It’s been a decade since Robbie Coltrane last played Dr. Eddie Fitzgerald, the forensic shrink whose adventures presaged the boom in American crime procedurals. Fortunately, Fitz’s return isn’t the British equivalent of the endless Perry Mason TV movies that padded Raymond Burr’s retirement fund in the ’80s and ’90s. Thanks to a grim, efficient script by series creator Jimmy McGovern, A New Terror makes many provocative points about the war in Iraq and America’s international image, while still succeeding as a terse thriller.
Now living as an expat in Australia, Fitz returns to Manchester for his daughter’s wedding and, despite fierce objections from his wife (Barbara Flynn), he’s soon investigating the murder of two visiting Yanks. Rather than a whodunit, the case is a why’d-he-do-it: The audience immediately learns that the killer is a police officer with numerous beefs against the United States, all connected to his traumatic military service in Northern Ireland prior to 9/11. Many scenes take place in rooms where TVs blare news reports about American incompetence in the War on Terror, but the most chilling allegations come from the characters: One of the victims claims the U.S. military learned everything it knows about torture from British troops who honed their skills in Ulster, and Fitz’s wife argues that the shot of Lynndie England holding a prisoner on a leash was the most popular Abu Ghraib photo because it fed women’s power fantasies. Viewers who think McGovern is full of shit may gnash their teeth, but they’ll likely agree that his fiery rhetoric makes it awfully hard to turn away. — Andrew Johnston