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
A well-loved family man plunges to his death from the top of a multistory parking lot--but did he jump, or was he pushed? Stanhope discovers the victim had been drinking, fighting, and lying to his wife and children. He had also made enemies among his coworkers at the docks, who blamed him for a recent fatality. The detectives try to untangle the web of secrets the dead man was hiding.
Stanhope and Healy investigate the murder of a member of the Irish traveler community, found floating in a farm's slurry tank. The farmer reports that two of his laborers, both illegals from Serbia, have vanished, though he is less forthcoming about his family's long-running dispute with the travelers. Could the disappearance of the Serbians and the death of the Irishman be connected?
The discovery of human remains partially buried in the woods leads Stanhope and Healy back to the disappearance of a local schoolgirl during a coalminers' strike 30 years earlier. At the time, everyone believed she had run off to London after problems at home, and the police had paid little attention to the case. Then evidence turns up indicating the girl was at the scene of the strike. Could the protests be connected to her death?
A fire at a vacation park on the Northumberland coast destroys three cabins and leaves behind the charred remains of the park owner's sister. The night before, she had been partying with a group of younger people, including her niece's fiancÃ©. When Stanhope learns the victim had been locked in her cabin, she realizes that the blaze was no accident.