The Responder

Martin Freeman delivers a tour de force performance as a flawed and stressed Liverpool cop.

New UK police drama The Responder is so authentic, and so true to its Liverpool backdrop, that I had to halt my preview after 20 minutes.

The accents from Martin Freeman and cast were so strong that I felt like I was missing too much of the dialogue. Instead I decided to wait and watch with closed captions instead. I’m glad I did because this is a ripper of a series, and its clear Freeman is delivering a tour de force performance.

Freeman plays troubled demoted policeman Chris Carson, who works the night shift alone, whilst raising a young family with wife Kate (MyAnna Buring). But life is glum, turning up to thankless neighbourhood disputes, finding dead seniors alone in their flats and catching moments with family at the kitchen table like ships in the night.

Chris is also undergoing therapy to cope with the demands of his work.

“I want to be a good bobby… I want to be normal,” he says.

There are also tell-tale signs of trouble at home, with a hollow hole having been punched into a wall.

These are all authentic touches from writer and former cop Tony Schumacher.

“Every night there’s spit on face, blood on boots and it never stops,” he tells his therapist. “I think it’s whack-a-mole …..I can’t remember the last time I did something good.”

He is also subjected to the demands of local drug dealer Carl (Ian Hart) who pressures Chris to find local addict “Town Centre’ Casey (Emily Fairn). But just how corrupt and obligated is Chris?

“Bring me Casey so we can put this to bed,” he is warned.

While there are signs he wants to be benevolent, Chris is also heavily flawed. As the opening chapter progresses, he finds himself more trapped by circumstance and bad choices, and further falling behind the thing blue line.

“You are disappearing these last few months,” warns wife Kate.

There are also scenes with Chris mother (Rita Tushingham), whose life is deteriorating in a nursing home.

“I did a good thing for someone who normally doesn’t matter,” he tells her.

Freeman is outstanding in this role, elevating the nuances of Schumacher’s script which never sits comfortably as police hero. As the title suggests, front line workers endure intolerable amounts of anxiety that can’t be just switched on and off according to work shifts.

The Responder is one of the best things Freeman has done and I can’t wait to see where it goes, with my closed captions intact, so I don’t miss a thing.

The Responder screens 9:30pm Wednesdays on SBS.

14 Responses

  1. well that’s 1 way to get a season 2…don’t resolve anything in final ep of season 1.we’ve both been fans david…did you like the way the season ended?

      1. lol my bad david..thought it was 5 eps…everything i’ve seen said 5 eps…puzzled…nvm then.you gonna do a review of beforeigners? think that’ll be my next watch on stream

  2. I’m not entirely sure who’s responsible for innovating the trend for 5-episode series, but if they’re as intense and of the same quality as this, I’m all for it. Lately – in the last few years – it’s made for some truly wonderful series. Like that good book you just can’t quite put down. I read an early UK review (I think it might have been RadioTimes) and thought it was strange the BBC decided to strip it across the week. After seeing the first episode that decision makes more sense. It’s a feeling I’ve rarely felt in TV, but the first episode of this gave me the same level of *anxiety* (this word choice is deliberate and I’ll explain why) as “Chernobyl” and “The North Water”. I was made so uncomfortable watching it that I have to see the next bit, but in the same breath I want it to be over so I never have to see it again. It’s that pit-of-the-stomach feeling, and I can’t wait for next week.

        1. however many eps and whatever format they’re shown on tv…i’ll just be watching the streams on my laptop.just to add something to that…we’re on this site cause for whatever reason we’re interested in ratings.the overwhelming majority of us aren’t involved in the oztam tv monitoring of them.so..if you want a bit of a say in the ratings system and to make known what shows you like…why not stream?i might be wrong ,and david could correct me,but i think every single stream on the networks’ sites gets registered and counted.being drawn to foreign drama,i’m mainly on sbs on demand..and it’s my small way of supporting their programming.

          1. just finished watching the episode…gosh it was good…and Freeman i’d probably watch just to hear talk about ham and pea soup..lol.if 4.5 stars gets us this..can’t wait for your next one.

  3. Freeman’s accent is trained. The native and trained accents were consistent, though thick enough that I had to watch it twice to get all the dialogue. A good solid cop show. It’s much better than Hidden Assets but gets a similar low audience. It appears that ceaseless promotion on SBS isn’t very effective.

  4. Just finished the” long call “and” hidden assets”..good to see you’ve found something to be so enthusiastic about..so even though it’s not quite Nordic noir..lol…I’ll check out this episode ,

      1. hi david just finished watching it all it was amazing but it has nearly the same feeling and basic set up as the body guard this is not a criticisim it was fantastic not sure they could do the same with a 2nd serise

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