I can still vividly recall the Sunday night in May 2011 when, whilst flicking through my TV guide, I mused to my mother that “Karen from Corrie’s doing a police drama” and she commented that we “may as well flick over and see is it any use”.
Fast-forward to April 2016 when we sat down together to wave goodbye to Scott & Bailey, the drama we’d made a mother-daughter appointment with on a weekly basis ever since that fateful Sunday night.
Sally Wainright sure does know how to pen an addictive drama, doesn’t she?
Conceived by Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay, written (at least originally) by Wainwright and brought to life by Jones and Lesley Sharp, Janet Scott and Rachel Bailey were two women worth catching up with.
Their professional struggles, thrilling cases and personal trials and tribulations offered up endless entertainment. By the end of series one we were desperate to join them in the loo for a sneaky gossip about what was going on in the office.
And as the years passed by, we became wholly invested in their friendship, a camaraderie which transcended all other aspects of the tale.
Sure, we were curious about the state of their love lives, Rachel’s dramatic family dynamics (can we please take a moment to remember how brilliant Sally Lindsay – who was originally set to play Janet – has been as Rachel’s sister Alison?) and Janet’s contentious relationship with her mother and husband.
Then there was Rachel’s failed marriage, her pesky ex, oh, and Janet’s run in with a serial killer.
Yes, we wanted to know who was guilty of murder, who was getting away with it, and who should get the sack for their blatant incompetence. But none of that mattered if Rachel and Janet were fighting. None of that mattered if Scott & Bailey weren’t working as a team.
Perhaps that’s why series five really is a fitting finale: Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp are moving on in their careers, and Scott and Bailey’s story feels as though it’s coming to its natural conclusion .
We’ve watched the fiery young Rachel morph from feckless rookie to fearless leader, and by-the-book Janet learn that life won’t always reward you for playing by the rules.
And we’ve witnessed some incredible drama too, most notably in the stunning series three finale as Nicola Walker (Last Tango In Halifax) held DCI Gill Murray (Amelia Bullmore) at knifepoint in her car.
Bullmore went on to take the reigns as head writer for the series’ fourth run, masterfully crafting Rachel’s rise through the ranks and her own character’s exit in October 2014.
Gill became the third member of Scott & Bailey’s gang, always hovering on the edge with a cracking observation or priceless put down. She was, along with Rachel and Janet, a shining example of Sally Wainwright’s wit and wisdom, the kind of multi-layered character who’d steal a scene with a single line.
Bullmore’s departure really did feel like the end of an era, leaving a gaping hole at the heart of Syndicate 9 that nobody would or could ever fill. Fans probably wouldn’t have been surprised if series five hadn’t happened after that.
But happen it did, and rightly so, for it gave Janet and Rachel the long goodbye they deserved.
While tackling probably the most sinister crime they’ve dealt with (and that’s saying something when serial killers, bodies in basements and, er, screwdrivers have all come into play) Janet and Rachel both reach a point at which they have to take a good hard look at themselves.
What do they see? Two very different women to the ones we first met in 2011. Two women who’ve been through the most incredible things together, and lived to tell the tale.
Two women who have told their stories, and know the time is right to flick over and move on.