Monday, December 13, 2010

Law & Order UK “Skeletons” Recap & Review

Law & Order UK “Skeletons” was more about the skeletons in James Steel’s closet than it was about a serial killer who was preying on children. It seems that James Steel thought he had the right man in jail for the killings. But, when more killings occur despite the fact that the man convicted for the previous crimes was in prison, they find out that the wrong man was jailed. The “Wright” man is eventually arrested and James Steel’s wall comes tumbling down. Based on the original Law & Order episode “Trophy” from season 6, “Skeletons” features a magnificent performance by Ben Daniels. What makes the episode especially sad is that this is Ben’s last episode with the series. It’s frustrating that he's out the door just as we get a real look into what makes James Steel tick, not only of his love for the law and justice, but of his affair with another woman while he was married. And just as it looks like there may be something else in the cards for James and Alesha (Freema Agyeman), cranky George Castle has to interrupt with an ill-timed phone call, leaving us all to wonder what could happen between those two (if anything).

This episode was a little off formula with the focus more on James Steel rather than on the crime that opened the show. But, the episode still works well as we are given plenty of courtroom drama, plus a lot of tension as Steel fights for his professional life and for his reputation. George Castle also chooses a man to prosecute Steel who is a major jerk, which not only proves troublesome for Steel but also for Phillips, who finds herself booted out of her own office. There is also tension between CPS and MIU, when Steel accuses Ronnie (Bradley Walsh) of making a mistake and Matt (Jamie Bamber) and Chandler (Harriet Walter) come to his defense.
We are also treated to wonderful scene staging and camera work. I especially loved the end which was in view of the London Eye (AKA Millennium Wheel) with Steel and Phillips surrounded by blue lights. I think that Law & Order UK may be the best of all the shows in the brand as it comes to highlighting its home city and creating scenes where all the main characters look their best.

This is also the last episode that we will see Bill Paterson as Director George Castle. He is scheduled to come back at a later time in a recurring role. Still, I will miss his character’s always cranky persona and his interesting viewpoints on things.

This was a great finale to the season, and I am looking forward to new new season with the new cast. But...Ben Daniels will be greatly missed!

Here is the recap:

DS Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh) and DS Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber) along with a search team, search the banks of the river for a missing boy, Shaun Monroe. But, he’s not by the river, the boy’s body spills out of a drainpipe as Devlin watches. The boy is dead. He was killed by a single blow to the head; killed then dumped into the drain. Devlin finds a note on the body which says “They must be destroyed”. Brooks comments that he did not think he’d see that again.

The detectives inform CP James Steel (Ben Daniels) and Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman) of their findings. It sounds like the MO of Andrew Dillon, a racist who Steel put in jail years before. Dillon was recently beaten up in jail. Dillon did have some supporters.

At the Cross Arms Pub, the detectives speak with one of Dillon’s supporters, Kyle Matthews (Jon Foster) who has an alibi. He said he attacked no one. As far as the original crime, Kyle said Dillon didn’t start it, he was mugged

At MIU, the detectives find the time of the boy’s death rules out Matthews. Based on the boy's stomach contents, they decide to visit local shops. They find a video of him on a store camera and the store clerk recall him talking to the security guard, Marcus Wright (Jude Akuwudike). Later, they speak the with Wright who says he saw the boy at a news stand and sent him on his way and walked him to the shopping center and headed toward Beckton. They decide to talk to the boy’s friends.

At St. Justin’s Church hall, the detectives speak with Shaun’s friends. One boy wonders if he went to see Darren, one of the older guys at the church hall. They speak with Darren Powell (Tom Stuart), who says Shaun didn’t stay long and walked with him to the DLR and said he was going home.

Back at MIU, the detectives confer with DI Natalie Chandler (Harriet Walter). Darren used to be a dance teacher and now runs a talent agency that no one has heard of, from his own home. He seems to go around playgrounds targeting disadvantaged kids. Angela (Jessica Gunning) tells them Powell used his card but not at the time or place where Powell told them he’d been.
With Powell in MIU interrogation, the detectives question him about 95 minutes of time he was not accounted for. He said he wanted to shake Shaun off. They press him why he left his teaching job without a reference. Powell admits that he got too involved with a pupil, a boy who was being abused by his stepdad and the boy was scared of his dad so he lied about it. This is why he could not let Shaun into his house. Chandler enters and signals for Ronnie, whispering something in his ear.

Later, the detectives are at the scene of where another boy’s body has been found. He was strangled by his tie. There was also a note on the body – “They must be destroyed.”

Natalie Chandler holds a press conference about this new development of the killing of Dev and makes an appeal to the public for anyone who has seen anything to come forward. A reporter asks about the identical notes on the body, but Chandler will not discuss details. More questions ensue, asking about whether this is a serial killer and whether it relates to Andrew Dillon’s racially motivated killings. One reporter accuses Chandler of lying but she says they are doing their best to solve this.
Elsewhere, Brooks and Devlin speak with Dev’s friends. The kids are evasive but Brooks threatens to check CCTV. They finally admit they were near the shops taking things and Dev got caught by police.

Back at MIU, the detectives discuss that it seems this wasn’t reported by police and they wonder if it was a security guard who got Dev. They recall Shaun also had contact with a security guard, Marcus Wright. They later question Marcus in his home about both boys and he says it is a coincidence both boys ran into a security guard. But, he then admits he did catch Dev, but let him go. He adds that both boys sinned, and Devlin notices Wright’s bible. Brooks continues to press Wright while Devlin begins to read a passage from the bMIible. Wright grabs the book and a cross on a chain falls out. Devlin asks if it is Shaun Monroe’s crucifix and Marcus says no. Devlin asks if he would put his hand on the bible and say that.

At MIU in interrogation, they continue to question Wright and mention the crucifix and also a St. Anthony medal they found at Wright’s that belonged to Dev. Devlin reminds Wright he has a right to a solicitor but Wright says he doesn’t need one telling him what to say, he listens to God. He says the two boys were sinners and God sought revenge and that God picked them. Wright says Shaun was looking at porn while wearing a crucifix and Dev ripped off an image of St. Anthony and then stole some perfume, and Wright caught him but he got away. He followed him. Wright goes on about St. Anthony and says the boys had to be destroyed. He said God wrote the notes through him. Brooks asked if he got the idea through Andrew Dillon, and Wright says Dillon did not kill any of those boys, and he admits he killed them – all of them.

Later, James Steel, there with Phillips tells Brooks and Devlin that this is a sick attempt to take credit for someone else’s crimes. But, Marcus Wright knows too many details and he kept souvenirs that were never found. Steel still thinks he got the right man, but Brooks says there was another white boy who Wright killed after Dillon was jailed. The police dug up a skeleton for a white boy where Marcus said it would be and they found the same note in the pocket. Wright buried this victim because his mother was ill and he confessed to her and he didn’t want to be found out. His mother begged him to stop and then she died a few weeks ago. Brooks says it is Wright – they put away the wrong man.
Steel tells CPS Director George Castle who is upset at the news. Steel explains they had a solid case against Dillon. Castle worries about a lawsuit and that locking Dillon up led to three more boys to be killed.

At CPS, Andrew Dillon (Peter McNamara) is there with his brief and informs Steel he is being sued for malfeasance in public office, and Steel says they can’t target individuals. The brief reminds Steel that he did, against Dillon. Steel remind them he did everything by the book and the jury found Dillon guilty. But Dillon’s brief calls it selective prosecution, and mentions that a witness, Janice Hunter, made a statement to police 6 years ago that she saw the third victim an hour after he was seen with Dillon. The man she saw fits the description of Marcus Wright. Steel seems surprised. The witness has since died. Steel says he’s never seen this before, but the brief thinks Steel buried it and it is the basis of their claim. They plan to sue him for 300 thousand pounds. Steel insists the evidence points to Dillon, but Dillon accused Steel of tampering. Dillon says it is Steel who is prejudiced as Steel decided the killer had to be white. Steel gets incensed and shouts back that he knows Dillon knows how those boys felt. Dillon accused Steel of persecuting him. He says Steel owes him for stealing 5 years of his life.

Back in his office with files piled all over, Steel says no one gave him that statement, he would have known it because it jeopardized his whole case. Phillips comments that they are saying that this is what Dillon is saying was Steel’s motivation. He says he would have handed it over. Many people worked on the case, Claudia Martin was his lead assistant.

At Craddock & Shoenmann’s, Phillips speak with Claudia (Genevieve O'Reilly). Claudia asks how Dillon’s brief found the statement, and Phillips comments that he would not say. She says she does not recall the statement either. Claudia comments that is the year of her life she will never get back. Claudia talks with Phillips about working with Steel, which she described as intense and said she could not keep up with the pace and she sold out to private practice.

Later, Steel tells Phillips he spoke to the others on the team that he could track down. Three of them quit CPS and others never saw the statement. Steel wonders if the statement never came in to CPS, the police wanted to put Dillon away as much as they did.

In George Castle’s office, he tells DI Chandler that they are tracking down the receptionist who worked in the office at that time to see if they recall DS brooks bringing in the statement. Chandler testily responds that she doesn’t need anyone else’s word for it, she trusts Ronnie. A missing witness statement is a criminal offense and it is her duty to investigate it. He tells her he trusts his people too and they have nothing to hide.
Back at MIU, Steel talks with Brooks about the statement and Brooks can’t recall the details of who he gave it to. Devlin overhears their discussion and asks Steel if he thinks this is their fault. Steel asks Brooks if he could have made a mistake during “that time” and when Devlin hotly questions what he means, Chandler tells Steel just to say what he is thinking. Steel asks if someone on his team could have buried the evidence, and Devlin says James has balls. Brooks tells Devlin to leave it, and goes on to say he handed it into the office but he can’t recall to who or when. When Steel continues to press, Chandler shuts him down and tells him to get his own house in order.
At CPS, Castle sees Steel working on the files and says Chandler called and said the statement from Janice Hunter was entered into the police database and that Dillon's defense team got a copy of it three days later and Janice Hunter’s statement was not on it, and that schedule came from the CPS. Someone in his office must have deleted it. Steel thinks this means someone knows who signed for it, and races off to find out. He runs into Brooks and Devlin, and Devlin arrests him under suspicion of perverting justice and reads him his rights.
Later, still is fingerprinted and mug shots taken.

In court, Steel pleads not guilty. Prosecutor Samuel Cain (Tobias Menzies) objects to bail, but the judge grants bail with conditions. Steel says he wants to conduct his defense from council’s row. Despite Cain’s objection, the judge allows it.

Back at CPS in Phillip’s office, Cain is speaking to Castle and when Phillips walks in, he introduces himself. He tells Phillips since he will be calling her as witness it is not appropriate for her to be working in there. When she says this is her office, he says not any more. He tells her to take what she needs and set up in the paralegal’s office. She is stunned. Castle says they cleared a space for her and it is only a temporary measure. He begins to get her things but when Cain begins to confer with Castle, Cain asks her to leave.
Later, Phillips runs in to Steel on the street and asks how he is doing. He said he needs her to do something for him – to get him some files from the CPS. She says she is not allowed in their office. He begs her and then walks off.

Back at CPS, Phillips looks through files in a darkened office, and then must hide when Cain arrives there. He stops and looks around but gets a phone call and walks out. Phillips is hiding and he does not see her.

At Crown v Steel, Alesha Phillips is testifying. Cain asks her about the Donald Marsh case and under pressure, she admits she did not approve of James’ methods. When he asks if Steel ever asked her to do anything dishonest or compromised in the eyes of the law, and she says no. Steel breathes a sigh of relief.

Claudia Martin is testifying about her work on the Andrew Dillon case, and says Steel interviewed several expert witnesses before he found the one he needed. Steel gets uncomfortable. She said he told the handwriting expert that his evidence could prevent more children from being killed. Steel comments that this is hearsay from a prejudiced witness but the judge says he will have his chance to examine her. March says she left the CPS because she felt uncomfortable with Steel’s way of working and he was determined to convict Dillon. She says she did not delete Janice Hunter’s witness statements and she knew nothing about them.

Steel glares at her, and then asks if it was true she was having an affair with the defendant (meaning himself) at that time. Both Cain and Martin look stunned – and so does Phillips. Cain wonders if this testimony is necessary and Steel says if they are to believe her he must be allowed to ask these questions to her motive of trying to sully the reputation of a former colleague. The judge allows it. Martin answers that she was having an affair with him for a year and that he ended the relationship. He continues to press her for details, she whispers he is a bastard. She admits she told him she loved him. When he asks if she felt betrayed, she said that is an interesting choice of words coming from a man who was cheating on his wife. Steel accuses her of using the trial as a platform for revenge and that she is lying about her reasons for leaving the CPS. She says he used her and he knows she would have done anything for him. He says this is why the jury should see the evidence for what it is – the emotional backlash of a woman scorned.
Later and outside, Steel is waiting for Phillips and asks her if she got it. She give him a large file. She glares at him and he asks – what? She says he will really do anything to win. He said he had to discredit her evidence against him. Phillips comments that Martin was just collateral damage. He says, “yeah…thank you” and walks off.
Back at Crown v Steel, Steel is on the stand. He is questioned about his success rate of 93% and if winning drives him. He says it is about doing his job properly. Cain asks him about Dr. Merrick being acquitted of rape in 2009 that Steel had him arrested on a fiction rape charge. Steel said Merrick abused his position and attacked 14 women. He used the system to get him back into court. Cain said Steel used a questionable loophole, but Steel said he used a flaw in the system. Cain asks if he is above the legal system, and Steel hotly comments that he didn’t know he was on trial for the successful prosecution of a serial rapist. Cain says Steel takes the law into his own hands and for that he is on trial. Steel says he works within a system that he cherishes and respects and the courtrooms are cathedrals of belief in a just society. But Cain says who allows him to play God? Steel counters that it is not about playing God and there is no value about putting away a man for pride or statistics. He adds where Cain is standing in an honor and that honor carries a responsibility which sometimes means taking away someone’s liberty. Cain asks what happens when Steel sees a piece of evidence which shatters his clear cut mage of right and wrong. Steel says he goes back and rebuilds his case. He says they build walls; pieces of evidence are like blocks and each block is dragged into place so that when in court they have a wall that can’t be breached. If defense has something that can take away one of those blocks, the walls come tumbling down and he loses – we all lose because he hasn’t done his job properly. Cain says this is why they are here, he asks who is the lead prosecutor on the case and Steel says he was. When Cain asks who should take responsibility for Steel not doing his job and for this miscarriage of justice, Steel replies that if he had seen that statement, he would never have buried it, knowing that the real killer could still be out there and could kill again. Cain mentions that the evidence was incomplete and that’s what happened – Steel’s walls came tumbling down.

On day 10 of Crown v Steel, Steel calls Sally Ann Hope (Rochelle Neil) to the witness box. She is a paralegal secretary who did temp work at the CPS at Ludgate Hill. She worked there 6 years ago for two weeks in August. It was during the Dillon trial. Her brother was 10 and she had to get him off to school and it was her first job and she was worried about being late. He asks if she recalls a CID officer coming to reception on August 11. She said he gave her a package with evidence about the Dillon case. She handed it to Claudia Martin. Steel looks satisfied and Cain looks like he just got screwed.
At Crown v Steel, the verdict is read, and Steel is found not guilty.

Afterwards, in Castle’s office, Castle says Steel can’t blame himself. Steel says he should have known.

Later, Steel has a press conference, with George Castle by his side. He says he still holds himself responsible for a miscarriage of justice. The wrongful conviction led to the deaths of three children. He adds his position has become untenable and he is resigning from the CPS immediately. The reporters begin to shout out questions.
Outside, Steel walks with Phillips, who comments it is weird coming to work without him there. He says she will get used to it. They joke about it. He moves closer to her and says her name and looks into her eyes…and her phone rings. It’s George – and she has to take the call. She answers the phone and says she is on her way back now. She continues on with the call as she walks away from Steel – but stops looks back at him. He whispers it’s all right an motions for her to go. She nods at him and he nods back – and she walk off. As Steel stands there alone, we fade to black.

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iluvcinema said...

Overall I really liked the episode. It is sad to see James Steel go and to think about what could have been (or what can be off camera) between him and Alesha. I really enjoyed the heated discussion between Steel and the MIU team.

I may need to rewatch but I do have one question - how did Dillon's lawyer get a copy of the "mislaid" witness statement?

I am also curious as to the new dynamic the show will take with the new folks on the Order side of the procedural.

All Things Law and Order said...

iluvcinema - I don't think they ever said exactly how Dillon's brief got the witness statement, but I think the assumption is that since Claudia Martin is the one who initially deleted it, she may have been the one to leak it.

iluvcinema said...

yeah that is what i was initially thinking – self doubt rears its ugly head!

Anonymous said...

when was this on I missed it! I am so mad...can someone tell me if they are going to show it again, Hate to see Steel go..Lord!