Bancroft: Season One DVD Review: Completely Bonkers

In this world of seemingly endless must-watch, prestige TV filled with award-winning writers, directors, and actors, it is nice to see a series that is so utterly bonkers, so completely ridiculous in its plotting, and over the top in its performances that it only wants to entertain, not garner awards and stacks of internet think pieces over what it all means.

Bancroft stars Sarah Parish as Detective Superintendent Elizabeth Bancroft, a hard-as-nails copper trying to take down a vicious drug syndicate which she hopes will earn her a promotion. Faye Marsay plays Elizabeth Stevens an up-and-coming detective who looks to Bancroft as a mentor, and is let down when she is assigned to clean up cold cases instead of being on Bancroft’s team going after the syndicate. Stevens takes to her job like a bulldog plowing into her first old case even though everyone seems to think she ought to let that one stay cold. It’s a murder case where a young pregnant woman was brutally stabbed to death. While looking through the case file, Stevens discovers that it was a young Bancroft who as a constable was the first to discover the body. As she digs deeper, things get more mysterious and Bancroft more evasive.

Things go quickly off the rails as we learn Bancroft is harboring some deep secrets about the case and she goes to more and more extremes to keep them covered up. With just four episodes averaging about 45 minutes each, Bancroft keeps you on your toes with one twisty, ridiculous revelation after another. It isn’t subtle with its storytelling, or particularly careful with its procedural aspects. This is a show that expects us to believe a well-respected police woman would have no problem pushing her former boss off a cliff in a relatively public space. When Stevens needs to get some DNA off a potential suspect and is in that person’s house, she doesn’t snatch a toothbrush or grab some hair from a comb, or anything logical. She certainly doesn’t bother with a court order. No, what bright police detective Stevens does is have sex with the suspect’s son and then digs the used condom out of the trash when he isn’t looking.

Over and over characters do things that are completely and utterly bonkers. Things no one, let alone police officers, would do. It’s like the series creators wanted to see just how ridiculous they could get before anyone bothered to tell them no to.

Yet despite all of its insane plotting and ridiculous twists, Bancroft is kind of fun. The performances are good, if incredibly over the top, and it moves along at such a brisk pace that there is hardly time to process how completely insane the plot is before being smacked in the face with some other bit of nonsense. The end result is something quite entertaining to watch while you are in the moment and eye rolling when you take a moment to think about it.

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Mat Brewster

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