Actors: Owen McDonnell
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Number of discs: 3
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Acorn Media
DVD Release Date: March 27, 2012
Run Time: 364 minutes
– Mairead O’Sullivan, “A Cold Heaven”
Single-Handed is the most excellent cop drama you have never heard of. Set in rural Ireland, the story follows the life and career of the honorable Jack Driscoll (Owen McDonnell) as he fights crime in Connemara. Driscoll inherited the post from his policeman father, a dishonorable man who ruled their small village and countryside with an iron fist. Jack, exiled to his current post for hitting a superior Garda officer, refuses to fill the role his now deceased father played. He, in professional life, stands for right and justice, sought at any cost, even if it destroys his job and his personal life.
Having established his nature and his commitment to truth in the first set of episodes, the viewer can now turn to set 2 (season 4) to watch the aftereffects of the death of his father, and the revelation of a family history Jack never knew.
In “The Lost Boys” Seamus Devlin, an elderly recluse, is found dead in his field and the culprit appears to be Ruairi, a young man staying at a local youth facility who had run-ins with the dead man before. But Seamus was more than he seemed, and secrets in his past may have directly led to his death. Driscoll doggedly pursues the truth. Meanwhile, Jack’s previously unknown cousin Brian (Matthew McNulty) and girlfriend Gemma (Simone Lahbib) appear in Connemara on a search for family history. At first pleased at the notion of a family he never knew and the revelation of the existence of an uncle, difficulties arise when Gemma and Jack find themselves attracted to one another, and the long-lost uncle that Jack tracks down is discovered to have a connection with Seamus Devlin’s death. Jack is also forced to deal with the plans of local pub owner and former Garda officer Dennis Costello to underhandedly and illegally expand his pub into a disco.
The first episode in this set is a complex interweaving plot that mixes Driscoll’s personal and professional life closely together. The noble Jack is stuck in a moral black hole, where any choice he makes is a lose/lose situation for him, and sharks like Dennis Costello are waiting to chew him up whatever decision he makes. This episode is especially poignant as it explores as dark chapter in Irish history and the “industrial” schools for young offenders that once separated boys from their families forever. Even as the viewer sees the beauty of Connemara depicted on screen that haunting edge of that green land is given a real and visible source. Its beauty cut with loss, and “The Lost Boys” depicts it all vividly in landscape, history, and Jack’s personal affairs.
Dennis Costello resurfaces with more force in “Between Two Fires.” Jack is called in to investigate the burning of his friend Killian Kinsella’s unfinished spec house. But when the body of Killian’s sister-in-law Niamh Duffy is found in the ruins; the arson investigation becomes a murder inquiry. Dennis Costello had recently purchased the house from Kinsella, and Jack directs all his efforts at proving Costello the killer. But he is blinded to the faults of his friend and as his investigation continues more and more facts point away from Costello. Will Jack pursue truth or seek revenge on Costello? Meanwhile, Gemma breaks up with Brian, who retaliates by locking Jack’s mother out of her own home, insisting on his right to ownership as the heir of the older uncle.
This episode is much more focused on Jack’s personal life and internal strife. His friend and Costello are untruthful with him, blocking his attempts to seek a killer and the Brian, Gemma, Jack love triangle threatens to destroy the family he has only recently discovered. I found that the love triangle angle lessened my opinion of Jack, as he willingly sleeps with another man’s girlfriend, and though she chooses to leave Brian, there is no way they believed their selfish act would not have consequences. It puts the heroic cast of Jack’s seeker-after-truth guise into a darker mold. His personal life is a moral gray area even as he pursues truth in the turbulent lives of others. It places his judgments of them into a hypocritical light. I did not like the mortalizing of the immortal hero that Jack is that the love triangle brought to light. However, one can see why the writers would do so in a drama that is all about the difficulties of finding truth when the entire world is shades of gray.
In the final story, “A Cold Heaven,” Jack begins an investigation into a sex trafficking ring when Mairead O’Sullivan, a local schoolgirl, goes missing. Meanwhile, Brian attacks Jack and Jack hits him, giving Costello the ability to sully Jack’s name and put his job in jeopardy. Temporarily suspended pending an investigation, Jack refuses to give up on saving Mairead and works off the clock with Mairead’s father to save he from the pimp she thinks she loves.
The set closes with an episode that is a sort of redemption of the fallen man depicted in “Between Two Fires. ” Jack is a rescuer, willing to defy anyone to save a young girl from herself. The story re-establishes Jack’s noble, long-suffering character and concludes the season on high note of personal success for Jack. Though there is little mystery to this episode, there is lots of drama. Mairead sums it up best when tells Jack that, “You are the good cop/bad cop rolled into one.”
Jack Driscoll is the local Garda, the local cop. His life is rife with tension, both personal and professional. Single-Handed is first and foremost a drama, sprinkled with mysteries. It’s the NYPD Blue of Ireland, Law and Order without the law. Morally ambiguous with sympathetic but not incorruptible characters, Single-Handed is a unique take on the cop drama.
Parental Warning: Contains strong language