Peter Moffat is the creator of the BBC series SILK, which I thoroughly enojyed. So much so, in fact, that I went looking for his other work on CRIMINAL JUSTICE. I had to start with series two, as it was all I could find in the shops, and I now have series one on order.

Series two is a compelling journey through the UK penal system, as we follow Juliet Miller (played by Maxine Peake) once she is convicted of killing her husband, the lauded barrister, Joe Miller (Mathew Macfadyen). Juliet had been the victim of extreme psychological abuse. However, her silence and composed manner is interpreted as calculated cold-heartedness, and people in the legal system soon begin to take sides. Juliet’s soliciter, Jacki Woolf (Sophie Okonedo), recognises the signs of the abuse straight away, and devotes herself to trying to get Juliet off her murder charge. But others are just as keen to see her locked away forever.

Moffat is extremely adept at placing his characters in idealogically difficult situations. And not just the protagonists! Many of the secondary characters face fascinating dilemmas that spin out of the central conflict. The relationship between Juliet’s solicitor and barrister (both women), the relationship between the two Detective Inspectors (who are philosopically opposed)  and the Detective Sergeant (who is married to one of them) on the case, are as interesting and taut as the whole central question of what will happen to Juliet? Another layer is the deep exploration of a mother’s bond with her child, as Juliet gives birth in prison, while dealing with the fact her thirteen year old daughter now hates her.

Though the story moves slowly, the eventual breakdown of Juliet’s barriers so that she finally is able to tell her side of the story is both painful and heartwrenching. Maxine Peake is a tour de force in the role, and she is supported by some highly skilled actors (MacFadyen, Okonedo, and a brilliant job by Alice Sykes as Juliet’s teenage daughter).

If you’re in the mood for action and thrills, this is not for you, but if you want to be engrossed and exposed to the harsh hand life can deal – then pick up the DVD. I recommend it.

Below is an interview with Peter Moffat, which is worth watching if you want some insight into how a fine storyteller thinks. And for those of you who have enjoyed SILK, you will recognise certain characters that resonate between it and Criminal Justice – particularly the character of SAUL the law clerk who is reincarnated as Billy Lamb.

Catching glimpses of SILK on TV it struck me as a tad slow moving but as seems to happen when I start watching something from scratch on DVD and get the proper rythmn of the show, I changed my mind.

I’m a huge fan of Rupert Penry-Jones and enjoy his and Maxine Peake’s onfilm relationship in this show. Clive (Penry-Jones) is respectful but envious of Martha (Peake), and she is fond of, but often exasperated by, him. They seem to have a good understanding of each other and an enduring friendship whilst seriously competing for SILK. It’s quite a beautifully drawn dynamic. The other highlight for me is the brassy clerk Billy; old school and not beyond stepping outside the law, to make things work in the Shoe Lane chambers. Politics, drama and suspense all portrayed at a most credible level.

There is nothing flashy or technologically profound about this show, just some good writing and terrific acting. I’m looking forward to series two and feel quite irritated by the criticisms levelled at series creator and writer Peter Moffat, suggesting this is second rate and not up to his usual standard. The critics sound a pretentious as some of the barristers in the show.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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