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The Responder Season 2 Review: Tense Drama

Martin Freeman, a policeman, looks down at night in the BBC series The Responder Season 2

BBC’s The Responder returns with a terrific season 2 that explores its characters deeper while ratcheting up the tension.

Creator: Tony Schumacher
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Number of episodes: 5
Season 2 Release Date: May 5, 2024
Where to watch: BBC iPlayer (UK), digital & VOD (US & Global)

The Responder was a huge surprise when it was released back in early 2022. At a time where British television is dominated by police procedurals and an overabundance of true crime dramatisations, something about Martin Freeman’s tense performance and the refreshing Liverpool setting made the series feel unique and authentic even when it takes delight in its traditional action-packed thrills.

Two years later, The Responder is back with season 2, and thankfully, the show remains better than ever.

Afterthe traumatic events of season 1, Chris Carson (Martin Freeman) is trying to change his life for the better. He’s still busy working night shifts but now has ambitions to find a day job within policing so he can balance his work and family life more fairly. During a regular shift, Chris is told to perform a car stop and, in doing so, is unwittingly brought into a drug war between two of Liverpool’s biggest drug dealers. As this war escalates, Chris is brought back with Rachel Hargreaves (Adelayo Adedayo), who struggles with her policing work after leaving her abusive boyfriend. The two have to work together to dig themselves out of this new hole they find in and find a way to do so without becoming involved with the criminal underworld they originally intended to take down.

Part of why The Responder works so well as a piece of television is its total devotion to authenticity. Series creator Tony Schumacher began their work career as a police officer, and throughout the show’s first season, we saw what felt like echoes of Schumacher’s early career. The struggles of being a police officer led to the first season of The Responder taking on a more personal examination of one officer’s mental health struggles while working an unforgiving role. With season 2, the focus here is more institutional and a direct condemnation of the policing system as well as the entrapment of social classes in the eyes of the law. 

A policewoman looks back, leaning on a police car, in the BBC series The Responder Season 2
The Responder Season 2 (BBC)

A key thread of the second season is the subplot with Marco (Josh Finan). At the start of the series, Marco was a young man who was immature and often getting into trouble with his friend, Casey (Emily Fairn). In season two, Marco finds himself with more responsibilities than ever as he attempts to take care of his newborn daughter and find some maturity in his chaotic life. Season 2 is grittier and darker and, yet, has an even bigger beating heart than the first that shows particularly in Finan’s heartbreaking and raw performance. It’s evident that Tony Schumacher has a lot of empathy for these characters, even in their darkest and lowest moments.

Getting a second season of The Responder was worrying at first because, as fantastic as the first season was, there’s only so much you can do with the initial premise before it starts to get old. The five-episode/five-night structure allowed season 1 to trim the fat and allow the plot to drive the characters. In season 2, it’s clear that Schumacher’s focus is on character. There is a tense plot here of drug lords, betrayals and the difficulty of resisting corruption, but it’s how the characters within these five episodes move around the world they reside in where The Responder shines.

A stunning example of this is the character of Rachel as her traumatic experience with her ex-boyfriend begins to take its toll. There’s a familiar rage within Rachel that echoes back to Chris in season 1, but in a more heartbreaking way. A character that began as an idealistic soul is slowly corrupted into a cynical and erratic officer that is willing to blur the lines of the law to get what they need. Adelayo Adedayo does a phenomenal job and damn near steals Martin Freeman’s thunder in some scenes as she portrays this character with such fury. This exploration of darkness leads to a crushing critique of policing and the reality that the law allows corruption and aggression to thrive. It’s a world where cruelty is rewarded, and kindness is chastised.

The Responder Season 2: Trailer (BBC)

The Responder season 2 is a wonderful and intense continuation of one of Britain’s best TV shows. By diving deeper into its characters, Tony Schumacher has made an incredibly fiery piece of television that only grows deeper in its ambition. While the conclusion here is satisfactory enough should the series not continue, the sheer talent on display both in performances and writing makes this a show to cherish and hopefully embrace for just a while longer. British television is oversaturated by crime shows, but with The Responder, we’re served a nice reminder of what good old-fashioned TV can be when not bogged down with the same old tropes over and over again.

Get it on Apple TV

The Responder Season 2 is now available to watch on digital and on demand.

The Responder Season 1 Review – Loud And Clear Reviews
The Responder is a beautifully human yet bleak story of an anxious and cynical police officer on the verge of losing his mind.

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