Now that’s explosive! Vicky McClure has a blast in the line of duty: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews new ITV police drama Trigger Point
Trigger Point ITV, last night
That ending came as a seismic shock. Anyone gripped by the first hour of Trigger Point (ITV) couldn’t help leaping out of their skin at the climax.
We should have been expecting it – this anti-terrorist police drama is produced by Jed Mercurio, the writer who had Call The Midwife’s Jessica Raine pushed out of a window in her first (and last) episode of Line Of Duty.
Mercurio specialises in stunning plot twists. No spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but episode one ends with an eye-popper.
I was already dripping with nervous sweat after a series of high-tension set pieces as police ‘Expo’ explosives officers Wash and Nut (Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester) burst into a terror cell’s bomb factory, defused a lethal device and then rescued a hostage buckled into a gelignite vest.
She’s back: Vicky McClure in new drama Trigger Point
Then came the biggest surprise, and I was left lying in a puddle on the floor.
‘The art is in making the twists as unexpected as possible,’ says Mercurio, and no one does it better.
Throughout the episode a roiling undercurrent of unrest kept us on edge as officers struggled to maintain a cordon and keep the public back. The action took place during an inner-city heatwave, with the crowd lobbing water bottles like grenades at police.
McClure, best-known as Line Of Duty’s DI Kate Fleming, is far cooler as Expo Lana Washington than an anti-corruption detective. With her face scoured of make-up and her hair scraped up into a topknot, she wears her mirror sunglasses with rock-star swagger. In moments away from the action, she turns up the car radio and headbangs to heavy metal.
Wash’s partner and former Army comrade Joel Nutkins is more experienced and less reckless. It’s Wash who almost blows them to kingdom come by reaching for a light switch in the bomb-maker’s tower block flat – and it’s Wash who discards her helmet before stepping forward to deal with a suspected car bomb.
Mercurio specialises in stunning plot twists. No spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but episode one ends with an eye-popper
Incredibly, that detail is drawn from life. A real-life bomb squad expert advised McClure to discard the headgear: ‘That felt like absolute madness,’ she says. ‘But the Expo explained to me that it could impair your vision, or it could knock the device if it slipped, so you need to take it off.’
There’s an instant rapport between Lana and Joel. He carries her ‘lucky wirecutters’ for her, she teases him that their bosses don’t trust him to do a job without her.
After one miraculous escape, she blurts, ‘I love you,’ and he retorts, ‘I love you too, mate – just not to bits.’
In their private lives, his marriage is falling apart. She’s dating a senior officer, played by Mark Stanley. Cops in Mercurio dramas always call each other ‘mate’. That’s not fooling anyone. The big unanswered question is whether Wash and Nut have ever been to bed together.
Washer, Nut… surely those names are a hint by writer Daniel Brierley that the two are physically close. How much more obvious could he make it, without calling them ‘Screw’ and ‘Driver’?
PS: When ballet was her beat
Vicky McClure was once destined for a rather different line of work – on stage, not screen.
She danced from the age of three, auditioned for the Royal Ballet aged 13 and ‘absolutely loved’ it – but switched to acting as her ankles were too weak to be a ballerina.
Vicky McClure was once destined for a rather different line of work – on stage, not screen
Even the actors have thought about it. ‘I remember us talking about whether anything romantic ever happened between them, but we came to the conclusion that it didn’t,’ insists McClure. ‘They served together in Afghanistan, they go way back and have a long-standing friendship.’
There have been shows about bomb disposal before. The edgy BBC comedy Bluestone 42 centred on British troops in Kandahar facing the daily threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Viewers with long memories will cherish the Blitz drama Danger UXB, which ran for just one series on ITV in 1979, starring Anthony Andrews (pre-Brideshead Revisited) and Judy Geeson.
But this is the first to feature police bomb experts. The chief liberty it takes with the truth is that, while the Army has many female Expos, the Met is currently thought to have none at all.
To ramp up the realism, Trigger Point uses the trick of scattering the script with jargon and acronyms. Brierley gets the balance right, by forcing viewers to pay attention without overwhelming us.
‘Where’s my Expo?’ crackled the commander’s voice over the radio. ‘Bluelighting, ETA one minute,’ snapped Wash – meaning her patrol car is on lights and sirens with an estimated time of arrival of 60 seconds.
Other outbreaks of alphabetitis included CTSFO (Counter Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officer) and ‘proxy device’ – a human being compelled by terrorists to wear a bomb vest or drive a car laden with explosives. That chilling tactic was first employed by the Provisional IRA.
But my favourite was the ‘pigstick disrupter’, a water-powered piston on a portable stand. At the touch of a button it disarmed a bomb without detonating it.
By the time this overgrown water pistol was deployed, the stars of Trigger Point were confident they had our full attention – and won’t let up for six weeks. McClure and Lester are having a blast.