'Vera,' Episode 2: 'Telling Tales'

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

This Week's Episode: "Telling Tales"

Written by: Paul Rutman
Directed by: Peter Hoar

Jeannie Long (Sarah Preston) is eleven years into serving her prison sentence, having been convicted of murdering her lover's 15-year-old daughter Abigail "Abby" Mantel. During a hospital visit for some routine surgery, Jeannie escapes her police escort and runs to see her father (Alan Williams). He refuses to let her into his house, lamenting the shame she has brought her family, telling her, "You made my life a nightmare." "You can wake up now," she responds through tears, throwing herself in front of a passing bus.

Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) and Detective Superintendent Joe Ashworth (David Leon) are called to the scene. It was the last case handled by Vera's predecessor, Caroline Fletcher (Lolita Chakrabarti), so Vera has some catching up to do. Jeannie was 22 at the time, living with her rich shipbuilding magnate boyfriend and single father Keith Mantel (Hugo Speer), when she followed the troublesome Abby out one day and came back with scratches down her face and Abby's fibers all over her clothes. But the case is not what it once was, as a former friend of Jeannie's, now living in the United States, sees the international news story of her suicide and calls Vera's precinct, claiming that he saw her at King's Cross Station the night of Abby's murder. With this alibi, the case reopens.

Vera goes to meet Jeannie's last recorded visitor, her probation officer Robert Winter (Gary Lewis), who tells her that Jeannie was looking into an appeal. He asked her to put together as much information she could about the day of the murder, but the resulting journal entries and video testimonies seemed like the world of a mad, guilty woman.

That night, wealthy Keith holds a fundraiser for the town's boating community, and he brings down the party with a sorrowful ode to the late Jeannie, setting up a stereo and playing a melancholy recording of her beautiful piano prowess. Minutes later, Robert Winter's wife Mary (Elizabeth Edmonds) discovers the body of her estranged son, Chris, at the road just outside of the fundraiser's location. Having left immediately after Abby's death, Chris suspiciously returned to town two days earlier and went out to the woods with a shovel, only to succumb to two blows to the head: The first from having the trunk of the car slammed against him, the second some kind of large metal object.

When headquarters notes that the Chris's last call before his death was to Vera's direct line, she sets up a meeting with former DCI Caroline Fletcher. Turns out it was the same direct line Caroline had before she retired, and the message was for her: "Listen. You won't remember me. Whatever happens, I'm not here to judge you. I don't care about that. I'm just saying somebody's got to make a stand. 'Cause that woman, Jeannie Long, her blood is on your hands, on all our hands. Time to stop running. Set us all free." Vera openly accuses Caroline of convicting Jeannie with a lack of evidence, but Caroline swears by her arrest, even though she never interviewed Chris Winters, who lived all of 400 yards from the place where Abby's body was found. The question stands: Did a guilt-ridden Chris come back to town to confess something about Abby's murder? If he wasn't the culprit, did he know who did the deed? This seems to be the case, especially after Keith turns up at the hospital, having been knocked out by an intruder the night before for an unknown reason.

The murder weapon used on Chris is discovered, having washed up downriver of Keith's home. It's a statue of Saint Eulalia, a keepsake under the ownership of one James Bennett (Emun Elliott), who happens to be married to Emma (Katie Foster-Barnes), Robert and Mary Winter's daughter. That same day, James receives a call from Keith: "Does your wife know your dirty little secret? Who or what is James Bennett, anyway? What if she were to find out?"

In order to prove that her original conviction was correct, Caroline brings Vera to the Winters's house and shows her evidence that Chris could not have murdered Abby: Chris was terrified of the wasps outside their house, so he never opened up his windows, leading for them to be rusted shut. How could he have sneaked out his window and murdered Abby without his parents knowing? Case closed as far as Caroline is concerned, but a keen-eyed Vera notices that the trees blocking the view of the field where Abby was found were only recently planted. Chris wasn't the murderer, but he must have been a witness.

Back at headquarters, Detective Constable Holly Lawson (Wumni Mosaku) discovers that James Bennett is an alias, having changed his name from James Arthur Shaw the same year of Abby's death. They go in search of James, only to find him, Emma, and their young child missing. Keith fills the police in: James's father used to work for Keith, but when Keith sold his company to the Danes, all the employees were laid off. Did James murder Abby, Keith's daughter, for revenge? Joe and Holly stop a nearby boat from heading off to Germany, where they find James and his family stowed away. James tells the truth: When his father was canned, he broke into the shipyard, went joyriding on a forklift truck, and accidentally killed him, a woman, and her sleeping child. James changed his name to escape the family's shame, and when Keith threatened him over the phone, he decided to leave town. But he wasn't Abby's murderer, and the police are inclined to believe him.

As Vera goes over Jeannie Long's appeal notes, she notices that the videos taken in prison have been heavily edited. But by whom? None but her parole officer, Robert Winter. Vera goes to the Winter residence once again, and Robert comes clean. One day Abby asked for a ride from Robert, and soon they were sleeping together. One day, she asked him out into the field near his home, threatening to tell her father about the affair. She had set him up. "She wanted to get back at her dad for bedding Jeannie Long. So I killed her."

However, Vera knows that there's more to the case. Turning her attention to Mary, she reveals that, found in Keith's house the night he was knocked out, was Mary's scarf, the one used to strangle Abby, the one Chris dug up in the woods upon his return. Robert's confession was false, hoping to protect his wife from arrest. His loyalty to Mary intensifies when the terrible truth comes out: He murdered Chris, their own son, to do away with the evidence and protect his wife. A distraught, weeping Mary runs out of the house, where Joe puts her in handcuffs.

Hey! I Know That Actor!

Gary Lewis, who plays Robert Winter, was nominated for a BAFTA for his performance as Billy's coal-mining, widower father in the beloved 2000 smash hit "Billy Elliott."

Emun Elliott, who portrays the alias-having James Bennett, was seen this past summer in Ridley Scott's science fiction horror film "Prometheus," played the troubadour Marillion in the first season of HBO's "Game of Thrones," and is known to British audiences from such programs as "The Paradise," "Threesome," "Paradox," and "Feel the Force."

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