It took until episode two to finally bring Jared Harris into The Beast Must Die, but the entrance was worth it. Driving a flashy green sports car hell for leather to the point that his son in the passenger seat falls out of the vehicle car sick, he flies into Frances' life just as she planned. Because she did plan this, though her face says she wasn't quite ready to be hit with the reality of her son's murderer standing before her. Still, she plotted, planned, lied to, and manipulated poor Lena to get her back here to the Isle of Wight and face-to-face with George. Now she just has to decide what next.
Strangeways: How about today we pretend we're real cops?
It's a fascinating decision on the part of the series to turn Strangeways into the leading man because that makes him someone we're supposed to sympathize with. In the first episode, it seemed like the show had partway succeeded in that mission, inventing a detective from the original novel and giving him a quarter turn into a franchise detective. But the series also doesn't seem sure whether or not we're supposed to root for him to be a hard-nosed copper who insists on acting like actual law enforcement against a local hooligan like Nicky Tolland (Nico Mirallegro) even though that makes him a bastard. Or perhaps we should patiently wait for him to realize social worker with a badge is his line of work.
The series also wants to make a meal out of Strangeways' trauma of a dead partner. Once again, he heads away from his job on the Isle to meet with his deceased partner's sister. She's trying to bring a wrongful death suit against the police for gross negligence, a desperate move considering this is someone who (at least as far as the show has suggested) died in the line of duty. But perhaps not? Strangeways takes the card of the solicitor she offers.
But when it comes to the series' main case, Strangeways discovers bungling doesn't begin to cover what's happened here. Evidence missing, camera footage CD disappeared, followups ignored, obvious lines of inquiry left unquestioned. When he asks O'Brien why procedures weren't followed or why his predecessor did nothing about x, y, or z, he gets no answers. O'Brien was content to be a social worker, not a cop, to the point that he never questioned what his boss was doing or even who he might be doing it for.
While Strangeways makes poor life choices, Frances' story turns from mother-on-a-quest to the English standard of the curious houseguest, as perfected by Agatha Christie back in the day. There are locked doors in fancy houses down quiet hallways. There are sun-dappled pools with unique furniture, where the upper-class lounge around looking dubiously at this random hanger-on that has latched itself to their wayward daughter of questionable taste in companions. There are cocktail parties on the back lawn that spring up like mushrooms after rain. And there's a tennis game complete with the kind of emotional terrorism one expects from aggressive parents.
And there's George, who stalks around, a predator who doesn't know he's being preyed upon. Instead, he's preying upon Lena, with hints that perhaps Frances has the wrong end of the stick, and it wasn't George who killed her son after all, but someone else in the house. Is that so? Or is George gaslighting Lena into believing she was responsible?
But Frances isn't just aiming for him. She's recognized another way in to get to George now that Lena has brought her here. His speed-sensitive son, Phil (Barney Sayburn), has been suspended from school for an incident where he was caught retaliating against his bully. She learns there is a damaged car from him, but she discovers it's not the car that killed her son when she tracks it down. Then she gets caught by George anyway. It gives the show a chance to put both characters in a fast-moving vehicle back across the island, including passing the spot where her son was killed, where she has an utter breakdown, forcing her to fake a case of nerves from driving so fast. George buys it, but for how long?
Perhaps both she and Strangeways need to walk away from this island.