The Responder – Review

Worth seeing: for Martin Freeman's Scouse accent and his earnest turn as a police officer who takes one step out of line and can't quite find his way back.
Featuring:Martin Freeman, Adam Nagaitis, Adelayo Adedayo, Amaka Okafor, Bernard Hill, Christine Tremarco, David Bradley, Elizabeth Berrington, Emily Fairn, Faye McKeever, Ian Hart, Ian Puleston-Davies, James Nelson-Joyce, Josh Finan, Jude Cooper-Kelly, Kevin Eldon, Mark Womack, MyAnna Buring, Philip Barantini, Philip Shaun McGuinness, Rita Tushingham, Romi Hyland-Rylands, Warren Brown
Key crew:Charlotte Regan, Fien Troch, Jeanette Nordahl, Mounia Akl, Philip Barantini, Tim Mielants, Barrington Paul Robinson, Nadia Jaynes, Rebecca Ferguson, Tony Schumacher
Channel:BBC iPlayer, BBC1
Length:58 minutes
Episodes:2 seasons of 5 episodes each
Broadcast date:Season 1 - 24th January 2022 Season 2 - 5th May 2024


Chris Carson (Martin Freeman) used to be a high-flying detective in Merseyside Police, but after an unspecified incident, he’s now back in uniform, patrolling the streets of Liverpool on the night shift.

The job is taking its toll on his mental health and jeopardising his marriage.

He manages to keep the peace on the streets by adopting some unorthodox tactics – including turning a blind eye to the actions of a childhood friend, Carl (Ian Hart), who’s now a local drug dealer.

But as his sources on the street start going rogue and taking matters into their own hands, the people higher up the tree becoming more demanding of Chris, making it increasingly hard for him to reconcile what he’s doing with his job and with his principles.

And all the while, his marriage, his health and his sanity are drifting away from him.


Season One takes us on a compelling ride through the less salubrious suburbs of Liverpool, as Constable Carson does his best to keep the streets calm at night – by turning turning a blind eye to non-violent crime and mediating between rival ne’er-do-wells to keep the peace. His new night-shift partner, Rachel (Adelayo Adedayo) questions his ways, jeopardising the relative quiet and creating tension where he doesn’t need it.

Chris is an interesting protagonist – a good man at heart but destined to keep getting himself in trouble, because of the company he keeps. Freeman himself is thoroughly convincing as the earnest but damaged Scouser – from his accent to his demeanour, he nails the role.

A detective, Ray Mullen (Warren Brown), has Chris in his sights – he has Chris’s wife Kate (MyAnna Buring) in his sights too – but for a very different reason – all of which helps to secure the viewer’s support for the flawed hero.

We also get to meet a couple of good-for-nothing teenagers who get on the wrong side of the drug-dealing kingpin, Carl – with understandably, but unexpectedly dramatic consequences.

For a city the size of Liverpool, there seems to be an unfathomable shortage of police officers and criminals – it’s basically two police officers and one gang, but they manage to hold it together and keep it interesting.

Season Two, though, seems to lose its way, a little. Rather than taking on a new gang – introducing new colleagues – the production seems to suffer from Small Cast Syndrome and instead, gives us more of the same gang – with a new tentacle thrown in – and the same police officers – Ray is still after Chris – it’s more like a continuation of the first series than a new one in its own right.

In so doing, they find themselves going over much of the same territory and pushing credibility a little to fill another five hours. Freeman himself remains the strong emotional anchor at the heart of the drama, but with too much of the plot feeling contrived and being constrained by largely the same cast – and with many key questions unanswered – the second series doesn’t live up to the promise of the first.