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Martin Freeman’s The Responder is back

Martin Freeman’s The Responder is back

BBC One’s The Responder is back for a second series, with Martin Freeman returning as a troubled cop – one of the finest performances in his brilliant career

By Chris Miller, Feature Writer

The Responder was a huge hit on BBC One in 2022, when almost 10 million of us tuned in to see Martin Freeman policing the streets of Liverpool as first-response officer Chris Carson. Written by former Merseyside Police officer Tony Schumacher, it was a dark and uncompromising drama that didn’t flinch in showing the worst of the night-time urban world that Carson lived in. 


But it was more than a police drama. Freeman took us on a no-holds-barred ride into one man’s psychological torment, as Carson grappled with the nigh-on impossible decisions an officer in his position has to make. It was described by more than one critic as a sort of anti-Line Of Duty: rather than looking through the eyes of those investigating corruption, we saw the grubby reality that allowed such depravity to thrive, often leaving even well-meaning police with little choice. 


As a result, Freeman and his colleagues are forced to deal with questions that go beyond their jobs. Is it always a good idea to do the right thing? And is it even possible to be a good person in an immoral world? These quandaries take a heavy toll.


Freeman has proved himself one of the most compelling and versatile actors Britain has over the past couple of decades, and Carson is among his most impressive performances to date. Along with a fine supporting cast, he’s completely convincing, down to the perfect Scouse accent. So we can’t wait to see more of The Responder when it returns at 9pm on Sunday 5 May on BBC One HD (CH 101)


Things aren’t looking much better for Carson (which, to be honest, is the way we like it). Let’s catch up ahead of the new series.


What happened in series 1?

Freeman’s Chris Carson, recently demoted from inspector to patrol officer as part of an investigation into corruption, works night shifts on the streets of Liverpool, dealing with disputes, violence, injuries and death. But his troubles really start when Carl, a drug dealer he’s acquainted with, asks him to find Town Centre Casey (Emily Fairn), a local addict. It turns out this isn’t through concern: she’s stolen a chunk of his stash.


Carson has to make a decision, and he concludes that helping Casey is the best and safest option. He gives her money for a train fare to Leeds, where she should be able to avoid the consequences. But before long, it becomes evident that Carson can’t do right for doing wrong. 


He’s assigned a partner, Rachel Hargreaves (Adelayo Adedayo), who is shocked at what she witnesses, and considers informing the higher-ups but comes to realise the difficulties of Carson’s work. Meanwhile, Carson is attempting to address some of his psychological problems with therapy, but his counsellor is under-prepared and he’s too defensive to achieve any success. His relationship with his wife Kate (MyAnna Buring) worsens – but Kate has secrets that start to be revealed.


We won’t spoil the conclusion in case you’re still planning to catch up but we will say if you’re hoping for a neat resolution and for all Carson’s problems to be sorted… you’ll be disappointed.


What can we expect from series 2?

The story picks up six months after the end of the first series and things haven’t improved much for Carson. He’s switched one-on-one counselling for group therapy, but is still not sure it’s worthwhile. His family is on the verge of breaking apart, and attempts to reconnect with his father are proving fruitless. And it seems he’s about to get pulled back into some very shady stuff. 


Adedayo and Buring return, as does Warren Brown as Carson’s bitter rival Ray Mullen, and Josh Finan as the naïve Marco. The highest-profile addition to the cast is Bernard Hill – Boys From The Blackstuff’s Yosser, Titanic’s Captain Smith and Theoden, king of Rohan, in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy – as Carson’s dad, while Ian Puleston-Davies, who previously starred with Freeman in A Confession, also appears.


Where does this rank in Martin Freeman’s career?

The role of Chris Carson won Freeman an International Emmy Award for Best Actor, and he was also nominated for a BAFTA. The Evening Standard called him “a real knockout”, while Metro said in its review of the show that he was “the beating heart bringing it to life, portraying pain and human decency in the face of adversity… one of the strongest performances of his career.” The Guardian named The Responder in its top five shows of 2022, calling it “a masterwork” and saying Freeman “put in an astonishing stint”.


We’ve got to be honest: when we first saw Freeman as the blokey everyman Tim in The Office 23 (!!) years ago, we didn’t foresee that he’d be playing morally conflicted characters in dark, violent dramas. But over the years, he’s kept his career varied and interesting, from family Christmas comedy Nativity! to macabre, twisty US series Fargo, and some blockbuster movies too. Here we’ve illustrated some of our favourite Freeman roles – see if you can you figure out which ones they are before clicking to find out…


When is The Responder series 2 on TV?

The second series of The Responder begins at 9pm on Sunday 5 May on BBC One HD (CH 101), when all episodes will be available in Apps > BBC iPlayer. You can catch up on all episodes of series 1 in Apps > BBC iPlayer now.


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Catch Up TV: Catch Up TV content available for up to 7 days or up to 30 days after broadcast, depending on content.

Image Credit: The Responder © Dancing Ledge / Rekha Garton