Friday, September 10, 2010

Law & Order UK “Broken” Recap & Review

All photos from ITV

I had a chance to see the opening episode of Series 3 of Law & Order UK titled "Broken" and decided to prepare a full recap. With the new season of Law & Order SVU and Law & Order: LA now both airing on Wednesday nights, I will likely have the time to only prepare very brief summaries of those episodes. This may be the last detailed recap I do for a while.

Law & Order UK “Broken” opened Series 3 with a very somber case about the death of a child, which turned out to be at the hands of another child. It’s a story that has been done more than once in the Law & Order universe, but this UK episode had a sadder, more desperate tone to it, aided by good acting and good choices for the background soundtrack. I like watching Law & Order UK for what seems to be a more formal and serious approach to dealing with the cases, and also to get a glimpse at how the UK criminal justice system works. I also enjoy the cast very much – Bradley Walsh and Jamie Bamber make a great detective team, and Daniels and Agyeman having great chemistry as they navigate the legal system with the expected stoicism. I am also impressed with the excellent camera work with both studio sets and location settings chosen – everything and everyone looks filmed to look their best. I continue to wish that these would air in the U.S. as I think viewes would really enjoy the change of pace.

The question this case asks is can the legal system be lenient when it comes to murder when the murder is committed by a child? Should the parents of the victims have a say in how the case is tried? Should the tabloids stop trying cases in the media in order to sell their publications? In this case, it seems that the murdering child clearly had outside influences that may have lead to her killing, but, not every case happens this way. While the episode seemed to paint the legal system as being too narrow regarding the prosecution, there may be many times where children who kill other children – or anyone else for that matter – need to be treated as killers. It’s not a situation that can be painted with a broad brush approach.

Here is the recap:

“Broken” opens with a death of a 5 year old boy, Connor Reid, which who appeared to be beaten and strangled to death, with some “Crackle Candy” left in his mouth. When DS Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber) and DS Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh) arrive on the sad crime scene, Brooks comments “Just when you think you’ve seen it all.” The detectives have to question other children, and notify the boy’s mother, Julie Reid (Lorraine Stanley) about the murder, adding to their growing sense of tragedy.

It looks like the neighbor’s boyfriend, Rob Denton (Ricky Champ), a mechanic was last spotted with Connor, may be the killer, but he implicated another young girl, Paige Ward (Annie Cull) who he spotted with Connor. Paige in turn implicated her friend Rose Shaw (Romy Irving). But, Rose also picks out Denton as the person last seen with Connor walking out of his flat. The detectives get a shock when the ever-present CCTV (closed circuit TV) video clearly shows Connor leaving with Paige and Rose.

Paige and Rose are brought in for questioning, but Rose’s mother freaks out and leaves Rose there to be questioned. Paige, on the other hand, seems to be close to breaking under Devlin’s questioning. It’s Connor mother who seems to be the most affected by the pressure of young children being questioned, though. Devlin continues to press on with Paige, and she cracks under the pressure and implicates Rose, describing the murder in detail. Both girls are arrested.

SCP James Steel (Ben Daniels) and CP Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman) discuss the daunting “kids killing kids” case that faces them. Paige’s brief (her lawyer) wants Paige to be treated like a witness, and Steel wants Paige to plead guilty to assisting, with Paige getting immunity. Rose’s brief Kim Sharkey (Deborah Findlay), however, discloses a ton of information to Steel that he must get through right before the hearing.

During the hearing the girls seem to be treating the situation lightly. Sharkey wants Rose’s statements during her interview excluded, and uses the fact that she just disclosed this information to Steel just minutes before the hearing as her justification. Sharkey claims that Rose’s mother didn’t have the IQ to be able to act in Rose’s best interests. The judge grants Sharkey’s application to exclude the statement, dealing a huge blow to their case.

Steel and Phillips discuss the dilemma with DI Natalie Chandler (Harriet Walter) and George Castle (Bill Paterson). Castle, Steel, and Phillips review the matter with Connor’s mother Julie, who is being torn by the public attention to the case, with the public wanting revenge. Julie, however, can’t hate a child. Her commentary affects Castle. He wants to know what makes a child squeeze the life out of another child.

They have Rose speak with a psychiatrist, who believes Rose suffered abuse which changed the physiology of her nervous system and that her responsibility is diminished. But forensics show that the person who had her hands on the throat of Connor was Paige.

They bring Paige back in for questioning and Paige offers the explanation that she moved Connor to take him home to his mom. They realize that forensics could show that the blood was expelled during choking – or – while he was being moved as Paige said. Phillips thinks that the fact that Paige bites her nails, and that Rose has a defect in one of her nails which makes a mark on Connor’s neck, implicates Rose. They now have another piece of evidence which they take back to Sharkey, who writes the nail marks off to rough play. Steel wants to have Rose committed to a hospital rather than go to trial. Sharkey takes a pass, saying the case is a career maker for her.

Castle pushes for hospital treatment for Rose with the Director of Public Prosecutions, who wants to press on with the case. Later, Castle directs Steel to push for diminished capacity, not murder, saying to “screw the DPP.” While the case is being argued in court, again the girls seem oblivious to their predicament. The tabloids also are trying the case via their news publications. Outside the courtroom, Steel chastises Rose’s mother Kelly for whining to the tabloids in full view of news media. Phillips gives him the idea to call Kelly as a witness, where he makes it clear on the stand that she is a prostitute, and that maybe Rose saw videos of her mother in sexual videos of strangulation and cutting. He clearly makes Rose out to be an unfit mother. The verdict finds Rose guilty of murder, but the judge sentenced her to be detained for a minimum term of 12 years, and Rose sobs to her mother as they take her away.

Afterwards, Castle tells Connor’s mother that the psychiatrist will work with Rose while she is in the secure unit and when she is 15, Castle will personally appeal against her move to prison.

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Anonymous said...

Is there no way to watch these episodes in the US? Still very upset about the cancellation of the L&O mother ship.

Joanne said...

The episode makes me think of the Mary Bell case.

I have a question. For the different L&O spin-offs, are there people who overlook the stories that are written for the various franchises or are they written completely separately? What I mean is - I remember once an actor/actress quit one of the shows (can't recall at all who/which show) because they didn't agree with the political direction of the show. Would the political direction be due to the individual writers (ie. SVU, UK, CI etc could all potentially have different views), or do all the shows share a similar direction because someone higher up needs to approve the stories (eg. Dick Wolf?)? I'm not sure if I'm wording this clearly.

ATL&O, how different is the pacing of the L&O UK?

Chris Zimmer said...

To answer the first question, yes, there is a way to watch these in the US, but I can't promote or endorse the web sites that are making the episodes available on line since they don't have the network approval to host them. Some creative google seaching may allow you to find the episodes, just be cautious of the sources!

Chris Zimmer said...

To answer the econd question from Jojo: My thinking is that the writing is done relatively independently from the other shows, and the political tone for each show may take its cue from the individual showrunner/exec producers. I am sure Dick Wolf has a say from a big picture standpoint, but my guess is the showrunner may be the one who drives a consitant political slant on an episode by episode basis.

If I recall correctly, Michael Moriarty was fired from the series when he had a bit of a policial run-in with Janet Reno and I don't think the show wanted that kind of negative attention. I can't recall anyone quitting because of the political direction of the show, at least I can't think of anybody right off the top of my head!

Joanne said...

Sorry, my mistake on the politically-motivated-quitting. I have a very hazy memory of someone leaving the show and it having something to do with politics, but I guess I made the wrong connections!

Anonymous said...

Season 1 (or Series 1 and 2 if we go by how ITV aired the episodes) is currently available as a Target exclusive DVD set. Beginning October 26 the DVDs can be purchased at, Best Buy and anywhere else you can buy DVDs. The set contains all thirteen episodes and a few extras.

Chris Zimmer said...

Thanks asta77, I keep forgetting that Target made the earlier seasons available on DVD!

gahks said...

Dislike! First we've had Ben Daniels playing the role of moral crusader as James Steel, now it's Bill Paterson's turn as the seemingly self-righteous CPS Director, George Castle. Swayed by the beliefs of the victim's mother that her little boy's killer should not go to prison, he decided to take matters into his own hands, fight her corner and push for diminished responsibility. To my legally untrained eyes, I would have thought this dilemma would have been better suited to the defence case.

The other thing that enrages me about "Law & Order: UK" is an incessant desire on the part of the writers to portray defence barristers as louche, smug and self-serving, out only for their "fifteen minutes of fame." It's all too predictable. Give us some decent characterisation, please! The defence lawyers on the mothership were wily and frequently controversial, but never so irritatingly smarmy. Just because the actors playing them don't receive star billing doesn't mean they can't get parts that are decently written.

It's essentially a likeable series, but I just wish Rene Balcer would step in and fix things! Make it pacier, stop each episode descending into a self-righteous mess and bring some new storylines to the table!

janethyland said...

Overnight ratings were low for the premiere,considering its strategic placement following the massively popular Coronation Street,and considering there was no strong competition on the night.(UK TV doesnt often aggressively schedule its programmes in the way American TV does).

The link with Coronation Street seems paramount to its success, with cross over actors everywhere.Personally I find it sad that the Law and Order UK places itself for that middle of the road soap audience,considering the rewrite stories are from the early days of Law and Order Mothership.In those days the franchise was courting as different sort of audience.Its an indication of how the franchise has changed.

Anyway premiere ratings were 4.9million, which was 21% audience share for its slot.That is low.Previous season managed between 5- 5.7million an episode.The trend is downwards from the very first episode of 6.4million and 26% audience share.(By the way dont believe wikipedia figures. They arent accurate!For instance it didnt win its slot every night.)

In context,on the same night Watchdog, which is a consumer documentary series, got 4.9million, and a natural history programme called "Secret Britain" got 6 million earlier in the week.Its interesting that factual programmes do so well.In fact one "Who do you think you are"documantary beat a season 2 Law and Order UK in same slot...ironically it was the one on the actor who plays Lewis in the Morse series!

Under 5 million is low for a Premiere when you consider Midsomer Murders, another crime procedural, returned to 5.7million and 24% audience.

Two TVgiants closed recently.The Bill, which has been on TV for 27years,and which Law and Order UK probably replaced at less cost,ended on 4.4million.Last of the Summer Wine,the worlds longest running comedy drama,ended on 5.5million.Both had been losing ratings for some time so I suspect ITV is hoping Law and Order uk will improve their loss in ratings. 5million might just about make that viable....especially if NBC Universal is thinking of buying up the ailing ITV,as reported recently.Now theres a story of TV incest for any crime procedural!

janethyland said...

There is also confusion about the number of seasons over here.In fact the first order was for 13 episodes which were divided into two parts then called season 1 and 2.

This is the second order,presumable of 13episodes to be divided similarly.I think the dvd has the full season in one.

I didnt watch it but there is discussion about the legalities being inaccurate according to British Law? Anyone else discover that?

By the way gahks,"Roger and Val just got in" was brilliant last night wasnt it!

maxine said...

To janethyland - I was wondering if the lower figures had to do with the no-show of L&O in Scotland? As far as I can recall, the last two series were broadcast up here but not this time, so viewers like me, unless they had Sky, were left wanting! :-(

Anonymous said...

It is to be shown in Scotland, STV from Wednesday 22nd Sept.

janethyland said...

One major difference is the fact that this season they are not repeating episodes in the same week,which means those wanting to watch it have to watch it on the same night in the one slot..and those in Ireland get it on the same night too. That should stand to its advantage,although clearly numbers didnt reflect that in its first episode.

Only Scotland gets it on a different night. Did many watch it in Scotland?

janethyland said...

Last season Ireland got it on a different night too,so on the whole last season had more dispersed viewing than this season, however viewing numbers were still higher last season.

It is only one episode so far and alot depends on what the competition is.However it has the huge bonus of always following Coronation Street and any show that follows that juggernaut has a sitting target audience.Its all about strategy and marketing.

Probably alot of people who have Sky are watching it on the same night anyway.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the Law & Order UK episode "Defense" where a schizophrenic homeless man (who also had a law degree & did well while on his meds but was a stalker/murderer w/o the meds whose sister had warned & pleaded with the police to take further action with a prior incident bc she knew something horrible would happen if not, since he would not stay on his meds)killed multiple ppl in a clothing store while off his meds. He began taking his meds again and defended himself in court. All of that said, I just began watching the UK version, but have been addicted to all other US versions for years, and I SWEAR I've seen this episode, but not the UK version! It was set here in the States, but with the same plot. Do you know if there was an episode in one of the US Law & Orders that followed the same plot? If so, what episode & on which Law & Order (CI, SVU, etc)?? It's driving me crazy and no matter how I word my search I cannot locate anything but the UK version. Thanks!

Chris Zimmer said...

The UK episode "Defence" was based on the US episode "Pro Se" - the info was listed in my recap for "Defence":