Scott & Bailey’s return to TV is just what the doctor ordered

Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp's detective duo are on flying form in the series five opener, says Sarah Doran

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When first we met Rachel Bailey she was a bit of a dark horse on the Oldham Street police force. And yet now, just five years later, the hotheaded detective is essentially running the show.

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It’s a rise to prominence that almost mirrors her real-life counterpart Suranne Jones’s journey from the Corrie cobbles to one of BBC’s leading ladies, with a rather decent shot at winning a Bafta for her efforts.

Scott & Bailey’s Mancunian beat is a world away from Doctor Foster’s leafy suburban practice, but Jones returns to the north with ease in series five – which will feature just three episodes, focusing on one major crime.

The same can’t be said for Rachel Bailey, who returns from a year down south with Vice to discover that her old pal Janet Scott (Lesley Sharp) and the team are feeling the pinch of police cuts. Nobody’s even been drafted to replace DCI Gill Murrary. 

In fairness, who could fill Amelia Bullmore’s shoes anyway? To quote Bailey herself, it’d be like “walking in a dead woman’s heels while she’s still watching”. 

“We just do what we do until someone says stop”, explains Janet at a rainy northern crime scene, as Rachel reminisces about the flashy lifestyle and easy access to resources she enjoyed during her year in London.

The duo’s partnership has ever so slightly suffered in Rachel’s absence, but a few covert chats in the loo and chinwags over ciggies in the courtyard (departed creator Sally Wainwright’s excellent influence still looms large in the script) later, we’re left in no doubt that Jones and Sharp’s chemistry hasn’t.

Scott and Bailey’s dynamic has most definitely shifted though, and not just thanks to Rachel’s promotions or Janet’s new “confidence monster” pal DC Anna Ram, who has a habit rubbing Rachel up the wrong way every time she opens her mouth.

Scott’s got a LOT on her plate this series as, for once, it’s her family causing the trouble.  And as steady Janet’s world spins out of control, it’s up to the impulsive Rachel to keep the good ship Syndicate 9 afloat. 

That’s not easy when you’re tackling a murderous mastermind – or masterminds – hiding on the Dark Net, though. Or when you’re being criticised for dressing “like Little Mix” to attend ‘Gold’ meetings about a potential Critical Incident that might warrant the assembly of an international task force.

We weren’t kidding when we said they had a LOT to deal with.

And if they’re going to catch the kind of criminals who post video footage of murders on the Dark Web for sport, Syndicate 9’s usual office antics simply won’t do, says acting DCI Rachel.

But it’s the “northern plod behaviour” Bailey now abhors that makes for such enjoyable telly – and, in this case, translates the often-complicated language of cyber crime into digestible dramatic nuggets.

Who’d have thought the police could have as much trouble catching criminals on the internet as your nan had figuring out how to work an old VHS player?

Scott & Bailey’s series five opener is laced with the usual wit and intrigue, and the delightful mix of personal and professional drama fans have come to expect in Rachel and Janet’s lives.

It’s a pity we’ll only get three episodes this time around – compared to the usual six or eight – but, if the first is anything to go by, they’re sure to be just what the doctor ordered. 

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Scott & Bailey returns to ITV on Wednesday nights from Wednesday April 13th at 9pm