Monday 23 September 2019

Single-Handed 3: The Drowning ManSunday, RTE1, 9.25pm

Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Bashing the national broadcaster has long been a popular sport in the Irish media, though if any of RTE's many critics had lived in, say, France or Italy for any length of time, they'd realise that we actually have two of the best state channels in Europe.

For many years, however, original drama was not a Montrose strong point, and intermittent attempts tended towards the risible. The advent of independent production companies in recent years has changed all that, and dramas of real quality have begun to emerge. Among the very best of them has been Single-Handed, a crime drama starring theatre actor Owen McDonnell (above left) that first appeared in a two-part opener in 2007, and was striking for the slickness of its production values and the con-fidence of its writing.

In that first episode, Garda Sergeant Jack Driscoll investigated the death of a young immigrant woman, and in a second drama broadcast on New Year's Day 2008, he was on the case of a missing two-year-old boy, whose mother was played brilliantly by Charlene McKenna.

Well-made and excellently realised, Single-Handed is a crime drama to rank with the best of British TV thrillers, and in this new two-part instalment Jack Driscoll receives an anonymous call during the night that marks the beginning of a very troublesome case.

An unidentified caller tells him that there is a body on a nearby beach, and when he races down there he sees a person in the sea and wades in to fish them out. The victim is a local teenager called Daniel O'Malley (Gary Robinson), and although Jack battles to save his life, he fails. When he tells the boy's parents, they seem at a loss to know what Daniel could possibly have been doing by the sea in the middle of the night. But Jack suspects there's more to this than meets the eye: he remembers seeing solicitor Denis Nolan (Owen Roe) on the way to the beach, and is determined to get to the bottom of it.

Meanwhile, trouble has arrived in town in the shape of Maura Dooley (Marcella Plunkett, above centre), a former flame of Jack's and a woman he still loves. They had a troubled relationship when working together in Dublin, but she now claims to have left both her husband and the Gardai. Jack is very pleased to see her, but wonders why she's so very interested in the details of Daniel's drowning.

Back at the beach, Daniel's friends have built him a makeshift shrine. And when Jack talks to them to get a sense of whether or not he had been suicidal or depressed, one of them tells him that Daniel had been in a big argument with his father a few weeks back.

He then spots signs of life at a nearby holiday cottage and, when he investigates further, finds Maura and a brash young man, to whom he takes an immediate dislike. It seems that Maura is still in the Force, and involved in what looks suspiciously like a stakeout.

Maura's superior arrives to warn Jack off his investigation, but Driscoll is not impressed, and the boy's death now seems part of a much larger story.

Padraic Delaney (above right) and Michael McElhatton also star, and the drama concludes on Monday.

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