In the latest installment of the hit detective series, Helen Mirren reprises her Emmy-Award winning role as Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison.
This time Tennison is up against a reptilian crime kingpin known as The Street (Steven Mackintosh), who pulls the strings in Manchester's drug underworld -- including strings that may lead directly to police headquarters.
It all starts when Tennison is transferred from London to Manchester. She and her talented, if insubordinate, investigating team gets a seemingly routine drug murder to solve. But an unexpected confession leads to a kidnapping...which leads to another killing...which leads to chaos. One supremely cagey criminal seems to be behind it all: The Street. But no one can pin anything on him.
To top it off, Tennison makes the ultimate error of becoming romantically involved with her married boss (John McArdle). Trapped in a world she does not know, surrounded by people she cannot trust, involved with a man she cannot have, and haunted by an escalating reign of terror she cannot stop, Tennison thinks it can't possibly get worse. Then it does.
But she always brings it off, doesn't she?
Critics certainly think so: "Mirren has brought off the most sustained example of great acting in the history of television," wrote David Denby in Esquire. "Maturity has never looked so ripe, so sexual -- and so intellectually focused."
"No wonder this obsessive, ambitious, thoroughly human detective has become the PBS pinup woman of the decade," observed David Ansen of Newsweek. Next to Mirren, most TV heroines seem as antiseptic as ads."
Mirren herself would certainly agree with the last sentiment: "Every time there is yet another TV series built around a man, my heart sinks," she laments. "The women get the comedy series. But in heavy drama series, they are usually relegated to the pretty girlfriend of an extremely ugly leading male -- which irritates the hell out of me."
MASTERPIECE THEATRE is presented by PBS by WGBH Boston, where Rebecca Eaton is series executive producer. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Russell Baker is series host.
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