‘Prime Suspect’ Pilot Recap: “Good Day at Work”

Finally, after a lackluster start, the fall TV season has at least one new show that seems fully formed and raring to go right out of the gate. I was beginning to lose hope. Even though detective series are a dime a dozen all over the television landscape, and even though this one is a remake of a highly-regarded British show starring the incomparable Helen Mirren, the new American version of ‘Prime Suspect’ is the only new fall show I’ve bothered to set for a series recording already. The pilot episode is that good.

First off, I must admit that I’ve never seen the original British ‘Prime Suspect’, so I can’t draw any comparisons there. All I can do is judge the new show as its own thing. In that regard, I liked the first episode a lot.

From my understanding, the American adaptation is not intended to be a direct copy, and star Maria Bello isn’t trying to play Helen Mirren’s character. Her Detective Jane Timoney is a feisty go-getter, tired of being passed over for cases by the men in her department. She speaks her mind without fear of repercussions, even though she usually regrets it later. She’s alienated herself from pretty much everyone she works with. Most of the other detectives actively hate her, and her captain (Aidan Quinn) thinks she’s a pain in the ass. When the lead detective in her office drops dead of a heart attack, she wastes no time asking for his job, which doesn’t exactly elevate her in the opinions of his grieving friends (including the captain). She’s cocky when she should know better, and perpetually cranky from having just recently quit smoking.

Bello has given the character a few quirky affectations, such as wearing a lot of different hats, which might seem too much if the tone of the show were even slightly off. Fortunately, she manages to sell Timoney as a believable character anyway.

In ‘Episode 1’, Jane investigates the brutal rape and murder of a wealthy woman, which she believes is tied to a serial rapist assaulting the same area, but all of her colleagues insist is unrelated. The climax of this storyline is incredibly suspenseful and quite shockingly violent. Just as she thinks she’s caught him, the killer turns the tables and starts beating the crap out of her until some of the other cops (the very ones who hate her) can save her. You might think that this would be a humbling moment, or something that the characters could bond over later. But no, they still hate her afterwards – just not enough to let a scumbag beat her to death.

Unlike most other police procedurals, this show is appealingly messy. Timoney has a lot of problems in both her personal and professional lives. The show’s cast is populated by a bunch of great supporting actors, including Quinn, Kenny Johnson from ‘The Shield’ and Kirk Acevedo from ‘Fringe’, among others. The first episode was directed by Peter Berg, who’s kind of a crappy feature film director (‘Hancock‘, the upcoming ‘Battleship’) but who generally does interesting work in TV (‘Friday Night Lights’).

Fans of the original British series may judge the new ‘Prime Suspect’ with a completely different set of criteria, but I like what I’ve seen so far. This is the only new fall show that I’m actually excited to continue watching.

1 comment

  1. i’m happy that you found something you liked. i dont care for bello and thank you for pointing out that peter berg is attached to this since i cant stand him either im taking a huge pass on this one.

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