'Vera,' Episode 4: 'Little Lazarus'

Miss an episode of KCET's newest British detective series? Read our "Vera" recaps here. This episode will be streaming until October 31, 2015.

Previously on "Vera"

When an environmental activist turns up dead, DCI Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) uncovers the circumstances behind the death of a young boy over a decade earlier. Read the recap for "The Crow Trap" here.

This Week's Episode: "Little Lazarus"

Written by: Paul Rutman
Directed by: Paul Whittington

Single mother Margaret Wilde (Laura Norton) is found dead from blows to the ribs, face, and skull, her car having been forced off the road. Her son Adam (Sam Jarvis) is found in a frozen pond nearby, just barely alive. Vera, DS Joe Ashworth (David Leon), and their team find no traces of Margaret or her son in any public records, their only leads a bag filled with £2,000 and two one-way tickets to Malaga, Spain. Margaret and Adam were leaving the country, but why? Adam fills them in on some of the details of his life: He had a sister, Natasha, who died before he was born, and he has no father. He takes them to their last place of residence, where they had only stayed for a couple months, and meets up with a kind neighbor, Amnit Singh (Renu Setna).

Tracing the purchase of the plane tickets, they find that they were bought with a credit card belonging to Robert "Bobby" Salter (Kieran O'Brien). Vera brings Bobby in for interrogation and learns he and Margaret had met at a club a couple months back and were sleeping together. Twelve days earlier, she ran off with his credit card. They need more evidence in order to make proper formal charge against Bobby, but Adam crushes this when he says that he and his mother had not been running from Bobby but from somebody known as "the Shiny Man." Further complications arise when, while looking at news footage of a local trial, Adam recognizes Judge Patricia Carmichael (Kerry Fox) and calls her Tia, apparently a nickname reserved only for her close friends. Margaret must have known Patricia. Vera tries to get answers out of Patricia during a break in the case she is currently hearing (a gangland murder that includes none other than Joe as a witness), but nothing important comes forth. To make matters worse, forensics identify the fingerprints on the moneybag as belonging to Mr. Singh, who has a solid alibi for the night of the murder.

Vera goes back to the recovering Adam and learns that he and his mother once lived on Granville Street. Finally figuring out which town he's referring to (as there are many Granville Streets), they come upon another old residence of the on-the-lam pair, stumbling upon a hidden hole in the floorboards. Whoever Adam and Margaret were hiding from, they were terrified.

Looking at surveillance footage of the courthouse, the team notices that Patricia leaves court at 7:30 p.m. the night of Margaret's murder but arrives in a different car the following morning. Vera doesn't find this a compelling lead, but an angry Joe turns her around. Meanwhile, Adam escapes from his foster home and goes to Mr. Singh, only to see his friendly neighbor get shot through the chest by a man dressed in all black. Vera finally finds Adam hiding in an air vent at his old residence.

As Vera tends to the boy, she suspects that Adam's fear of living in a foster home was bred into him. Was Margaret raised in the foster system? DC Holly Lawson (Wunmi Mosaku), checking up on many different foster homes, sees an old photo of a group of teenagers, and finds herself staring directly at a young Margaret, but her name is Carla Davies. Going through Carla's files, they find that, indeed, Carla was brought to a home in 1990, then was admitted to a hospital several times for injuries sustained at the home until finally, in 2003, she was charged with GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm) against a man named Danny Hale (Joe Renton), another person in the same photo.

Vera and the team bust into Danny's apartment and find dozens of copied fliers with Margaret/Carla's face on them. Danny was looking for her, but why? They locate Danny down at his job and uncover the truth: He and Carla had been brought up at the foster home together, and after he abused her too many times, she snitched on him and had him transferred to the Young Offenders Institute. When he saw her with Adam years later, he began to pursue them, only to have Carla defend herself by throwing drain unblocker at him, deforming half of his face. He is "the Shiny Man," and once they find his gun hidden in his loft, they have enough to put him away for the murder.

But not all the loose ends are tied up, Joe realizes, saying that somebody must have helped Carla become Margaret. He's proven right when looking through Patricia Carmichael's past case files, knowing now to look for the name Carla Davies and not Margaret Wilde. Before she became a judge, Patricia was Carla's defense counsel for the assault charge. Vera goes to the home Patricia shares with her husband Aidan (Tim Dutton) and daughter Sorcha (Alice Skyes). Patricia owns up to the accusation, saying that Carla would have lost Adam to foster care if she went to jail for the GBH charge, Patricia took pity on her and easily helped her forge a new identity. And then the kicker: During the trial, Patricia looked after not only Adam but also an alive-at-the-time Natasha. When Carla came back for the children, though, Natasha refused to leave, liking her new home. After an intense altercation between mother and daughter, Natasha accidentally cracked her skull on a fireplace. As Aidan buried the dead child in the woods, Carla took Adam and left forever. That was eight years earlier.

But Vera and Joe are too clever for the Carmichaels. Although Carla lived the rest of her life believing she had accidentally killed her own daughter, this is not the truth. Vera comes up to Sorcha and pulls back her bangs, revealing a major head scar. Sorcha is Natasha. So how is Patricia involved in Carla's murder? It seems that Carla came looking for money in order to leave the country, then on the way to the airport, realized Sorcha's true identity. Wanting to protect her own family, Patricia called Danny Hale, tipping him off about Carla's location, knowing that he'd probably kill her.

Patricia is arrested as an accessory to murder, and Adam and Natasha/Sorcha are taken in and found a loving home. However, it seems that the Carmichael family already had their name in the foster system, and Adam and Natasha/Sorcha go right back to living with Aidan. Vera and Joe wonder if Aidan knew anything about Carla's murder, but decide not to pursue the lead, ensuring that Carla's two children continue to have a good home.

Hey! I Know That Actor!

Kerry Fox, who plays Judge Patricia Carmichael, is an award-winning New Zealand actress, having appeared in the 1990 Jane Campion film "Angel at My Table," Danny Boyle's 1994 thriller "Shallow Grave," and Patrice Chéreau's 2001 erotic drama "Intimacy."

Kieran O'Brien, who portrays Bobby Salter, is a well-regarded British actor of film and television, having appeared in the first two "Goal!" movies, "24 Hour Party People," and Michael Winterbottom's controversial "9 Songs."

Marcus Gorman is the author of the novel "Triceratops" and the editor of the film blog Ten Years Ago: Films in Retrospective.