“Now is not the time for your Bronte Sisters-saurus act”
In what’s been a blistering start to the televisual year (Unforgotten, The Moorside), the second series of Paul Abbott’s No Offence is definitely up there, offering at least a little comic relief along with its deadly serious dark side. My views on episode 1 set the tone for the rest to come – the glorious return of the Friday Street team, led by Joanna Scanlan’s inimitable DI Viv Deering, having met their match in the arch-villain Nora Attah, a glorious performance from Rakie Ayola.
And typical of Abbott’s oeuvre, along with his co-writers, there’s a fantastic complexity to his characters. Attah may rule her gangland with a rod of iron, issuing icy reprisals against rivals who dare cross her path, but as subplots about FGM and sexual violence are threaded through the season, there’s strong hints about the harshness of the world that has shaped her. And that makes her the ideal counterpart for Deering’s anarchic policing style, our sympathies caught in the complex conflict between their respective shades of grey.
The mix of black comedy and real tragedy remained finely balanced throughout, as in the horrific death of children being followed but not undermined by a Pepsi and Shirlie gag, I’m not 100% sure Sarah Solemani’s DCI Lickberg worked as well as she could have done, her limited presence not quite substantial enough despite a strong performance, But Scanlan, along with her colleagues Elaine Cassidy’s DC Dinah Kowalska and Alexandra Roach’s DS Joy Freer, remained superb, their relationships shifting and maturing in light of the comradeship, career advancement, and unexpected betrayal that characterises their connection this time round.
Elsewhere, it was great to see returning faces like Paul Ritter’s forensic expert (the most Shameless character) and Kate O’Flynn’s vivid psychologist Dr Peep (seriously, between this and her current work onstage in The Glass Menagerie, she’s as exciting as British acting gets right now). And it was fun to see Felix Scott popping up (I’m glad I saw Dirty Great Love Story beforehand though…) for a couple of episodes. Wicked sharp, dramatically satisfying, emotional and hilarious in pretty much every single episode, it would be an offence to miss No Offence.