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Messiah: I + II
cast: Ken Stott, Neil Dudgeon, Edward Woodward, Art Malik, and Michelle Forbes

directors: Diarmuid Lawrence and David Richards

325 minutes (15) 2003
widescreen ratio 16:9
BBC DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
In the height of summer, a serial killer begins preying on seemingly random Londoners. The only unifying factor between the deaths is that each victim has had their tongue removed and replaced with a silver spoon. As DCI Red Metcalfe, DI Duncan Reid and DC Kate Beauchamp investigate, they begin to realise not only why the killer is doing this, but also exactly how many victims they have to find and protect.

One of the BBC's prestige shows, Messiah perfectly balances the quiet character moments it needs with scenes of pure Grand Guignol horror and jet black humour. It's a difficult balance to make and the series is in constant danger of slipping into overt pulp or pretentious, po-faced drama. The fact that it doesn't is largely down to Stott as DCI Metcalfe. He's a unique hero for this kind of story, a man who is calm, rational, well balanced and happily married. He's relentlessly intelligent and punishes himself constantly for not quite being clever enough. The way in which he and his wife (a superb performance by Michelle Forbes) deal with this is contrasted to great effect with the break up of Reid's relationship with his wife and Beauchamp's budding romance with a colleague.

With these central performances in place, the series has an incredibly strong foundation that it uses to tremendous effect. Its most gripping scenes are those that see Metcalfe's unit going back over the information yet again, throwing all the ideas they have at it to see whether they can find the pattern in time. There's a real sense of desperation as this room of extremely intelligent, dedicated police officers remain a quarter step behind their prey for most of the series and when they become the prey in the second story, the tension is almost unbearable.

Messiah is, without a doubt, the best and most intelligent detective series the BBC has produced in years. Unmissable.

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