The Responder episode one review

The Responder on BBC One review: It’s bleak, but there’s a bittersweet pay-off

Martin Freeman stars as policeman-on-the-edge Chris Carson...

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The Responder kicked off on BBC One this week, and some viewers may have found it unbearably bleak – but read our review of episode one to find out why you should stick with it…

The five-part series started on BBC One this Monday (January 24 2022), and it was a tough watch.

Viewers were introduced to Martin Freeman‘s character Chris Carson, a police response officer pushed to the brink.

He’s a man on the edge, and seems to be clinging on to life by his fingernails.

We’d be lying if we said it wasn’t an uncomfortable watch at times…

But there’s a bittersweet pay-off, and that makes the new Liverpool-based drama worth sticking with.

***Warning: spoilers from episode one of The Responder ahead***

Martin Freeman in The Responder - when is it on?
Martin Freeman as Chris Carson in The Responder (Credit: BBC)

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The Responder episode one review – yes it’s bleak, but there’s a pay off

In episode one of The Responder on BBC One, police response officer Chris is struggling to keep a grip on his mental health – and his marriage.

When we meet him, it’s unclear if we should like him or not.

But it’s way more complex than that.

Chris is a man struggling with the relentless nature of his job.

He works nights, and deals with drug addicts, stupid neighbourly disputes and horrific deaths every night.

It’s enough to put anyone on edge.

When his alarm goes off every day – at 5pm – his wife and child are just getting in from work/school.

He eats breakfast while they eat their supper, juggling the grim realities of his job with family life.

Episode one begins with Chris telling his therapist that he wants to be a good police officer.

He says: “I want to be a good bobby.

“I want to do good things. I want to be normal.”

And this lies at the heart of the series.

Is Chris a good man? He’s trying to be!

During episode one, viewers see that Chris is a very angry, conflicted man, battling with his mental health.

He threatens to kill a man on his watch who continuously argues with his neighbour.

And we believed that he probably could be capable of killing.

Chris also slaps a drug dealer called Marco repeatedly around the head – which makes for uncomfortable viewing.

When he’s offered a path to redemption in the form of Casey, a young heroin addict, you’re left wondering if he’ll do the right thing…

The Responder on BBC One
The Responder on BBC One: Not a bunch of people you’d want to invite around for dinner (Credit: BBC One)

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The Responder episode one review – Carl Sweeney

The ever-threatening presence during episode one of The Responder is not just Chris’ internal rage.

It’s Carl Sweeney, a nasty piece of work who seems to have a direct hotline to Chris’ phone.

The implication is that Chris works or has worked for the drug dealer.

But when Carl asks Chris to bring him young drug addict Casey, it’s a line Chris won’t cross.

At first it’s unclear whether Chris will surrender Casey to almost certain death.

But he shows he still cares enough to do the right thing.

Chris lets Casey escape, after she steals a huge bag of cocaine from Carl.

In doing so, Chris puts his own life in mortal danger.

But now we, the viewers, know what side he’s on.

Is Chris Carson a good man?

It’s so much more subtle than whether Chris is a “bent copper” or not.

Chris is a good man, trying to do good things, who is pushed to the edge every day of his life.

He’s obviously worked for drug dealer Carl, but did the right thing when push came to shove.

We see him buy cannabis off druggie Casey, and steal medication from a dead grandmother.

Scenes like this are shocking, because it’s not what you’d expect from a copper.

But Chris is human, he’s flawed, and he has his own baggage on top of the pressures of his job.

At the end of episode one, we learn that Chris’ dad was “a monster”.

And it seems he’s battling with his own Jekyll and Hyde persona.

The Responder on BBC One
Rita Tushingham as Chris’ mum June in The Responder (Credit: BBC One)

The Responder episode one review: Is it worth watching?

In short, yes, if you can bear it.

We’re saturated with police dramas at the moment.

And The Responder is dark, perhaps too bleak for some.

Anybody expecting a preposterous Jed Mercurio-style drama – yes, Trigger Point, we’re talking about you – may be disappointed.

But there’s light and shade to be found here.

Chris is on the edge and, after one episode, you might feel the same.

Yes, it’s gritty, real and feels authentic – painfully so at times.

But the pay off is worth it.

The scenes between Chris and his mum feel tender and true.

He visits her every morning after work.

There’s a moment when she asks him “how was your night?” and he simply says: “Okay.”

It’s encapsulates his constant pull and push.

After everything he sees and does in the line of duty, he is forced to hide it from his family every day to lead a ‘normal’ life.

But he’s trying to be a better person.

And, by the end of episode one of The Responder, we’re rooting for him.

Worth mentioning, too, that this could well be the finest performance in Martin Freeman’s career so far.

The Responder continues with episode two on Tuesday January 25 2022 at 9pm on BBC One.

What did you think of The Responder so far? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.