Better – Review

Worth seeing: as a disappointing drama about a crooked cop having a crisis of conscience, that could - and should - have been Better
Featuring:Andrew Buchan, Leila Farzad, Anton Lesser, Carolin Stoltz, Ceallach Spellman, Garry Cooper, Gavin Spokes, Kaya Moore, Mark Monero, Olivia Nakintu, Samuel Edward-Cook, Zak Ford-Williams
Key crew:Jonathan Brough, Pier Wilkie, James Dean, Jonathan Brackley, Nick Ahad, Sam Vincent
Channel:BBC iPlayer, BBC1
Length:59 minutes
Broadcast date:13th February 2023


Detective Inspector Lou Slack (Leila Farzad) has a second income – accepting money to persuade colleagues to look the other way if they find themselves sniffing around in the business of local crime boss Col McHugh (Andrew Buchan).

Over 20 years, Col has gone from a gangland informant to a partner in crime, who’s enabled a much better lifestyle than she could ever have dreamt of. He even helped her husband when his business went under.

When her son has a life-threatening disease, she starts to have second thoughts and wonders if there’s a way out, without jeopardising the day job.

But as she starts chipping away at the alliance, following up leads involving his hoodlums, she soon realises that it’s going to be harder than she thought to break free.


We see plenty of dramas about crooked cops but not so many about crooked cops who want to come back in from the cold. There’s scope from depth and introspection, among the excitement of a crime drama.

So with a kernel of a strong idea at its heart, this should simply have been – well – Better.

But from the earliest episodes, the characters weren’t particularly likeable and constantly behaved in a way contrary to common-sense, regardless of which side of the fence you’re watching from. Had there been more than 5 episodes, it might not have been worth sticking with it to find out how it ended.

While there were moments of interest along the way, the narrative was disappointingly clunky, the dialogue surprisingly on-the-nose and the acting generally weak and unconvincing.

DI Slack works for the fictional Central Yorkshire Police – presumably not too far from Happy Valley’s Yorkshire Police – which serves only to highlight the contrast between the two shows – many of the accents are the same, but Happy Valley did the tension, gangland violence and general storytelling much – Better.

Another difference is that Happy Valley deftly ties the over-arching story into the everyday policing of the region, but here, there seems to be nothing going on in Central Yorkshire that doesn’t involve Col’s gang.

One of the biggest problems here is that the protagonist is never very empathetic and her nemesis doesn’t feel particularly villainous, apart from the odd moment where you can almost feel them saying “We’d better get him to shout or point a gun at someone as he hasn’t seemed very evil for a while.” They also seem to miss a trick when addressing the underlying relationship between the two leads – they dangle some interesting ideas but don’t follow through.

The motivation of the central characters is rarely convincing – and they both seem to sway wildly, as required to nudge the plot towards its conclusion, rather than how such individuals might in reality.

All the way through, there are chinks of light – interesting ideas – that are snuffed out or forgotten, rather than pursued.

Only a supporting role from Anton Lesser, as a reformed crooked cop, who’s roped in to help, hints at how this might have been – ahem – sorry, but they asked for it – Better.