The net tightens in Manhunt Episode 2, and ITV’s respectful, riveting true-crime drama continues to impress.
This recap of Manhunt Episode 2 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
When the name Levi Bellfield is first revealed to the police in Manhunt Episode 2, it is when, in most dramas, a red herring would ordinarily be deployed. It if wasn’t for the show’s basis in reality, and the fact that the name has been frequently plastered across the nation’s headlines, most viewers would have suspected that Martin Clunes’s dogged DCI Colin Sutton was barking up the wrong tree.
What’s more is that the name was discovered through refreshingly mundane means. A member of the public approached the police at Twickenham Green, where French student Amélie Delagrange was murdered, and told them he was a nutcase with a hatred of women – particularly blonde women, whose faces he scratches out of magazines. He fits the profile so well that a surveillance team is despatched almost immediately, and before long they’re spying on him being lewd and aggressive to two young girls at a bus stop. Even if the name wasn’t so well-known, at this point it’d be obvious that the police have their man.
Except by the end of Manhunt Episode 2 they don’t have him – not yet, anyway. There’s too much at stake to simply sweep in and pick him up, least of all the tabloid press – including the dreaded News of the World – and their coverage of the investigation, and the various departments – both within the Met and the “carrots” in Surrey – that Sutton has pissed off by linking Bellfield to the murders of Marsha McDonnell and 13 year-old Milly Dowler. The tireless, quietly heroic detective (upon whose memoirs the show is based) is not particularly well-liked, but he is begrudgingly respected for his tenacity. He’s going to get Bellfield, but he needs to do it the right way.
Manhunt Episode 2 excelled in detailing what that consisted of; fine attention to detail and an impressive tolerance for mundanity and happenstance characterise the show as an unusual breed of quietly respectful true-crime drama. With time spared for the fracturing in the relationship between Sutton and his wife Louise (Claudie Blakley), both for the former having to bail on a family wedding and for him pressing the latter, a police analyst in Surrey, to betray her colleagues’ trust, Manhunt is the rare show with both the familiar finely-tuned beats and rhythms of a primetime whodunit, but also a compassion for the real victims of the real crimes it chronicles.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.