STANDING ON GUARD

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Vera: Set 3

Release Year:         2013
Studio:         Acorn Media
Format:         Colour; Widescreen; NTSC
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         4 / 4
Running Time:         369 minutes plus Bonus
DVD Release Date:         January 28, 2014
Screenwriters:         Gaby Chiappe, Paul Rutman
Directors:         William Sinclair, Paul Cotter
Actors:         Brenda Blethyn, David Leon, Kenny Lockhart
DVD Features:         SDH subtitles
E:Top Picks Rating:         10/10

Acorn Media Write-up:  
Two-time Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) plays a Detective Chief Inspector in this hit mystery series inspired by Ann Cleeve’s bestselling novels. Patrolling her patch of northeast England, Vera resolutely pursues the truth in cases of murder, kidnapping, and blackmail. While her manner is sometimes caustic her single-mindedness gets results.

Vera is supported by her trusted team, including right-hand man Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth (David Leon, RocknRolla). A family man, Ashworth is ever trying to strike a balance between home and work. Meanwhile, forensic pathologist Billy Cartwright (Paul Ritter, The Eagle) and Detective Constable Kenny Lockhart (Jon Morrison, High Times) tend to bring out the scathing side of their boss. Guest stars in these four new feature-length dramas include Saskia Reeves (Luther), Dean Andrews (Life on Mars), and Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones).

BONUS Photo gallery and text interviews with Brenda Blethyn and David Leon.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:  
VERA has come of age. While the first episodes back in Set 1 lacked balance between Vera’s mothering side and her irascibility, the show has finally got it right. Small wonder with Brenda Blethyn at the head. She’s a masterful actor and perhaps just needed some time to get on track.

The four wonderful mysteries that comprise Set 3 of VERA are made all the more intriguing by the slowly unfolding overall story arc of Vera’s past and how it affects her present. Nonetheless, by mostly allowing Vera to be the mother figure with a genius for solving crimes, Brenda Blethyn gives us a character we would genuinely want to meet–who cares for people and does her job as a servant to society. There are still hints of a gravelly past, but hints are all that’s needed. Her occasional short outbursts are as much a vent of frustration with the progress of the case she is working on than they are an indication of what apparently still haunts her.

Each of the four episodes have plots which unfold with expert pacing and intricate precision. The first episode, Castles in the Air is one of the best episodes of the entire series so far.

And of course it all begins with the writing, which is superb. And the visuals. Always damp-looking northeast England is commented upon by a Scottish comedian in one episode: “I’m from Scotland where ‘damp’ is a colour”.

Kidnapping joins the list of crimes in episode two, Poster Child. While the first suspects are logical and not entirely innocent, the superb plotting reels the viewer in to something far more involving and sinister.

Episode 3, Young Gods, has a very strong opening. Here is found an example of Vera’s motherly compassion, when she hands a crying witness a packet of tissues. One scene features cross-cutting between interviews, which proves highly effective in keeping the pacing of the episode sharp. It is in this instalment that Vera’s life-style choices catch up to her and she is forced to begin to come to terms with her personal demons. Definitely leaves you wanting more.

But it is episode four (Prodigal Son) that is probably the best of the set. It’s a complex, excellent addition to what has become a first-rate police procedural.

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