What’s the difference between English and Irish crime drama? Mood. If Single-Handed is a representative sample of Irish crime drama, it suggests that the atmosphere up north is far moodier. It also suggests, despite popular stereotypes, that the Irish do not drink more or spend more time in pubs than their English counterparts.
Pity poor Garda Sergeant Jack Driscoll (Owen McDonnell). Assigned to a rural post once held by his corrupt-cop father, Driscoll tries to enforce the law among a people that resent his presence and have their own set of rules. Driscoll’s father, now dead, ran the town by hisinterpretation of the law which he stretched to suit his purposes. His cronies are still around, doing things their way and making his son’s life difficult. Highly-principled, Driscoll is often at odds with the insular, secretive community.
Three two-part mysteries comprise Single-Handed – Set 2 (released March 27, 2012, by Acorn Media: “The Lost Boys,” “Between Two Fires,” and “A Cold Heaven.” In the first, an elderly recluse is found murdered and the principal suspect is a teenager from a local residential program for juvenile delinquents or kids on the verge of becoming one. Driscoll learns from his previously-unknown cousin Brian (Matthew McNulty), who arrives in England intent on discovering more about his family, that his mother had an older brother who was sent away as a child for stealing a bar of chocolate—Driscoll’s unknown uncle (Stephen Rea).
In learning about his uncle, Driscoll uncovers more of his father’s dirty deeds and abuse of power, and finds that the solution to current crimes may very well lie in the long past. Although a murder mystery, “The Lost Boys” is actually a tale of emotion, relationships, family history, official malfeasance, and child abuse. It is a darkly psychological story that pits son against mother as Driscoll again battles his mother’s fierce but blind loyalty to his late father.
Relationships also drive the other two stories in Single-Handed – Set 2. Because cousin Brian may have claim to land owned by the Driscoll family, he initiates a plan to seize what he feels is rightfully his. In “Between Two Fires,” Driscoll must determine who is responsible for a suspicious housing development fire that may have camouflaged a murder, although the perpetrator could be an old friend.
“A Cold Heaven” has Driscoll investigating a car accident that leads him to believe that a teenage girl involved was entangled in an abusive association with a pimp. As his relationship with his cousin continues to deteriorate and he is distracted by Brian’s intense hatred, Driscoll finds it difficult to focus on the case at hand.
Single-Handed – Set 2 is well acted, sharply written, and suspenseful. It is engrossing, yet not to my taste. Its emphasis is more on drama than on crime, while my interest leans more toward crime and investigation. Single-Handed is intelligent and powerfully thought-provoking, however its intense concentration on feelings, family, and community rather than police work may not appeal to fans of straightforward investigations in which actual crimes and their solutions are the nuclei. It is an excellent program, just not for everyone.