Law & Order: UK just gets better every week. It’s a godsend for those of us who miss the glory days of the franchise. In “Vice,” which is based on 1997’s “Working Mom” (which I’m always going to call ‘the second Felicity Huffman episode’), a former vice cop’s death leads to the uncovering of some dirty little secrets.
Two would-be car thieves find a corpse in the backseat, and the responding patrol officers recognize the deceased. He’s former DS Frank McCallum. His wife’s declaration that his former job “eats you from the inside” is unsettling to hear for lifelong cops Brooks and Devlin, who begin their investigation by having to probe into what little remained of McCallum’s post-law enforcement life. They find some of his belongings in the possession of a prostitute (oh, the irony) who discovered his body, but she’s forensically vindicated. However, it’s obvious their victim has some interesting proclivities.
Asking some of McCallum’s current and former coworkers brings up a company called Velvet Holdings that he was using the company credit card to make payments to. “I became a cop for the glamour,” Matt complains while slogging over the corporate paperwork, which in turn leads them to a virtual office – which has to be one of the most boring things I’ve ever come across. It merely exists to forward mail, and the mail Brooks and Devlin find for this enigmatic company leads them to an unlikely source: a children’s boutique. It does not take a genius to realize that’s not what it really is. Velvet Holdings is a high-class escort service.
Brooks and Devlin haul in Emma, the woman in charge of the whole operation, on suspicion of McCallum’s murder. Her DNA ends up being all over the crime scene, and her lipstick matches the sample taken from the corpse. She also has the money to hire a very expensive lawyer to do battle with Steel and Alesha.
Alesha probes deeper into the relationship between victim and suspect. She visits the hotel the two frequented, only to see camera footage of Emma there with someone else – McCallum’s boss. It’s not a stretch to realize McCallum had been poking around, found out about the affair, and was sexually blackmailing Emma. Emma not only confirms the blackmail, but claims that McCallum tried to rape her and she killed him in self-defense. Her husband changes his story to support her account, but Steel still isn’t convinced. Armed with contradictory forensic evidence, he tears Emma to pieces when she testifies, and sees her put away. It’s not easy with her having a husband and two children, but it’s what’s just.
The more I watch this show, the more I love the perfect cast. I’ll admit that I’m nursing a bit of a crush on Jamie Bamber, who may be easy on the eyes but also has a natural wit and charm that makes him so much fun to watch. He’s perfectly matched with Bradley Walsh, who delivers a great deadpan counterpoint to his younger partner’s sense of humor. Freema Agyeman is well-used as the junior prosecutor, contributing to the episode instead of being the attractive ornament sitting in the courtroom. The more I watch Ben Daniels, the more he reminds me of Michael Moriarty; I know that he knows exactly what he’s talking about, even if I don’t. He has a confidence in himself that gives the audience confidence in Steel’s prosecution. This show really could not have been cast any better. We already know they’re working from successful scripts, so it’s a perfect marriage of actors and material.
Especially as we watch the American Law & Order incarnations running out of steam, it’s so refreshing to know that we can tune in to Law & Order: UK, a cracking and impressive piece of television.