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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.

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This show provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: 'Badger' Bill Molloy; in the novels, Bill Molloy 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 given the role that Detective Chief Superintendent George Oldman had 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, investigating the circumstances behind Roma camp burnings.
  • Anti-Hero: Many.
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    • 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.
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    • 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:
    • John Dawson at the end of 1974.
    • Bob Craven at the end of 1980. Arguably 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.
    • Reverend Laws at the end of 1983.
  • The Atoner: Detective Inspector Maurice Jobson in 1983.
  • 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.
  • Big Damn Hero / Big Damn Heroes: Eddie Dunford in 1974 and Assistant Chief Constable Peter Hunter in 1980. Neither meets with a happy ending.
  • The Brute: Bob Craven.
  • Catchphrase / Meaningful Echo: Several characters make reference to "the North, where we do what we want."
  • Classical Antihero: John Piggott in 1983.
  • 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.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: John Dawson
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: The death of Barry Gannon.
  • Crapsack World: Anywhere in the North before about 1990 is generally portrayed as exaggeratedly crappy.
  • 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.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Reverend Martin Laws.; John Dawson.
  • From Bad to Worse: Constantly.
  • 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.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Eddie Dunford.
  • I Can Still Fight!
  • Inherent in the System: The Yorkshire Post and West Yorkshire Police.
  • Kill the Cutie: Surprisingly subverted: Young male prostitute B.J. is "the one that got away."
  • 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.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Considering that the novels are even darker than these films...
  • 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 Conspirator: 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.
  • Suicide by Cop: Eddie Dunford goes out this way, but not before taking John Dawson with him.
  • The Woobie: B.J.
  • 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).
  • 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.
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