Warning: this Trigger Point review contains spoilers.
Who is Lana Washington? Yeah, yeah, she defuses bombs, her partner exploded, she gets hot in a heatwave and has a little ponytail, but who is she? After episode one’s series of entertainingly tense set pieces, now’s the time for Trigger Point to deliver on character. Instead, episode two played it coy, adding only ‘does Sudoku’ and ‘has parents’ to the sum total of our knowledge about our lead. Somewhere in the rank depths of the internet, there’s a market for footage of Vicky McClure wordlessly putting on and then taking off a helmet, but prime time ITV1 isn’t it.
McClure’s not at fault here; the writing lets her down either by stretching too little plot over too much time or by simply failing to ignite. Lines like: “Listen Tom, I’m not a detective. I’ll happily leave that side of things to you, no danger, but when it comes to explosives, I’m the expert,” do nobody any favours. Action-thrillers like this one don’t require poetry, but if they’re aiming for vérité grittiness, they do require dialogue with at least the ring of truth.
We rejoined Wash just days after Nut’s death in the Westhaven terror attack. No compassionate leave or therapy sessions for her; it was straight back to the job. First, she was called to investigate a suspicious holdall on a London bus. On with the diving helmet and out with the scalpel, and then… false alarm, stand down.
Next came the official debrief at HQ, which gave us new blood in the form of Ralph Ineson’s Commander Bregman, Nadine Marshall’s DSU Hamilton, and Kerry Godliman’s Sonya from Bomb Data. All three actors are great additions to any cast, but here were limited to making grave pronouncements in official jargon. “Working hypothesis?” said Bregman. “Triacetone Triperoxide” said Sonya. “Leave no stone unturned,” said Hamilton. “Don’t forget, they’ve killed one of our Expos.”
Nobody had forgotten, least of all Wash who was traumatised by the death of her matching-tattoo pal but far too macho to admit it. Instead of talking, Wash shook off everybody’s concern with varying degrees of shirtiness, and then went a bit flibble the next time she heard an explosion.
The combination of Wash’s strong, silent routine with the mournful atmosphere of Nut’s grieving colleagues made Trigger Point less of a blast this week. The scenes in which Wash didn’t dress up like a Sontaran to probe a rogue holdall, or lie on the floor and say ‘shit’ felt oddly empty. The pub sequence should have given us Wash from every angle – squaddie, daughter, sister, mate, bereaved comrade, but her interactions gave little away. Unless Wash’s mum and dad (hello to Kevin Eldon!) turn out to be the secret terrorist cell behind it all, what did their appearance add? Just because a TV character has relatives, it doesn’t mean they have a personality.
Much more entertaining were the scenes of Wash doing the actual work. She doesn’t need a distinct personality to say things like “Danny, get the T-9”, “Go and get the disruptor so we can separate the components,” or “Shiiit, mercury tilt switch!” The equipment and procedure remain fascinating to an outsider. The heavy jacket, the little robot, the scalpels, the natty glow sticks they use to mark trigger points (I just got that)… that’s what we’re here to see, so keep it coming.
We’re also here to solve a mystery. Who’s responsible for the Westhaven bombing? Why do the bombers appear to have military-grade equipment and expertise but want the investigation to think they’re amateurs? How could they be Islamic extremists and target a mosque? And how do far-right activist Andy Phelan and rent-a-gob racist Agatha Jack of ‘English Flag’ fit in? (Phelan’s history of committing racist and homophobic attacks presumably made Wash wish she’d left him and that suicide vest to it, though, who can tell what she’s thinking?)
There’s also the mystery of newcomer Karl Maguire (played by Warren Brown – also currently to be seen in excellent BBC One thriller The Responder), who’s turned up with a suss backstory about leaving the army to fix motorbikes. What do we think, undercover cop? Intelligence Service? Radicalised baddie?
And then there’s the biggest question of them all: when is disposal expert Wash going to dispose of boyf DI Youngblood (Mark Stanley)? He was only trying to help with that Nick Cave quote about grief and love, but read the room, mate. This is Wash you’re dealing with. Emotions, really? Punch her on the arm, buy her a pint and a puncture repair kit and keep it zipped.
Wash will need to unzip a little, if just for us. We either need more complexity from her or from the bomber plot to stay gripped. Time is ticking.
Trigger Point continues next Sunday the 6th of February at 9pm on ITV1.