Worst to Best
The Sweeney
Season Two

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7 Thou Shalt Not Kill!

Pushed till last in the run, this minimalist episode sees Douglas Camfield shoot the repercussions of a bank holdup. There are some confusing plot elements, such as why Haskins didn't order snipers to shoot, and the hazy implication as to whether one of the robbers was having a relationship with one of the hostages. But this is diverting, action-based stuff, even if at times it does feel like Regan and Carter are guests in their own show.

6 Chalk and Cheese

Often long-running series will feature guest characters that one of the leads claims to have known for some time, and suffers turmoil due to their association with them. The upshot is that we're supposed to feel for the character we know, but as we don't know the person involved, it can feel contrived and empty. Here Carter gets back in touch with a privately-educated friend who had boxing training... at the same time as he's on the look out for an armed robber with a posh accent and boxing skills. It makes Carter look dense that he doesn't realise sooner, and it also feels hollow when he's so forlorn at the climax.
     There is the occasional nice line in this, such as one man's understanding of whether someone is rich or not: "One can never really tell nowadays, we live in the age of endless credit." However, such socio-political commentary is put to one side for more mistreatment of women, including one who kisses her partner after he hits her. The same woman is almost physically attacked by Carter at the end, who is restrained by his colleagues... bearing in mind real-life stories about Dennis Waterman, it makes for exceptionally uncomfortable viewing.

5 Country Boy

An interesting episode that perhaps doesn't live up to its full potential, this sees Regan at odds with a new colleague who's a technical specialist. Of course, it's hard today to imagine the police resenting someone good with technology, but back in the era of the Sweeney Jack Regan would resent anyone who had so much as a supply of paperclips. Sadly, as the specialist is generally quite a decent guy, it makes Regan looks hard and unreasonable, and reflects badly on the lead character. The climax – he crudely tries to chat up a woman without realising she's married to his colleague – makes him look even more of an idiot.

4 Hit and Run

Every single episode of The Sweeney features at least one guest actor who had appeared in Doctor Who. Hit and Run takes this further, featuring not only Michael Sheard, but an actual Doctor in the form of Patrick Troughton. Some argue that Troughton's less-than-menacing hardman is deliberate, that he's a small time chancer trying to pass himself off as a Cockney villain. It's perhaps a valid take, though only the very stony-faced wouldn't crack a smile when he tells someone that they're "all bunny".
     The plot mechanics of this one contrive to see Carter's wife murdered in a hit and run, but the episode is all about emotional resonance. Sadly, while fine as an actor, Dennis Waterman is never quite stellar, and so his heartbreak over his wife's death never really connects. Mind you, it doesn't help that Regan is such an unreconstructed male that his way to help Carter cope is to buy him a bottle of alcohol. The line between Regan and Gene Hunt in the rewarding Life On Mars almost evaporates here, with the officer blurting out such lines as "where's Peter the poofter?" and "get over, you bastard! Drive a Jap car and they think they're kamikaze pilots!"

3 Big Brother

Not an Orwellian reference, just David Dixon (the TV Hitch-Hiker's Ford Prefect) having an older brother played by Maurice Roëves, and the tensions that ensue. Dixon has been injured in a street fight, so when he collapses in custody, no one is prepared to believe that Regan wasn't the cause. With Roëves a gangster, he enlists a hitman to kill Regan in retaliation… but when Regan is predictably found innocent, the hit is called off without him ever having been aware of it, and he goes back to happily making dreadful jokes over a Scrabble board with Gwen Taylor. It's a decent instalment, but you can't help but feel the drama wasn't mined as much as it could have been, and that the excellent Roëves is a little wasted in what turns out to be a relatively minor role.

2 Faces

A nice title, given that it not only refers to facial recognition, but also a gangster being known as a "face". Though as Carter fails to recognise a crooked policeman he spent time with until it's pointed out to him, maybe a better title would have been "George is an idiot"?
     There's some odd silly bits in this, such as Haskins talking about how he's been with the Assistant Commissioner, causing Regan to say he hopes not in the Biblical sense. Regan then hides his smirk at his own joke, as if inside his head he's thinking "Zing! OMFG I just so OWNED u with my remark... I sed ur so gay. LOL, LMFAO... EPIC WIN!!!!!" Yet this was Murray Smith's first and only script for the series. Despite some flaws, the plot is well constructed and clever, and it engages throughout. It's a shame he never got to write another.

1 Trap

Director Jim Goddard delivers an engrossing and well-shot tale of Regan being stitched up for corruption. Although the viewer will know where it's going - you're never in doubt Regan's innocent - it's the way it unfolds that grips. Regan is almost outside the force, talking to informants, while he's being followed everywhere surreptitiously by some vicious crooks who kicked his ribs in (and he knows they're following him, and wants them to). It's like Regan's gone rogue, but always using his intelligence to stay one step ahead. The staging of scenes, such as red lighting in a pub, or walking amongst the fires of an old disused building yard, keep everything visually engaging.