LadyGhosts of TV Past

What I Watched Last Night: Prime Suspect

I’ve been waiting for Prime Suspect to turn up on Netflix Instant for… oh, as long as I’ve had a subscription. I love Helen Mirren. How can you not love Helen Mirren, really?

Prime Suspect Series 1 DVD CoverFor some reason, Netflix has the different series numbered incorrectly – listed as Series 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 – with episodes stuck in the wrong places. “Series 2” is actually the beginning of the show in 1991, and it has 2 parts. Series 3 (which aired in 1993) is listed with Series 6 (from 2003). What is listed as Series 4 is actually Series 2 (aired in 1992) and then the 3-part Series 4 (from 1995). Series 5 and Series 7 are listed correctly.

Confused yet? Yeah, I know. I had to do some back-and-forth Wikipedia-glancing to sort it out. So far, I’ve only watched the first series, aside from seeing most of the last one when it originally aired in 2006.

If you’re unfamiliar with Prime Suspect, Helen Mirren plays Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, the only female who holds the position at Scotland Yard. This being 1991, every room operates in a cloud of cigarette smoke and unconcealed sexism. A raped and murdered woman turns up in a prostitute’s bedsit, and DCI Tennison fights for the opportunity to head the investigation. To say she encounters resistance by her colleagues puts it mildly, and the frustratingly slow progress on the case leads to some of the men wanting her replaced. So absorbed in her work, she fails to notice the effect it has on her personal life. Tom Wilkinson plays her unhappy boyfriend, and Ralph Fiennes has a small part as the murdered woman’s boyfriend.

While things like the DOS green-screened computers and the brick mobiles naturally date the show, the rest of it holds up very well. The acting and writing are both excellent, and I’m sure I’ll be binging on the rest of the show quite soon.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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