A Confession starts by showing police having a hard time. A cop is called to work in the early hours, dragged away from a weekend break with his partner.
Then a deputy chief constable, Ray, complains that he is “fucked” due to allegations of “sexual misconduct”. He looks broken and dishevelled. Later events make Ray appear even more of a victim.
Detective superintendent Steve Fulcher, played by Martin Freeman, tells Ray that sexist “banter” isn’t acceptable. But he’s still sympathetic.
This new ITV six-part drama tells the story of a real case that saw Fulcher sacked after breaking rules to catch a killer.
A young woman, Sian, goes missing after a night out. A big group of officers discuss how to find her. They are even going to use a helicopter—at great cost—to help, even though Sian has only been missing for a few hours.
You wonder how realistic this is. But does that matter? Lots of good dramas aren’t realistic. Still, I felt uneasy about whether the point is to put cops in a positive light.
We are given an impression of caring cops, and the first episode shows them generally as non-judgemental and efficient. But again, that doesn’t necessarily make for a bad programme. Think of Columbo.
By the end of the first episode, things feel a bit more sinister. There is a creeping sense that women aren’t safe here.
Another character, Karen, is consumed by a hunt for her daughter Becky, who has been missing for years.
Karen regularly asks young women hanging out on the streets, who may be working as prostitutes, if they have seen Becky. She takes them sandwiches, they come across as vulnerable.
Writer Jeff Pope said the story raises questions about rights because Fulcher denied a man his “rights as a suspect”.
“Should Fulcher have been praised as a courageous officer or lose his career for riding roughshod over the law?” he asked.
The first episode was a bit hard to get into. But by the end, I wanted to see what happens next. There are subtle hints at the darker side of various characters, and what secrets they might be hiding.
A Confession tells the story of a good cop, but it might say more than that too.