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Series / Red Riding

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A series of three TV movies based on David Peace's four Red Riding novels. The three specials take place over three years - 1974, 1980, and 1983 - in Yorkshire, and deal with a series of murders mirroring the Real Life Yorkshire Ripper killings. With an ensemble cast of British actors, Red Riding is a dark and engrossing (and disgusting) trilogy. The first film sees Intrepid Reporter Eddie Dunford of the Yorkshire Post investigate a child's murder which may or may not be connected with Corrupt Corporate Executive John Dawson's plan to build a shopping centre over the place that the body was found in. The second and third deal with the Yorkshire Ripper and Wearside Jack cases.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abortion Fallout Drama: Helen aborts her pregnancy, conceived out of an affair with her boss Hunter. She becomes close with Laws as a result.
  • Adaptational Villainy: George Oldman and Bill Molloy; in the novels, Oldman was a minor character in the West Yorkshire Constabulary who did not show any apparent signs of corruption, but in the TV films, he is completely replaced by Bill Molloy - the ringleader of the corrupt cops and orchestrator of the novels' equivalent of the Karachi Club shootings - has in the novels. Also—though it's rather ambiguous—DS Bob Fraser, who in the novels was, while not the most morally sound of men, not part of the WYC crime ring, seems in the 1974 film—mainly due to Adaptation Explanation Extrication—to be a part of it in the TV films.
  • Adaptation Name Change: PC Tommy Douglas (Bob Douglas in the novels), DCS John Nolan (John Noble in the novels), and Bill Hadley (Bill Hadden in the novels), to name a few.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Eddie Dunford is this in 1974 as he investigates the circumstances behind Roma camp burnings and, as a result, the child murders that have been occurring.
  • Anti-Hero: Many.
    • Eddie Dunford in 1974: A callous, womanising, cocky, naïve and ambitious young reporter who will do nearly anything for a story, but has a genuine wish to make a difference in rooting out local corruption and finding the kidnapper of multiple little girls. Eddie is notably more sympathetic than in the novel but is still very much an anti-hero.
    • BJ throughout the series: A male prostitute who displays cowardly tendencies, but makes an effort to help in various crusades on local corruption.
    • Detective Superintendent/Detective Inspector Maurice Jobson throughout the series, but particularly in 1983: A reluctantly corrupt West Yorkshire Police officer who participated in such atrocities as the abduction and torture of Eddie Dunford and the burning of the gypsy campsite—as well as turning a blind eye to a conspiracy by the WYC to protect high-profile figures from public exposure—due to pressure from his boss, Bill Molloy. Clearly shows a desire to help in Peter Hunter's investigation in 1980 but doesn't follow through. Is visibly plagued by guilt throughout 1983, at the end of which he redeems himself by killing Reverend Laws, who is revealed to have led a paedophile ring, before Laws can kill B.J. with a drill.
    • John Piggott in 1983: A gluttonous solicitor whose father was a notorious West Yorkshire Police officer, but who strives to root out local corruption like the protagonists of the previous installments.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Pedophile and child murderer John Dawson at the end of 1974.
    • Torturer and Corrupt Cop Bob Craven at the end of 1980. Arguably the equally corrupt Tommy Douglas as well, though Douglas attempted to atone before his death. The injuries that Craven and Douglas suffered at the hands of Eddie Dunford at the Karachi Club at the end of 1974 could qualify them as this as well.
    • Pedophile, child rapist, and at least attempted murderer (with a power drill, no less) Reverend Laws at the end of 1983.
  • The Atoner: Detective Inspector Maurice Jobson was party to the conspiracy from 1974 onwards, but he tries to atone in 1983.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Although they're not only cops, the police are heavily involved in the conspiracy of child abuse and murder, both doing it and covering it up.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: B.J. admits that he loved Barry 'because he was kind.'
  • Bedlam House: Attley Nursing Home, where Marjorie Dawson is being held to prevent her telling the truth about her husband's "indiscretions".
  • Big Damn Hero: Eddie Dunford tries to save Paula and to unmask a child killer in 1974 and Assistant Chief Constable Peter Hunter attempts to unravel the truth behind the faked Ripper murders in 1980. Neither meets with a happy ending.
  • The Brute: Bob Craven is known for beating people up. He does so to Eddie Dunforth in 1974 and he's by far the only example.
  • Catchphrase: Several characters make reference to "the North, where we do what we want."
  • Composite Character: The TV character John Dawson is a conflation of several different characters from the books, some of whom are hostile to each other and the majority of whom do not die.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Based on David Peace's Red Riding Quartet; only three of the four original novels—Nineteen Seventy-Four, Nineteen Eighty, and Nineteen Eighty-Three—were adapted for this series, while Peace's second novel, Nineteen Seventy-Seven, is left out almost completely. Plot elements of Nineteen Seventy-Seven were put into the 1980 adaptation, and the introduction of Reverend Martin Laws is moved to the 1974 adaptation, but otherwise the novel itself receives no adaptation.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Barry Gannon. He's also right about everything, which may have been because B.J. was in love with him and feeding him information.
  • Crapsack World: Anywhere in the North before about 1990 is generally portrayed as exaggeratedly crappy and this is no exception. Systematic child sexual abuse is to be expected, the Yorkshire Ripper is out killing women, and other predators are making it look like the Ripper killed their victims.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: Both 1974 and 1980 take place before Christmas, but otherwise, the holiday isn't important to the plot, except maybe as an ironic counterpoint to what's going on.
  • Dirty Cop: Nearly every character in the West Yorkshire Police with the notable exception of Maurice Jobson. Sgt. Bob Fraser's moral alignment is left ambiguous.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: 'Scoop,' Jack Whitehead's mocking nickname for Eddie.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: How Peter Hunter meets his death at the hands of his number two, John Nolan.
  • Driven to Suicide: Eddie Dunford, but only after being viciously physically and psychologically tortured multiple times into near-insanity and imprisoned in a literal hole in the ground, after which he kills serial child killer John Dawson and then commits suicide.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Reverend Martin Laws and John Dawson. Both may act charming and are ostensibly pillars of the community; Laws comforts Helen and Dawson is able to talk the community into letting him have his shopping mall. Behind all of that, though, Laws is a pedophile who takes sadistic pleasure in hurting children, even sweet-talking B.J. into kneeling down for him so that he can drill a hole in his skull. Dawson is a serial killer and child rapist.
  • Hero: Assistant Chief Constable Peter Hunter in 1980—played with. He has the characteristics of a hero, is strong, authoritative, warm but firm, and has a strong sense of justice, but had an affair in the past with his co-worker, Detective Helen Marshall. His hubris and overly strong trust that good will prevail, however, end up facilitating his death.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: B.J.
  • How We Got Here: 1974 starts out with Eddie Dunford badly beat up, sitting in a booth at a pub. The rest of the episode shows what happened to get him that way.
  • I Can Still Fight!: Although when the characters can still fight, it ultimately doesn't get them anywhere.
  • Inherent in the System: The Yorkshire Post and West Yorkshire Police are populated by sexual predators and murderers.
  • Kill the Cutie: Surprisingly subverted: Young male prostitute B.J. is "the one that got away."
  • Moving-Away Ending: The series ends with B.J. leaving the North to become "the one who got away" rather than risk being killed by the conspiracy.
  • No Woman's Land: The only even somewhat significant characters are the wives and/or sex workers. The most important female character in 1974 is Paula (who disappears, presumably murdered) and John Dawson's wife Marjory, who has been locked up in a Bedlam House before being murdered.
  • Oop North: The series is set in the three districts, or 'ridings', of Yorkshire.
  • Police Brutality: Two corrupt cops corner Eddie after he visits Dawson's ill wife in hospital, drag him out to his car and slam the door on his wrist, breaking it, with a few truncheon taps to the eyeball for good measure.
  • Pedophile Priest: Reverend Martin Laws habitually preys on children.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Considering that the novels are even darker than these films, and it's also a trilogy that was slimmed down from four books, a lot is removed. Far fewer members of the conspiracy are seen, Jack Whitehead's whole storyline (which was the entire other book) is cut out save for a couple of scenes in each film,
  • Rapists Are Murderers: Even after the chief pedophile murderer, Dawson, is dead, there are still a lot of child murders.
  • Red Herring: Jack Whitehead. Eddie suspects Whitehead of working with the West Yorkshire Police and changing the Clare Kemplay story to fit their needs; in reality it is The Yorkshire Post's editor, Bill Hadley.
  • Relationship Compression: Eddie Dunford develops a much closer and more nuanced relationship with DS Bob Fraser in the Nineteen Seventy-Four novel.
  • Serial Killer: The major focus of the middle episode, 1980, is on the Yorkshire Ripper, a real life serial killer.
  • Shoot the Dangerous Minion: When Dawson's "private weakness" becomes a liability, the cops facilitate Eddie's killing of him. Bob Craven ends up meeting a similar fate in 1983, when the cops kill him and frame Peter Hunter (who they have killed as well) for the crime.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Helen in 1977 is the only significant female character, with the others only having small roles (such as Hunter's wife).
  • Suicide by Cop: Eddie Dunford goes out this way, but not before taking John Dawson with him.
  • Those Two Guys: Detective Sergeant (later Detective Superintendent) Bob Craven and Police Constable Tommy Douglas throughout 1974 (though their names are only revealed in 1980, where the same principle applies).
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Both Eddie and Peter, who think this is a story where the Intrepid Reporter and the By-the-Book Cop, respectively, beat the system in the end. It's not.