Silk, TV review: More guilty pleasures as Maxine Peake returns

BBC1, Monday 24 February

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The Independent Culture

I'm working on a theory that divides people into types according to their favourite ubiquitous TV actress. If you like Sheridan Smith to front your midweek dramas, you're probably a risk-averse Gemini with a job in middle management.

Prefer seeing Olivia Colman's comforting face every time you switch on the box? Logic dictates you wear Dr Scholl's sandals and get organic vegetables delivered on weekends. But by far the best sort of people are the Maxine Peake sort-of-people. They're down to earth, passionate and have excellent taste in music.

Peake People rejoiced last night when their hero returned to the screen as Martha Costello QC in BBC legal drama Silk. Don't be fooled by their silly wigs, the third series of Peter Moffat's skilfully written show is easily as hard-hitting and pointedly topical as its much praised US equivalent, The Good Wife.

Last night's case explored police corruption and the democratic right to protest when Cowdrey's son was charged with the manslaughter of an officer, during a kettling operation. With Martha's usual distaste for the busies already heightened by the outcome of her latest appeal trial, the stage was set for a clash of the titans. Fellow QC Clive Reader (Rupert Penry-Jones) was gleeful with anticipation: "You and the Old Bill toe to toe at the Bailey? They should sell tickets."

Now that Martha and Clive's once-heated professional rivalry has cooled to gentle bickering, plus the occasional snog, Clive has found a new role as Martha's chief cheerleader. At his own "taking silk" party, he was happy to stand aside and watch in awe, as Martha stole the show, by mindlessly jerking away to Joy Division, like a women possessed. "I love it when she loses, I love it when she dances," Clive murmured. "She's so very, very bad at both at both."

If the tension between Martha/Clive peters out entirely this series, senior clerk Billy (Neil Stuke) looks sure to compensate; he's become more watchable than ever. His cancer is taking its toll and making it hard for him to suppress his loathing for new practice manager Harriet Hammond (Miranda Raison). Billy does things the old-fashioned way, and she's part of a dynamic new guard, so I know who I'm backing in the inevitable power struggle. Us Peake People share a long-standing sympathy for the underdog.