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What on earth is wrong with the detectives in Thirteen?

FINALE SPOILERS! The BBC abduction drama is seriously good — but the detectives are staggeringly bad, says Kasia Delgado

You know those days when you feel you've messed up? You were late for a meeting, you spilled tea over someone? Or you elbowed a child on the train by mistake?


Those moments are guilt-inducing enough, filling you with doubt about whether you're worthy of this world.

So imagine how the detectives on Thirteen must feel every single day of their working lives. I've really enjoyed the BBC3 drama, but what on earth is wrong with the police on that show? They are so staggeringly bad at their jobs that I honestly think my pet tortoise could do a better job of solving the case.

Let's take the finale, in which Ivy Moxam (Jodie Comer) was sent to meet her kidnapper Mark White (Peter McDonald) in the hope that he would release his latest abductee Phoebe. There are 40 "eyes" on Ivy, yet Mark immediately persuades her to take out her ear piece and go round the back of the shopping centre where he abducts her in a van and zooms off.

Now, I know zero things about detective work but isn't it obvious that she was probably going to take her ear piece out? She was kept in a cellar for 13 years by this man so she's probably going to instinctively listen to his instructions. He must have immense power over her. And couldn't they have given her a GPS tracker or in some way ensured that she wouldn't be abducted again?

The mind boggles.

But more generally, DI Elliot Carne (Richard Rankin) and DS Lisa Merchant (Valene Kane) need an intensive refresher course in How To Treat People Who Have Been Kept In A Cellar For Most Of Their Life.

One minute they're being kind and calm, the next they're calling her a liar and a murderer without for one second thinking that, oh I don't know, maybe she's SERIOUSLY PSYCHOLOGICALLY DAMAGED FROM THE CELLAR?

Of course, we don't want our TV detectives too professional because that would be boring. We need some jeopardy, some human error, some lack of judgment, too many feelings. If they solved the case straight away, it wouldn't be much of a mystery.

Happy Valley's Catherine Cawood does plenty of things she shouldn't despite how brilliant a detective she is. In fact, that's what makes her so good. She goes beyond the bureaucratic line and does whatever it takes. The difference is that in Thirteen, Ivy and her family are in truly incompetent hands for almost the entire time.

When Elliot and Lisa interview her they just blast her with questions without letting her even answer, before asking her another. Everyone knows that if you wait for someone to answer, if you give them a bit of time, they may well say something that's on their mind. Ivy needs to be handled carefully because of that cellar thing. But Elliot and Lisa just keep ploughing on, treating her like a criminal.

Hey guys, remember how she was in a cellar for 13 years?

Lisa is completely insensitive while Elliot is way too sensitive, swerving from emotion to emotion like a drunk sentimental uncle on Christmas day. They have absolutely no idea how to interact with her in a normal, helpful, supportive way.

Marnie Dickens' Thirteen is an enthralling drama which has kept me and its fans hooked for five episodes. I've loved Rankin and Kane's performances, and Comer's has been brilliantly haunting. I also think Lisa and Elliot actually make a great couple.

But I really, really think they should take a holiday together and seriously reassess their career goals. And then promptly stop being detectives.


Last updated on 28 September 2017


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