Review by C.J. Bunce
The biggest draw of ITV’s first two seasons of its police procedural The Bay was its lead detective. Morven Christie (Death in Paradise, Doctor Who) played detective Lisa Armstrong, a family liaison officer (“FLO”) with the Morcambe police. Morcambe is the eponymous Bay, a seaside town on England’s northwest coast, near Manchester (setting of several great British crime dramas, like Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, and Cracker). But that changes for the third season of The Bay, now streaming on Britbox. Taking her place is Marsha Thomason, who played White Collar’s (American) agent Diana Barrigan. Armstrong’s show was as much about her personal life, her kids and relationships, as the crime-solving. Viewers get no wrap-up for her story, but for season 3 the writers try to hold that same focus on the pressure of life as a cop helping citizens who have experienced distress. And the season opens with a dead body floating out in the bay near a buoy.
Thomason is newly arrived FLO replacement DS Jenn Townsend. She inherits, and viewers get the benefit of, the same Morcambe crew, including boss, DI Manning, with Daniel Ryan back in the role. In my review of the first two seasons of The Bay here at borg, I expressed hope for a bigger role for Erin Shanaghan′s (The Five) DS Karen “Kaz” Hobson. That wish was pretty much granted, as DS Hobson has many opportunities to fill-in for DS Townsend, as Townsend gets tripped up by a past haunting her, a new job and town, and struggling kids trying to adapt to a new school and father and sister figure. Beyond Ryan and Shanaghan, Thomas Law and Andrew Dowbiggin return to fill-out the rest of the police force. It’s all a bit like The Closer switching leads but retaining the rest of the crew to move ahead as Major Crimes.
In its six-episode arc, it’s the life of DS Townsend and her backstory that takes center stage, with the backdrop of an apparent suicide, which is quickly determined to be murder. Rina Mahoney plays Mariam Rahman, mother of the victim, a young man named Saif. The story navigates away from race and religion as motives, but viewers get a different view of life as a Muslim in England. Her two remaining sons have little in common: Nadim Islam (Almost) is Jamal, frequently involved in prayer at the mosque, he is deaf and hopes his mother can move beyond her alcohol addiction; and Michael Karim (Inspector Lewis) is Adnan, the angry brother who finds his way into trouble again and again. Jamal provides an opportunity for more participation from DS Hobson, who serves as Jamal’s signing interpreter. Mariam has a white boyfriend (played by familiar Brit actor Vincent Regan (Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Traces, 300, Snow White and the Huntsman), which is a bit of a taboo with her family, especially her sister, played by Zahra Ahmadi (Doctor Who, Black Mirror).
As in the first two seasons, the relationship between the lead FLO detective and her kids is a big component. More interesting than her time with her own two kids are interactions and efforts of almost step-daughter Erin, played by Georgia Scholes (Hollyoaks). Erin is in the middle of all the key players involved in the death of Saif, and she doesn’t just sit back and watch matters unfold.
Longmire and L.A.’s Finest actor Barry Sloane plays Chris, Townsend’s new live-in boyfriend and Erin’s father. It’s a bit jarring at first watching him regain his British accent here, but he plays a similar, hopeful but uncertain and off-kilter character. Some local color is provided by Gary Lewis (His Dark Materials, In Plain Sight, Billy Elliot, Gangs of New York) as boxing club owner of “The Bay,” a nice twist on the show title.
As much as the actors make the series worth watching through to the end, the mystery isn’t all that suspenseful or compelling. The Bay has established itself as more character study than mystery at this point. Still it’s recommended viewing, and all three seasons of The Bay are streaming now here on Britbox, available via Prime Video.