Police procedural The Tower returns for an unnecessary and perplexing second season

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

The Tower, BritBox/ITV’s interesting 2021 police procedural, reviewed here, has returned for an oddly presented second season that is longer but altogether less compelling than its first.  The entire second season joins the first, streaming on BritBox with the finale episode added today in the U.S. as part of BritBox’s “world premiere” of the show.  Gemma Whalen (Game of Thrones) reprises her leading role as DS Sarah Collins, having moved to homicide from Special Investigations (Internal Affairs), while co-star Tahirah Sharif (The Haunting of Bly Manor) returns as rookie cop Lizzie Adama, still causing trouble for the force with her rash decisions.  This time, two unrelated cases unfold over four episodes—an hour longer than Series (Season) One.

None of these decisions improves the show.  The Tower′s hook—what set it aside from every run-of-the-mill cop drama, was the unique angle of a cop investigating her fellow cops.  This season, characters purpose-built for those roles are forced into new (and yet the same old) situations—and they are not up to the task.

Collins’s forceful probing as an internal affairs officer upset her co-workers for understandable reasons; now they just don’t like her.  And Constable Adama went from a young woman of color navigating a hostile old boys’ network, to a cop who simply seems unprepared and incompetent.  Whelan and Sharif deliver strong performances, but they’re just not given good material to work with here.  A better evolution would have been to move Constable Adama to DS Collins’s team and have them investigate another police scandal.  Why not stick with what was working?

There are some bright spots.  Collins is tasked to investigate a cold case with an interesting angle (although it all crashes to a bizarre and improbable conclusion in Episode 4).  She gains a new partner, DC Elaine Lucas (Call the Midwife’s Ella Smith), whose distinctly different policing style complements Collins’s by-the-book gruffness.

Most of last year’s cast returns, but without the original case, there isn’t much for them to do, and they’re less sympathetic than ever.  Returning supporting actors Emmett Scanlan (Krypton), Jimmy Akingbola (Arrow), and Michael Karim (The Bay) round out the mostly police cast of characters, with Tamzin Outhwaite one of the more interesting additions, playing a missing girl’s grandmother.  Stuart McQuarrie joins the cast as what has become a tired cliché in crime TV, the rude, loud-mouth, unsympathetic sexist DCI/police chief.

An ongoing criminal storyline suggests future seasons may be in the works.  We’ll hope for a better Season 3, but it doesn’t look promising.

Renamed for this season as The Tower II: Death Message, the “tower” of the title has no apparent meaning this season.  The Tower is streaming now on BritBox in the U.S. via Amazon Prime.

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