In Single-Handed: The Complete Collection Acorn Media has bundled together all the episodes that made up this intense Irish police drama. Originally airing between 2007 and 2010, the show focuses on Garda Sergeant Jack Driscoll (Owen McDonnell) as he returns from Dublin to take charge of the police force in his home on the West Coast of Ireland.
Having to replace your recently retired father in his old job is bad enough, but when he’s still around second guessing your every decision, and being the one people still go to when they have troubles, makes Driscoll’s job doubly difficult. The fact he seems to have left Dublin under something of a cloud, and only has this job because his father pulled some strings, just adds another layer of complication to his life.
As we’ve seen in recent years a bucolic rural landscape doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of violent crime. What we find in Single-Handed is while being surrounded by beauty might make for nice atmosphere, it doesn’t prevent corruption from being any less deep seated or prevalent in the country. In fact, it might even be worse than in the city as only a few hands hold the reins and control all the power making it that much more difficult to get to the bottom things.
It doesn’t take Driscoll long to find this out. In the first episode the suspicious death of a foreign worker quickly leads him into a mess of local secrets and lies which end up striking far too close to home for his own peace of mind. To say more would be to give away too much, but he’s forced to make a decision between what’s right and loyalty and second guesses himself all the way.
This becomes sort of a recurring pattern in Single-Handed. The choices Driscoll makes come back to haunt him and are not always made for the right reason. Unfortunately there are those who use his bad decisions to their own advantage as we see in the last season with guest star (Sean McGinley ) as the unscrupulous bar owner Denis Costello.
In what seems to be a recurring compliment with police shows from the United Kingdom, but Single-Handed is not only well written and directed, the acting is of a universally high standard. How many shows can you think of where an actor the calibre of Stephen Rea guest stars for only a couple of episodes?
Single-Handed has its own unique rhythm with intricate strands of plot all interwoven into a delicate pattern. For those used to the rather hectic pace of North American detective shows it might take a bit of getting used to, but it’s well worth the effort. Not only are the mysteries intriguing and involving, all of the characters, the good and the bad, are well worth getting to know.
These days we’re all used to the variations of noir type TV shows that seem to have proliferated. From the Nordic Noir of the Scandinavians to the Welsh Noir from Great Britain they seem to have spread until they can be found everywhere.
Well before these shows there was Single-Handed, Irish Noir. From its gritty portrayal of rural life to its stories of corruption and sordid goings on among the good and wealthy this is great television for those who like their police procedurals a little on the dark side.
(Article originally posted at Blogcritics.org as DVD Review Single-Handed: The Complete Collection)
Richard Marcus is the author of two commissioned works published by Ulysses Press, editor in the books section of Blogcritics.org and contributor at Qantara.de. He has been writing since 2005 and his work has appeared in publications all over the world including the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.