FEATURE: Crime Drama, Women of the Clink

As viewers of just about any TV channel, anywhere, will doubtless have noticed, there have been an unusually high number of crime dramas on our screens of late. Rare is the evening these days where we can switch on the gogglebox, flick through a few channels and not see members of the police force*embroiled in scenes of varying dramatic merit.
Whilst crime dramas themselves are far from anything new, what is especially unusual is that so many shows in this sudden surge are heavily focused on the roles of women.   

Shows such as Scott and Bailey, Prisoners Wives and even the well documented Broadchurch have brought women on both sides of the prison bars into sharp focus. And hurrah for it we say here at the Buffery. We’ll wager our gender hasn’t really been done justice in the genre since around about 2006 when Prime Suspect was last on, although feel free to correct us if we're wrong. A more problematic point of note, though, is that many of these crime dramas seem to involve at least one or two of the same actresses. So, to avoid any possible confusion and in all honesty as a bit of an excuse to harp on about how great they all are, we’ve decided to provide you with your very own foolproof guide to the female characters of some of our favourite crime dramas of late- the Women of the Clink.

1.    Name: DC Rachel Bailey
Role: Detective, Manchester Major Incident Team
Show: Scott and Bailey
Played by: Suranne Jones
Bio: Professional loose cannon Rachel Bailey is a promising young detective, despite an apparent inability to choose the sensible option in almost any situation.  Impulsive but smart, she is referred to as ‘Sherlock’ by many in her department, due to her uncanny knack of identifying unusual behaviours in potential suspects.
Weaknesses: Her personal life does rather tend to get in the way, most recently leaving her suspended from service for several months.

2.    Name: Francesca
Role: Wife of an imprisoned drug baron
Show: Prisoners Wives
Played By: Polly Walker
Bio: Fiercely loyal to her husband, Francesca has stuck by him through his long imprisonment, engaging in criminal activity at his behest and visiting him regularly, despite the feelings of her father (David Bradley) on the matter. Despite this apparent obedience, Fran is one feisty lady, quick to offer an opinion and very protective of her children as well as her somewhat questionable life choices. Clever and resourceful, Francesca has pulled her family out of many a tricky situation.
Weaknesses: Tendency to not act until it is too late, too easily seduced by money.

3.    Name: DCI Jo Fontaine
Role: Detective
Show: Prisoners Wives
Played by: Nicola Walker
Bio: It was Jo Fontaine who convicted Paul (Iain Glen) Francesca’s husband of drug related offences back in the day. Unable to quite let go of the case, Fontaine investigates Francesca’s continued questionable dealings, eventually reaching something vaguely resembling an alliance with the latter. This is no mean feat.
Weakness: Can act rather smug, and as a result doesn’t come across as terribly empathetic. This does not endear others to her, Francesca in particular.

4.    Name: DC Janet Scott
Role: Detective, Manchester Major Incident Team
Show: Scott and Bailey
Played by: Lesley Sharp
Bio: Janet is older and wiser than colleague and friend Rachel, generally acting in a more level headed manner. Trusted by her superiors as she is, other members of the team frequently turn to Janet for help and advice. More than once she has saved the day, keeping the unit together, whilst remaining characteristically loyal to both her family and to Rachel. Janet has been in this game a long time, and has strong, reliable instincts as a result. She is particularly effective when interviewing suspects and witnesses, as they too tend to trust her.
Weaknesses: Can be slow to reach a conclusion, not often changing her mind once she has set it on something.

5.    Name: Helen Bartlett
Role: Murder witness/suspect. We’re never wholly sure which.
Show: Scott and Bailey
Played by: Nicola Walker (This is where it begins to get confusing)
Bio: Helen appears throughout the third series of the show, as her mother is found murdered, we suspect at the hand of her father. However, all with Helen is not what it seems, as we discover that years of abuse by her parents have taken their toll, with her frequently drinking herself into a stupor, using prostitutes and turning up at Janet Scott’s door at inappropriate moments. Could it be she has something to hide?
Weaknesses: Doesn’t hide her secrets particularly well, acts irrationally at times. Quite rightly too, due to her years of suffering.

6.    Name: Harriet
Role: Mother of imprisoned Gavin, an unlikely teenager tearaway 
Show: Prisoners Wives
Played by: Pippa Haywood
Bio: Also known as the most downtrodden woman since well, ever, Harriet visits her son Gavin at the prison- a young man locked up for his involvement in gang culture, more specifically for the possession of dangerous weaponry. Widowed several years ago, Harriet is cripplingly, achingly lonely, with only her dog, Basil, for company now that her son is inside. She means well, very well, in fact, but others tend to be unnerved by her attempts to make friends. Her son has her wrapped around his little finger, and Harriet will do anything for him, frequently at her own peril.
Weaknesses: Without a doubt her inability to see the faults of others. That and a lack of basic understanding of personal space and social etiquette.

7.    Name: DCI Gill Murray
Role: Detective, and head of MIT
Show: Scott and Bailey
Played by: Amelia Bullmore
Bio: Sharp, witty and very authoritative, the powerful yet fair Gill Murray goes by a variety of nicknames in her department, chiefly ‘Her Majesty’ and ‘Godzilla’.  She may appear tough and cold hearted, but she certainly has her softer side. She’s fiercely loyal to her team, and is a supportive single mother to her teenage son.  Long since divorced and heartbroken, Gill is often more sympathetic to the plights of fellow women than to those of men. That said, she is straight talking, smart and rarely misses a trick.
Weaknesses: Few. Sticks to her guns a little too much, and has a tendency toward favouritism.

8.    Name: Detective Supt. Julie Dodson
Role: Pretty much what is says on the tin
Show: Scott and Bailey
Played by: Pippa Haywood  (We did warn you…)
Bio: Good friends with Gill Murray, straight talking Julie Dodson, or ‘Slap’, as Murray calls her, has great instincts and a quick mind.  She has an incredibly no nonsense approach, even when it comes to dead bodies. Julie takes no prisoners, and makes it very, very clear when she doesn’t like someone (Kevin).
Weaknesses: Terrified of one of her superiors, could it be that ‘Dodson’ has an insecure side?

9.    Name: DI Ellie Miller
Role: Detective Inspector in a small town police station
Show: Broadchurch
Played by: Olivia Colman
Bio: Ellie has worked for the local police force for years, and knows the town inside out. A close friend of the Latimer family, she finds working on the case difficult. Having had her heart set on his job, she finds it difficult to get on with her boss. A friendly, warm hearted yet strong willed officer who has to learn to see the bad in people in order to find the killer, could it be that the murdered is closer to her own home than she thinks?
Weaknesses: A tendency to see the best in people, ignoring truths she does not like.

So that’s it- our round up of the women of the clink, both the prisoners, and the police officers. There’s only one question left to ask, really. 

Who’s side would you want to be on?

*or service now isn’t it? According to Hot Fuzz that is. Which, feeding nicely into my earlier point, was actually on tonight.


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