Sunday, April 20, 2014
'Justice' CS DVD: Ideal Subject for Easter Sunday
The two-disc five-episode BFS Entertainment DVD release of the 2011 BBC drama "Justice" provides an excellent chance for American audiences to discover a nicely low-key drama about a very human savior who takes on the resurrection of his hometown for a sin with a fairly significant ripple effect.
Robert Pugh, whose 112 credits include "Game of Thrones" and "Doctor Who," plays Judge Patrick Coburn. The 50-words-or-less version of the back story of Coburn is that he returns to oversee a controversial Public Justice Centre in his hometown of Liverpool 40 years after a midnight skip in response to an event that remains a mystery through part of the series.
Opposition to the Centre relates to the sense that it is established to punish, rather than support, the lower-income folks who commit acts that result in bringing them before Colburn. Conversely, Colburn sees his role as one that helps those folks, focuses more on dispensing justice than on enforcing the law, and more generally improves living conditions that have deteriorated in his absence.
On the other side of the coin, Her Majesty's government is considering closing the Centre based on economic considerations.
The court proceedings in the pilot episode demonstrate the Colburn style of adjudication; the sentence for a charge of soliciting a prostitute is a revocation of a driver's license. The logic is that an inability to drive precludes using a car to "hook" up.
The response of a woman who engages in the oldest profession in the world that the ruling merely forces her and her colleagues to ply their trade in a more dangerous area shows that Colburn can do little right in the eyes of his community.
This episode further establishes the mutual animosity between Colburn and not-so-subtle local crime boss Jake Little, who particularly preys on teens and 20-somethings. Having a crusader in the area is a threat that Little openly opposes.
An episode in which Colburn and Little compete for the body and soul of a young enforcer particularly brings these two men head-to-head. It also demonstrates the extent of the ability of Little to make friends and his much strong power to influence people.
Colburn assigning the young thug and a much-older former thug as the community service projects for each other is another example of his style of justice. For his part, the retired thug provides a good lesson about the cost of wasting potential.
Colburn additionally faces a foe in the form of local Lois Lane style crusading reporter Louise Scanlon, played by Liverpool native Gillian Kearney. An assignment to interview Colburn triggers a campaign by Scanlon to determine the truth behind his sudden departure 40 years earlier. Her success in revealing this secret has the desired result but leads to her own form of atonement in the exceptional season finale.
This finale has a terrific feel of a classic American western in that an outrageously blatant act of Little results in facing Colburn in court. Obtaining a conviction for that offense requires that at least one local who Little has been bullying testifies about the crime.
This one nicely ties into the rest of the series by having past offenders and those close to them appear regarding the effort to achieve justice. Further, a central figure dies for the sins of others.
The identity of the individual who ultimately steps forward is moderately surprising but ties nicely into the theme of redemption in the series. It is equally notable that things are not necessarily all rainbows and lollipops for the folks in this rough community at the end.
The final scene is also moderately surprising but offers a couple of nice messages for realistic degrees of hope. Whether Thomas Wolfe correctly concludes that you cannot go home again remains undetermined.
The final verdict regarding "Justice" is that it is a series to which many of us can relate. Most of us regret something from our past but lack the courage of Colburn to both do something about it and not back down when publicly confronted with the consequences of it.
Real life also has plenty of criminal and non-criminal versions of Little, who abuse their positions at the expense of "innocents." We additionally fantasize about a court system that dispenses justice, rather than simply enforces the law.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Justice" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.