Martin Freeman is a cop on the cusp of corruption in The Responder

By Bianca Coleman12 August 2022

Martin Freeman is a cop on the cusp of corruption in The Responder

Why Martin Freeman hasn’t won an award since 2019, or been nominated for his role in The Responder, is a crime in itself. He’s such a brilliant actor and has played a huge range of roles. Remember him in the first season of Fargo? What about Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit trilogy?

Here, he plays copper Chris Carson. The character of the conflicted, troubled policeman is not new but Freeman brings such humanity to the part. Through sessions with his overworked therapist who can’t even remember his name from one week to the next, we learn he went through something traumatic on the job, which got him demoted.

His mum’s in palliative care, and he’s clinging to his family life with his wife and daughter while working night shifts in central Liverpool. A note here: you might want to turn on the English subtitles. It can be a bit weird if it’s your language but trust me, when local youth Marco (Josh Finan) comes on the screen you’re going to need them. It will also help you grasp all the nuances of the script and the regional dialogue.

Finan is superb too, playing an absolute dolt. My granddad would have said he’s “as dim as a Toc-H lamp,” which is slang from the 1960s (or, as I like to refer to it now, the mid- to late-1900s), meaning not as bright as other lamps.

Right at the beginning of the show, Chris’s friend Carl (Ian Hart, another prolific actor; see him in Boardwalk Empire) rings up Chris and asks him if he’s seen Casey (Emily Fairn), a local junkie. When Chris eventually locates her, he learns the reason Carl is after her is because she stole his big bag of cocaine.

The Responder is multi-layered with plenty of side stories and other characters, but the location of this bag of drugs, and who is in possession of it at any given time, is at its centre. Carl wants it back from Casey because he has to report to someone higher up, who also has someone above them, and so on and so forth.

Chris wants to keep Casey safe and alive and get everything sorted out, but he’s not immune to temptation. Casey wants to sell the drugs; she believes that kind of money is the only chance she’ll ever have to make something better of her life. The unspoken tragedy is that this is extremely unlikely.

Follow the bag from episodes 1 to 6

Like Gil Grissom always said, follow the evidence; here we follow the bag.

Warning: Spoilers from episode 3 onwards.

Episode 1: Casey has the bag. Chris finds her, but not the bag (he’ll only learn about it later). Next we see her on the phone to someone, telling them how much she has (in measures of really big washing powders), keen to sell. Marco calls Carl and tells him Chris saw Casey but let her go. Chris finds Casey again, who tells him about the coke, but that it’s been stolen from her. She doesn’t know by whom because she “was off her cake”. Chris tries to help by giving her money for a train ticket out of there.

Episode 2: The first thing you need to know about smackheads is that they lie. All the time, about everything. The drugs were not stolen, and Casey does not get out of Dodge. The next time we see her, she’s at Marco’s house. Ever the loyal friend, he once again rats her out to Carl. When he sends his soldiers to get her, she says she lost the drugs, but leads them to a party in a derelict building where she says the bag might be. Spoiler: it’s not, but Casey grabs the opportunity to escape.

Episode 3: Christ finds the bag by chance. There’s a lot of soul searching as he comes close to checking it into evidence at the police station but then he changes his mind and decides to try to sell the coke back to Carl. We see Casey and Marco towards the end of this episode, and she’s carrying a backpack.

Episode 4: The meet is set up. The coke is tested and discovered to be washing powder. Someone dies. Meanwhile, Casey and Marco have gone to her granddad’s house, with the bag of real drugs. He tries to help sell the drugs down at the pub.

Episode 5: Casey and Marco take “their” drugs and check into a hotel. While she’s in the bathroom, Marco, still loyal, nicks the bag and runs.

Episode 6: Casey catches up with Marco, Chris finds them, and retrieves the bag for the final time. He lays out a plan that will keep everyone alive and off the hook, but what he actually does is something you’ll have to watch to find out for yourself.

The Responder has been renewed for a second season.

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