Blu-ray Review: Prime Suspect (The Complete Collection)

Prime Suspect is the greatest TV show about a police woman. The rise of DCI Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) starts in 1991 and wraps up in 2006 with her retirement in the seventh miniseries. Her life at the top is completely explored over this time. This isn’t the standard police procedural as she must deal with the office politics of male cops threatened by her position in the force. They seem more dangerous than the murders roaming England. The cases she tackles are complex and often expose more than just the killers in the course of her investigation. While she’s a no nonsense tough cop on the job, she does have her private breakdown moments. However she won’t let her emotions override her ability to be an respected Detective Chief Inspector. Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection brings together all the episodes in prime shape.

Prime Suspect elevates Tennison to the position of lead investigator on a series of grotesque murders. She lands the gig when the superior drops dead of a heart attack. There’s a lot of co-workers upset that she received the battlefield promotion. They do their best to make her look like the worst choice so they can save the day. She is having none of it. They can’t stand that she cares about the details of the case and doesn’t just sit back and wait for briefings. How dare she prove ready to step up and not merely be a figurehead. Prime Suspect 2 deals with race relations. When a murdered body turns up in a minority neighborhood, Tennison must tread carefully. There’s a lot tension. She doesn’t have any race hang ups since her latest lover is a black police officer. This however might displease her superiors so they do their best to keep the relationship undercover.

Prime Suspect 3 transfers Tennison to the vice squad. She can’t get a simple case of drug dealers in the park. She gets assigned to a young male prostitute that was killed and set on fire. Things get extremely complicated as she delves into an underworld of young hustlers and drag queens. There’s a lot of talk about blackmail, but who are the targets? Her leads point back to social workers that might have been pimps and cops that enjoyed using the boys. There’s a lot of people wanting her pin this on one person and quit digging. Can she back off if given the proper request? Ciarán Hinds (HBO’s Rome) is the suspicious social worker who might not be properly helping the boys get off the street. David Thewlis (Harry Potter films) is the street hustler pimping the boys. There’s an amazing cast of young actors who would eventually get larger roles. James Frain (The Tudors and The White Queen) plays a less than royal character. Jonny Lee Miller (TV’s Elementary) provides useful testimony. The big surprise is a glimpse of the upcoming Dr. Who (Peter Capaldi). Prime Suspect 4 is unique with three cases that each lasted 102 minute. The Lost Child deals with a dead child. The main suspect is a convicted child molester who has been living with a mother and her children. They are clueless about his past. His only chance for not being busted is that the child doesn’t match his previous victims. Is he innocent of just swapping up? Inner Circles spirals out of control when the murder of country club turns into a potential political scandal. A lot of people are pulling on her investigation. The Scent of Darkness presents gruesome murders that resemble the killings from the first series. Tennison worries that she busted the wrong guy.

Prime Suspect 5 takes Tennison up to Manchester. She must connect the murder of a drug dealer to a gangster character that goes by “The Street.” Even though he’s been a suspect on several homicides, there’s been no way to shut him down. Can she finally get the guy busted? Prime Suspect: The Last Witness revives the show after Mirren had taken seven years away from playing Tennison. Bosnian immigrant is found dead on a construction site. The suspect is a Serbian who might have fought the dead guy during the war in Yugoslavia. Tennison needs to see if her man is a war criminal as well as a homicidal maniac. There’s a lot of pressure on Tennison to retire from the force. Tom Hooper directed this episode. More recently he won the Best Directing Oscar for The King’s Speech. Prime Suspect: The Final Act turns Tennison into a mess. The police life has finally taken a toll on her. She’s a drunk and getting sloppy about it. She needs to clean herself up as her retirement approaches. Before she leaves, she has one last case involving the murder of a young girl. She doesn’t want to quit until she catches the killer. It’s a fitting end mystery for her.

Helen Mirren is perfection as DCI Jane Tennison. She’s given a character and plenty of screen time to give an amazingly deep performance. Nothing seems false when she’s on the screen. She makes this series seem as real as Cops with her reactions. Even with all her award winning roles, Mirren delivers a career defining performance as she portrays Tennison from her big break to her final investigation.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The first five seasons were originally shown at 1.33:1 when it ran on PBS. This cropping might upset aspect purists. But nothing vital appears to be snipped from the frame. The series was shot on 35mm so the high definition transfers look sharp. The Lost Child is presented in its 1.33:1 aspect ratio. It’s a bit more grainy than the rest of the episodes. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The mix isn’t overpowering. The episodes are subtitled.

Behind-The-Scenes Special (50 minutes) covers the entire run of the show. There’s plenty of remembering what it took to create such an iconic character and intricate mysteries.

Series 6 Behind the Scenes Featurette
(23 minutes) deals with Mirren coming back to the character after a few years off.

Photo Gallery covers the entire run.

Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection is the gold standard of British police action. Helen Mirren’s DCI Tennison is one of the greatest serious cop characters in TV history. This is a show that needs to be experienced on Blu-ray so you can appreciate her performance with the extra resolution.

Acorn Media presents Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection. Starring: Helen Mirren, Jonny Lee Miller Peter Capaldi. Boxset contents: 7 Seasons on 7 Blu-rays. Released: August 27, 2013.

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