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HBO presents
Cracker: Series Two (1994)

"The women he rapes are either women he's used to or the sorts of women he aspires to, right? Whereas James—don't take this personally, by the way—aspires to nothing and nobody. Nobody! The man is an inentity. This man has letters from Reader's Digest saying he is NOT included in the draw."
- Fitz (Robbie Coltrane)

Review By: Joy Howe and Mark Zimmer  
Published: March 31, 2004

Stars: Robbie Coltrane, Barbara Flynn, Christopher Eccleston, Lorcan Cranitch, Geraldine Somerville
Other Stars: Robert Carlyle, Jim Carter, Samantha Morton, Darren Tighe, Graham Aggrey
Director: Tim Fywell, Julian Jarrold, Jean Stewart

Manufacturer: Ascent Media DVD
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, thematic material, sexuality, language, rape)
Run Time: 07h:30m:12s
Release Date: February 24, 2004
UPC: 026359907722
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Cracker, Series One was excellent. All the characters were fully engaging, even the less likeable ones. Now comes Cracker, Series Two, and true to dramatic form, the intensity level has been kicked up quite a few notches. The characters—freelance criminal psychologist Fitz (Robbie Coltrane), Det. Chief Bilborough (Christopher Eccleston), Inspector James Beck (Lorcan Cranitch), and Inspector Jane Penhaligon (Geraldine Somerville))—are still very engaging, with believeable personalities and dialogue, but many of the plot turns in the second go-round will leave most viewers stunned and in shock. There are quite a number of unanswered questions left hanging, which hopefully will be resolved in Series Three. Three programs, each consisting of three episodes, are included in this volume.

To Be a Somebody centers on a bitter working-class bloke, Albie Kinsella (Robert Carlyle), who is enraged by the short shrift shown at the funeral of his war hero father. He gets riled up over a perceived slight in a convenience store and murders the store's Pakistani owner. Albie convinces himself that all working-class "stiffs" were irrevocably wronged in the notorious real-life Hillsborough soccer stampede where 96 fans died. As a result, Albie hopes to rack up the same number of killings by way of revenge. Plot threads also continue from Series One regarding the relationship between Fitz and Jane Penhaligon, as well as the ongoing issue of Fitz's separation from his wife, due to her disgust with his gambling habit.

The Big Crunch is an odd story involving a lecherous preacher and a cult of followers in a breakaway Catholic sect. A young woman is impregnated and goes missing, then is found with odd cryptic ink markings all over her body. The disturbing plot examines the incestuous and dysfunctional family structure within the cult. As usual, the detective story is augmented with a complementary plot in the personal lives of Fitz, and his family and friends.

The third story, Men Should Weep, is about a serial rapist with a racial motive. Fitz is involved with in-depth attempts to extract a confession from the suspect. Fitz is his best psychologist self in empathizing with the motive and mind of the criminal; he plays a devious mental game of cat and mouse, leaving the perpretrator actually wanting to confess. The ending is both frightening and suspenseful.

The stories in Series Two could stand alone, but will have much more resonance after seeing the first series, where the full background and basis for all the relationships were laid out. No viewer fond of the characters could possibly be happy with all the developments in Series Two, but if one has come this far, it's too late to back out. One is necessarily committed to finding out how the characters fare in Series Three (the final set of episodes). The blood and gore factor is lessened in this season; we see less onscreen but the violence is nevertheless difficult to watch on an emotional level. It seems more real somehow without the numbing inclusion of bright red spatterings seen in much of Series One.

These characters remain some of the most interesting and believeable folks ever portrayed in television. Perhaps some are starting to go a bit over the top in a few of these episodes. But then, even in real life, folks in high stress jobs do indeed go over the top on occasion. All of these stories are unsettling and make one ponder the implications of various social ills: class warfare, racial tension, male/female power dynamics, addictions, wobbling marriages, parenting issues, etc. There are no easy answers here, and how could there be? This series allows one to drop down into another society, that of Manchester, England, nearing the close of the 20th century, and vicariously join its mostly familiar lifestyle. One can become so attached to them, that one can't help but believe that solutions may indeed be possible, if only for the sake of taking the load off them. These folks soldier on, and as long as good yet flawed people still care and work so hard, they deserve a fixable world. Or is it perhaps only the effort that matters?

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The source material is a bit iffy, with heavy grain and a fairly soft picture. But the grain is compressed well and isn't sparkly. Despite the softness of the picture, there's a decent amount of detail, and some difficult patterns are rendered without significant problems. There's a fair amount of ringing on high contrast items, it's not too distracting. Color is naturalistic, with the occasional reds being well-saturated without crossing into oversaturation. It's about as good as this source material is ever likely to be.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 Dolby Surround track is quite good. The surround activity is pretty much limited to background music, but there's very good range and presence. There are occasional ominous bursts of low frequency music that will get the viewer's attention on a good system. Directionality is moderate, with a natural immersive character that's not overemphasized, but dialogue is pretty center-bound. Hiss and noise are very limited, making for a pleasing if not impressive audio experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 54 cues and remote access
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The set doesn't trouble itself with extras beyond reasonably good chaptering.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

This second series is a worthy (if darker) followup to the opening season, but be warned that it will put you through plenty of emotional wringers. The transfer's quite fine for the source material, but there's nothing at all in the way of extras.


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