From Darkness: Where would a modern crime drama be without a violently brutalised woman?

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The Independent Online

A troubled detective running (literally) from the past; moody shots of gloomy city landscapes contrasted with the wild, foaming freedom of a remote island location; a plot centring on women who have been tortured and killed. The opening minutes of BBC One’s new crime drama, From Darkness, were so familiar that it was hard not to yawn in seen-it-all-before despair.

Luckily the show had a few aces up its sleeve. The first was the casting. Our traumatised heroine, Claire Church, was played by Anne-Marie Duff, an actress blessed with the ability to suggest a thousand conflicting emotions in one brief facial flicker, and the always reliable Johnny Harris brought an earthy charm to the part of Church’s former boss and ex-lover, John Hind, allowing us to understand why this burn-out of a man was once the centre of her world.

The second ace was its well-paced plotline. Created by Katie Baxendale, best-known for witty teen love story Sugar Rush, From Darkness was happy to play a waiting game with viewers’ emotions, hinting that Church’s trauma is driven by more that a deep-rooted fury at the Greater Manchester Police force’s refusal to listen to her in the 1990s when the killings back under investigation first began.

The third and final ace was the case itself. Yes, it was another story about violently brutalised women and yes, it does sometimes seem as though the torture of women is the only thing driving modern crime thrillers, but Baxendale’s plot, which revolved around the murders of sex workers, was clearly influenced by real-life stories such as the 2006 Ipswich serial murders, and she seemed keen to ensure the dead women’s voices were heard.

“You and the lads, you and the team, you treated them as though they were barely human,” Church spat at Hind at one point. In response he blustered about different times and a changing force, adding to the sense that Baxendale is interested in more than just plot here. If From Darkness continues to temper the more lurid moments with scenes considering whether some victims are seen as less equal 

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