In the tradition of 'Prime Suspect', 'Vera' is a savvy, homely, middle aged female Detective Chief Inspector commanding a large force of mostly compliant male underlings. Like several popular female centered mystery shows that have been brought to us by the likes of ITV and BBC, 'Vera' is based upon a series of novels by an accomplished British mystery author. Ann Cleeves in this case.
No correlation to anything by Agatha Christie is viable, however. This is not Jane Marple, but much more Sherlock Holmes, albeit thoroughly modern (mysteries are ripped from the headlines), sexier (Vera's attending detectives are male model types), more diverse (one lead detective is a woman of color), and told against the breathtaking backdrop of Northumberland countryside and Newcastle upon Tyne. The idyllic small village effect is driven home, punctuated more effectively by all the horrors which unfold behind cottage doors.
Brenda Blethyn, Miss Vera Stanhope herself, is a movie and television veteran, and brings a raw, believable gravitas to the Vera character. Recipient of a BAFTA, Mrs. Blethyn's full acting range is on display in every episode. She seems to relish traipsing through the bleak, gray countryside, conducting murder investigations whose moods and locales evoke the worst of Dickens' Edwin Drood.
The first season of 'Vera' attracted an enormous viewership, though the season was merely comprised of four 90 minute episodes. ITV quickly ordered four more episodes. Season one found Vera investigating everything from homicidal sugar daddies, to a wrongfully imprisoned young woman who is only exonerated after she kills herself.
'Vera' offers strong acting and directing and plausible plot lines that contain no end in twists and turns. Indeed, Vera's talent for extrapolating evidence, leads, and conclusions from abstract minutiae contributes to her fascinating powers. Powers often at war with her demons of alcoholism. A tortured, drunkard detective: yes, cliché, but 'Vera' keeps it fresh and suspenseful.
'Vera' is of the new breed of crime shows that do not necessarily rap up all loose ends perfectly, and occasionally it appears bad guys will get away, until Vera solves the crime within the last two minutes of any given episode.
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Vera Full Episode Guide
When a young man is found dead with heroin in his body and a stolen credit card in his wallet, Stanhope and Ashworth suspect he led a life his possessive mother knew little about. Only when they learn details of the mother's own life does a motive for murder emerge.
The authorities at a local army base are keen to declare the death of a decorated Afghanistan War veteran a suicide, but Stanhope has other ideas. Yet when a fellow soldier confesses to the killing, the detective doesn't believe that either and continues to pursue the investigation wherever it leads.
What connects the murder of a well-respected social worker and a famous case in which a child was drowned by his own mother? The answer seems to lie in a book the murdered woman was writing--until Stanhope's prime suspect ends up drowned, too.
Vera Stanhope is reunited with her first mentor after his home is firebombed and his teenage daughter badly injured in the blaze. Having survived an apparent murder bid, her old friend then makes a tragic decision, leaving Vera to find out why.