One of Silent Witness’s finest stories. Beautifully written and shot, and plotted with a great respect for the viewer’s intelligence, it succeeded in being both challenging and terrifically entertaining.
After the first part’s dreamy, intoxicating mixture of blood and warped romance, the second episode is more of a horror story, with our two young leads (Jack Roth and Leila Mimmack) fighting to evade capture and escalating their actions as a result. The shock of the night was the sudden and chilling killing of a shop worker who recognised them from police reports on the news.
With approximations of their faces and new information to go on, the police, headed up by our determined and disturbed young Scottish copper (Richard Rankin, so Scottish I was considering working out how to activate subtitles on my Sky+ remote) managed to work out a connection between the victims and the young lovers. The major twist, one that was expertly revealed, was that all along we had presumed the male was the killer and the young woman his naive accomplice. Not at all. She was responsible for the deaths – he merely helped procure her victims.
As well as putting us off the scent through clever cutting of the murder scenes, this shocking shift in direction also intelligently manipulates our inherent sexism. It was easy to fall into the trap of thinking: Man = Violent Killer, Woman = Vulnerable Assistant. The script wrong footed the viewer in such an ingenious way it left one baffled: simple and yet devilishly clever. This trait is only found in the very best mystery stories and Graham Mitchell’s script stands up there with the ingenuity and psychological complexity of Ruth Rendell and the chilling terror that haunts the pages of the works of Thomas Harris.
As discussed in my review of Part I, this film toned down some of Silent Witness’s usual and regrettable hallmarks. The police were sympathetic – even likable – portrayed as a group of dedicated individuals trying to do their best in a tense and occasionally horrifying situation. Back in the lab, even Nikki tried to keep to her job a little more than usual. Her dealings with the police did step over the line of what one might expect from a pathologist (somehow she always ends up interviewing suspects) although her close proximity to the aforementioned disturbed detective was engineered so she could help him research his traumatic past. The outcome of this subplot was distressing, leading to an emotional final scene involving him and his mum that had as much power as the earlier scenes of gory murders.
Falling Angels deserves to be remembered as one of Silent Witness’s finest stories. Beautifully written and shot, and plotted with a great respect for the viewer’s intelligence, it succeeded in being both challenging and terrifically entertaining. It asked us to think but didn’t tax us beyond enjoyment. I’m praying next week’s two-parter, which concerns the social services support system and a missing child, doesn’t drop the ball. Having said that, this will be a tough act to follow. We shall see.
Silent Witness: Falling Angels Part II and other episodes for Series 18 can be watched for a limited time on BBC iPlayer.