently without effort.
This superior drama will be greatly missed, but at the same time it feels like the right moment to end the story. I just hope that Wainwright provides us with another series of the same quality in the years to come.
Photograph from The Radio Times.