So Detective Sergeant Lisa Armstrong is back – or rather, we should say, Detective Constable Lisa Armstrong. Because while season one of The Bay began with Lisa (Morven Christie) having a wild old time on a night out with her mates (and having a fateful al fresco dalliance with a stranger in an alleyway), at the start of season two she’s a lot more chastened and careworn. Oh, and she’s been demoted.
That’s because Lisa learned a valuable lesson the hard way: don’t have public sex if you’re a police officer, kids – and then if your sex partner turns out to be a suspect in a missing children case you’re working on (and also the stepfather of said missing children), don’t hide it from your boss because you don’t want to get into trouble (or upset this bloke’s wife). And definitely don’t delete the CCTV footage (of the outdoor sex) that would have given the suspect his alibi. You’ll inevitably get caught in your web of lies during the series finale, and be disciplined and fined by your disappointed boss DI Tony Manning (Daniel Ryan).
Anyway, that’s why Lisa is moping around when The Bay picks back up for season two. She’s on the hard road to rebuilding her career, she’s the butt of the office jokes, and she’s had to watch her junior co-worker DC Med Kharim (Taheen Modak) step up to DS and take over as Family Liaison Officer. Plus, she’s been forced to sell her lovely house overlooking the bay in Morecambe and move to a cramped flat with her two grouchy teenagers (not that the flat looks especially small to me, a Londoner renting a flat the size of a postage stamp).
But we don’t reunite with Lisa right away in episode one, because the crime drama has gone for the classic move of introducing us to our new cast of guest stars – and then immediately showing us the murder – before the opening credits have even rolled. I’ve been watching a lot of Death in Paradise recently, and I half expected The Bay’s ‘surprise’ murder to be followed by the Caribbean police drama’s jaunty theme tune.
OK, let’s talk about that murder. The identity of season two’s murder victim was shrouded in secrecy ahead of broadcast, with Stephen Tompkinson sold as one of the main guest stars for the season; but then, after just a minute or two of screen time, he’s promptly shot to death by an assassin dressed as a delivery driver.
It’s a very Line of Duty-ish move, to kill off a big-name actor so soon – but I can’t say it’s an unexpected twist. As soon as we meet this new set of characters, we know that one of them is surely doomed to be at the centre of DC Lisa Armstrong and DS Med Kharim’s next case, with his / her picture pinned to a whiteboard at the police station.
So, we now have a new family for our Family Liaison Officer(s) to liaise with. James Cosmo plays Bill Bradwell, the family patriarch and owner of a successful family business; he gives off strong Brian-Cox-as-Logan-Roy-in-Succession vibes. Continuing the Succession theme, Bill clearly doesn’t think much of his son Mark Bradwell (Steven Robertson), who is desperate to take charge of the family firm himself. Things are very awkward at Bill’s retirement party.
Then there’s Sunetra Sarker as Mark’s ambitious wife Stella; Sharon Small as Bill’s daughter Rose Marshbrook; and Tompkinson (briefly) as Rose’s husband Stephen who was (before his untimely death) set to take over the company. And we have Amy James-Kelly and Jack Archer playing the next generation down, as Bill’s grandkids.
But it’s not all about the Marshbrook-Bradwells and the murder case. There’s drama in Lisa’s home life too (of course), even if her troublesome daughter Abbie (Imogen King) seems to have calmed down a bit and her son Rob (Art Parkinson) is just doing typical teenage stuff.
Firstly, we’ve got the quiet drama as single mum Lisa relies less and less on her own mother Penny (Lindsey Coulson), who finds not being needed anymore more painful than expected. And then there’s the big drama – because the man sinisterly loitering around town and watching the Armstrongs from a van window turns out to be Lisa’s ex (and the kids’ father), Andy Warren (Joe Absolom). Surprise! It’s certainly a surprise for Lisa, Abbie and Rob, who’ve not seen this man for nearly a decade. Cue credits.
It all promises to be very twisty and knotty as the mystery of who ordered Stephen Marshbrook’s murder unfolds; after the first episode, I reckon we’re in for an engaging – if not particularly original – ITV crime drama. After all, writer Daragh Carville certainly delivered with his strong characters and brainteasing plot in The Bay season one – and it already looks like he’s building on those foundations for a very solid season two.
The Bay season two continues on Wednesdays on ITV. Take a look at what else is on with our TV guide.