OWelcome to the world of DI Rachita Ray (Parminder Nagra), ITV’s new cop. We meet her in the local shop choosing what to have for her tea – until a mentally deranged man with a knife walks by and comes out into the square. As she runs to catch up to him, while calling for the armed response unit, he stabs a policeman. She manages to convince him to give up the gun with no further loss of life and, as a reward, is promoted to Detective Inspector of the Homicide Division. Life would be sweet for the ambitious DI if he hadn’t, in the previous 10 minutes, shown just how racist he is for a person of color at every turn.
Sometimes it’s moments of otherness – the customer in the store assuming she’s an assistant and not a customer, for example – that disrupts what should be the easy flow of everyday life. Sometimes they’re even bigger, like the fact that she was overlooked for promotion until her public heroic deed inevitably brought her to the attention of the higher ups, and that even the promotion, when she happens, is tainted with an apparent symbolism. “Where are you from?” asks her unofficial interviewer after the gallantry awards ceremony. “Leicester,” she replies. “What is your heritage? he inevitably replies. Punjab from his mother’s side and Bengal from his father’s side. “I think so,” adds Ray. “You are exactly what we need right now,” he says, happy to have found the right tick for the right box.
When she shows up for her first day, the receptionist hands her a lanyard for another Asian person. At least the receptionist is taken aback. Its DCI, Gemma Whelan (recently DS Sarah Collins in The Tower), is less so. Ray was brought in to lead the investigation into an alleged CSH – “culturally specific homicide” of an Asian male (otherwise known as an “honour killing”. The term CSH was coined by the writer, but I’m going to put a lot of money in there to be adopted force-wide within a year). Part of his animosity toward Ray is fueled by the subordinate’s “hero moment” and part of his skin color that “allows” him that opportunity is one of many tangled motivations that hold viewers’ interest.
If I give the impression of being heavy by collecting so many incidents, I apologize. It’s not at all. Despite the wealth of material that writer Maya Sondhi (best known for playing police officer Maneet Bindra in Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty) no doubt has at her disposal, it’s used in the service to give us a procedural police with a new perspective rather than didactically. It lends weight to a story that moves a little too slowly at times – not helped by a similar Nagra energy she brought to the ER as Dr Rasgotra, who dragged clouds of misery unnoticed. specific behind her for six years — and feels a bit too many numbers to stick to her own terms.
Ray has the obligatory semi-turbulent private life (she’s engaged to a white colleague – but with reservations, as evidenced by the ring she puts away in the glove compartment before starting work), the obligatory battle with her DCI to dig deeper into the case rather than indict the closest subjects, and a lot of static time spent spelling out instructions and situations to underlings for the benefit of viewers (who, at this point in our story of police procedural consumption, could probably all start tomorrow without the need for any formal training).
The pace picks up as we move forward in the case (it was a good decision to strip everything down in four nights). Ray soon suspects it’s not the CSH the largely white unit had assumed was the death of a brown Muslim man and the disappearance of his Hindu girlfriend, but an eruption of a business rivalry between automakers (“Just shit limos for people who want to be extra,” says his former girlfriend, Nadia, in the opening episode’s best line) and a pointer to a network of activities underground criminals.
Ray ends the episode from behind, but don’t worry – I looked ahead and she’s soon back on her stubbornly determined game and will have it all wrapped up by Thursday.