The Long Shadow – ITV’s moving drama about the Peter Sutcliffe case
ITV’s searing new drama The Long Shadow looks at how one man’s depraved murder campaign in late 1970s’ Britain devastated so many lives.
The fallout from those crimes are the focus here. And they have continued long after Peter Sutcliffe was arrested in January 1981. That is the long shadow.
I attended the press screening of the series and was absorbed by the skill of its writing, the extraordinary performances and attention to detail. But be prepared – it packs an emotional punch.
The first two episodes focus on three victims – Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson and Marcella Claxton, the latter of whom survived her attack.
Katherine Kelly and Daniel Mays
Wilma is found on a field near her home. DCS Dennis Hoban, played by Toby Jones, realises the public is often not that sympathetic towards victims who are sex workers and decides to emphasise her role as a mother of four in a bid to motivate witnesses to come forward.
The episode carefully recreates the press portrait of these little orphans that Hoban arranged to be taken to gain public support and hopefully some leads, the standout moment from the opening instalment.
Katherine Kelly and Daniel Mays as Emily Jackson and her husband Sydney are hugely affecting. An opening newsreel montage of industrial strife and warnings of revolution establishes the era of joblessness and economic woe that formed the backdrop to these crimes.
Emily and Sydney are victims of this, struggling with the grief of having lost a son and the weight of debt and final demands. With Christmas approaching, Emily proposes she becomes one of the many local sex workers to tide them over, and Sydney reluctantly goes along with her.
David Morrissey and Lee Ingleby
The pathos of his interview with police following the discovery of her body – and the brilliance of Daniel Mays’ performance – will bring a lump to many throats.
This is how a quality drama can succeed where a documentary or non-fiction book may fall short. When done this well it can take us beyond the facts and into the emotional truth of these events.
ITV have assembled a terrific cast, which also includes David Morrissey, Lee Ingleby and Jasmine Lee-Jones.
They, and the production team, all appear to have brought their A game to this serious, compassionate drama.
See The Long Shadow on ITV1 in the UK: Monday 25 September 9pm