Real crimes. Real victims. Real police work. This is the stuff of Manhunt: The Night Stalker, the gripping, devastating second season of the hit true-crime drama Manhunt.
When the first season of Manhunt debuted in 2019, it became the highest-rated new UK drama of that year for good reason. The real-life story about a senior detective and his team working to catch a serial killer in the Greater London area was compelling — brought to life by the talents of writer Ed Whitmore, of series star Martin Clunes and the rest of the cast, and of Colin Sutton, the former Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) and Senior Investigating Office (SIO) upon whose memoir the show was based.
The trio have returned in full force this year with Manhunt: The Night Stalker, the follow-up series that is based on Sutton’s eponymous memoir. The four-part drama concerns the case of a notorious burglar and serial rapist who committed his heinous crimes against dozens of elderly people during the 17-year period between 1992 and 2009, and how Colin came to join the investigation, help solve the case, and get a dangerous criminal off the street in a matter of weeks.
It opens in October 1992 in South East London, in the aftermath of an attack on an elderly woman. Fast-forward 17 years to 2009, when a senior member of the London Metropolitan Police asks DCI Colin Sutton (Martin Clunes) to review the work of the team on “Operation Minstead,” the investigation into the rapes and burglaries committed by a man the British press has dubbed “the Night Stalker.” This isn’t going to be a quick assignment, and Colin is mere months away from retiring, but he’s a devoted cop and happy to help, so he agrees.
Not thrilled that Colin is going to be assessing their work are members of the Operation Minstead team. You can’t blame them, really, as they just went through a separate review of their work. But the Night Stalker has recently become active again, so something’s gotta give. In the meantime, Colin combs through stacks of case files, visits crime scenes, and chats briefly with victims while doing his best to provide some sort of comfort to them.
Ultimately, what gives is the strategy the Operation Minstead team has been using to try to catch the criminal. The rub is, where manpower has been a limiting factor in their work, it’s even more so with the strategy that Sutton proposes: a vast surveillance operation within a key area of South East London. This will require scores of additional officers invisibly saturating the target area and conducting surveillance on a nightly basis. Seconding cops to this operation isn’t really the issue. Financing the cost of it is. Yet Colin succeeds in his request, and “Minstead Lite” goes into effect with him as the SIO.
The plan is all very cut-and-dried, but in implementing it, things happen. Unexpected things. Painfully frustrating things. But the police persist, and in the end they get their man.
As with the first season, Manhunt: The Night Stalker is about the police work, not the crimes, so the commission of them is not shown on screen. Rather, viewers learn about the crimes the way the police do: after they have been reported. And we follow Colin over the weeks of his active investigative role on the case, a case he successfully completes and leaves in the same way he joined: as an outsider. (Which made me feel a bit sad.)
It is nearly impossible to watch Manhunt: The Night Stalker without getting emotional in some way. The compassion, the kindness, the care shown in the scenes of Colin with one or another of the victims — they can help restore one’s faith in humanity. From another perspective, these same scenes are simply shattering.
Likewise, one cannot help but become deeply invested in the investigation. The lives of the elderly targets and victims, so many of them frail, all of them frightened, are at stake. There’s also the desire for Colin to close out his police career on a high note, to succeed where others hadn’t. Which he does. At the same time, though, one can’t escape the reality of all that had happened before, leaving the sense of relief that the cops had caught the bad guy tinged with the melancholy, even anger, from all the harm that had been done to people in this overlooked, underappreciated, often abused segment of the population.
It’s a brilliant piece of television, this. I highly recommend it.
Along with Martin Clunes in the cast are Claudie Blakley (Lark Rise to Candleford) as Colin’s wife, Louise; Matthew Gravelle (Broadchurch) as DI Nathan Eason; Sule Rimi (Death in Paradise) as DS Neville Hylton; David Witts (EastEnders) as DC Adam Spier; Beth Goddard (The Scarlet Pimpernel) as DS Cathy Rook; Steve Nicolson (River) as DC Kenny Munro; Diveen Henry (No Offence) as DC Patricia Henry; Matt Bardock (The Coroner) as Det. Supt. Simon Morgan; Guy Williams (Indian Summers) as DCS Hamish Campbell; and Stephen Wight (Bluestone 42) as DC Clive Grace.
A production of Buffalo Pictures, Manhunt: The Night Stalker was created by Colin Sutton (The Real Manhunter) and Ed Whitmore (Silent Witness, Rillington Place, Waking the Dead). The executive producers are Philippa Braithwaite and Ed Whitmore, the producer is Jo Willett, and the co-producer is Evie Bergson-Korn. Marc Evans is the director.
Manhunt: The Night Stalker, an Acorn TV Original series, premieres in the US and Canada on Monday, October 18, exclusively on Acorn TV. New episodes will debut weekly on Mondays through November 8.
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