Suffolk accent MIA: Review of Fearless: ITV, Monday, 9pm

“Ruby has gone dark!” hissed a spook in Fearless, ITV’s new thriller starring the fabulous Helen McCrory.

I looked over at my daughter, Ruby, who was wearing a bright pink t-shirt with glittery unicorns on and a pair of shorts covered in hearts (she is 19) – no she hasn’t, I thought, in fact if anything she’s looks more like a rainbow every day.

But I digress: this six-part series is an intriguing blend of stories which I am fairly sure I don’t really understand but which are all presented quite beautifully – the credits alone are a work of art – and are all in their own way quite compelling.

What isn’t compelling – and is in fact just downright annoying - is the way that the Suffolk accent is portrayed. But more of that later.

Emma Banville (McCrory) is a brilliant human rights lawyer who reminds me of a peripatetic art teacher we used to have – both drove antique Volvo estates, wore leather jackets, smoked in forbidden places, swilled whisky like water and wore their hair in ponytails (although Banville is a woman and my art teacher was a chap) and if all that doesn’t scream ‘MAVERICK!’ enough, she’s also hooked up with a paparazzi photographer despite loathing the media with a burning passion who she met in court.


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Well, he says he’s a photographer: he looks like comedian John Bishop to me, on account of the fact that he is which – sorry John – was hugely off-putting.

Banville’s speciality is uncovering miscarriages of justice and her latest case involves investigating the possibly unsafe conviction of Kevin Russell (Sam Swainsbury) who has been in prison for 14 years for the murder of schoolgirl Linda Simms, whose body was found buried next to his workshop.

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At the time of Russell’s arrest, he was engaged to fiancée Annie (Rebecca Callard), who was pregnant with their son, Jason. She has always fought Kevin’s cause and, despite marrying someone else who has brought up Jason as his son, has spent more than a decade searching for the right lawyer to reopen the case.

Then there’s DCS Olivia Greenwood (Wunmi Mosaku) who conducts police interviews in a voice that would be more suited to Book at Bedtime and has, we are led to believe, coaxed Russell into a confession because there is Something Darker Going On That We Don’t Know About Yet.

This is the bit I almost understand, but there’s far more I haven’t really got a clue about that involves counter-terrorism agencies (Banville is harbouring the wife and child of a Syrian refugee doctor who has returned home to treat patients and is being surveilled) and Michael Gambon who plays academic and former Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet Office Sir Alastair McKinnon.

Towards the end of the first episode – after DCS Greenwood slyly slips Banville a photograph of Linda scantily-clad and usefully posing in front of Russell’s workshop – McKinnon rings an American woman who (the programme notes from ITV says) is “a master manipulator pulling the strings” and the pair have an incomprehensible chat about how dangerous the photographs would be if they didn’t “own” the man who took them. Nope, not a clue.

And there’s more: Banville clearly has a very difficult and fragile relationship with her father, who is gravely ill in hospital.

She visited him (hospitals in TV dramas are always dark, aren’t they? Whenever I’ve had to go they’ve been brighter than the light of 1,000 suns) and had a one-way conversation with him on account of his unconsciousness.

“I was in East Anglia today,” she said, “I went past the place where my unravelling started…” She clearly went to Costessey High School, too.

Written by Homeland writer Patrick Harbinson, you’d expect the plot to be complicated, and it is.

And I suppose it’s too much to ask that Harbinson could have written a phonetic script for the Suffolk contingent (Kevin’s accent is by far the worst) but as an East Anglian, I was wincing at the Mummerset dialogue to the point where I expected part of his defence to involve the Wurzels and a gurt ol’ pint of zyder. Poor job, ITV accent chiefs.

Other problems in this episode included some wooden exposition, the aforementioned problem with Bishop (I kept expecting him to crack a one-liner) and the horribly shaky camerawork which looked like I’d attached a camera to a toddler after a birthday party and told them to start filming.

But… I am intrigued and one thing that Fearless isn’t is boring:

it zips through storyline like an express train and the only problem I can anticipate is how Banville can cope with all the quirky complexities that Harbinson has thrown at her.

I mean how is a woman supposed to uphold human rights, be at the deathbed of a parent, adopt a child, safeguard the family of a man the government believe is a terrorist, avoid the spooks by subterfuge and keep her name out of the papers while simultaneously having to source Sobranie Russian

cigarettes and parts for a 1984 Volvo?

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