“Am I the one who’s getting doddery?”
“Well there’s no right answer to that one, is there?”
The fourth season of Vera returns us once again to Northumberland, England and the cases which face Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn, Atonement) and her right hand man Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth (David Leon, RocknRolla). The four cases which make up the Fourth Season are some of the most well-written of the show’s entire run, allowing not only for engaging mysteries to solve, but also for the most organic character development seen thus far. For example, it’s well known that Vera’s tough exterior shows quite noticeable cracks when she deals with kids who are in any type of situation which mimics her own upbringing. Those who deal with alcoholics or suicides garner her empathy first and foremost. The Fourth Season definitely hits that nerve for Vera, allowing us to gain a little bit more insight into the backstory of our favorite curmudgeonly DCI. But the development doesn’t start and end with Vera, and the fact it extends to all of the characters is a welcome addition and helps connect the audience even more to the show than before. Joe seems to have the most overt character growth this season, dealing with his marriage drama and his daughter’s indirect involvement in a case, both of which produce a noticeable increase in the amount of stress the young sergeant carries with him.
These four cases are each unique in their settings from a train to the moors and beyond, allowing us a varied amount of scenery which to admire alongside our interest in the cases at hand. But one of the most satisfying things about this season is that all four cases are together a delightful contradiction in terms. On the one hand a new viewer can easily start with Set 4 and get a good idea of who these characters are and fall in love with them quite easily. And on the other hand, the character development I mentioned adds to the mythology the previous three seasons have built up, so that you feel rewarded for being a long time viewer at the same time.
I left Vera: Set 4 feeling as though the writers are just getting going. More than any other season this one seems to be paving the way for the continuation of the series. The season finale in no way gave any indication it was one, in the sense there was a noticeable lack of cliffhanger elements and unresolved plot issues. Set 4 is quickly paced — perfect for our current societal trend of binge viewing — and it only seems to be gaining momentum as a series overall. I would not be surprised to see Vera last for many seasons to come, and wish it a run like its cousin series Midsomer Murders.
There is one episode per disc and it really helps out in terms of technical specifications. As with the previous sets, the color timing of the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is minimal, leaving the video to portray the countryside in a natural beauty. And also as with the sets before, the audio could stand an upgrade to a Dolby 5.1 track. There continues to be a bit of softness, however at this point in the series you can get used to it very quickly. The only bonus feature is a photo gallery.
Vera continues to live up to my every expectation and easily earns another recommendation. These four episodes boast a rare combination of being able to act as a standalone introduction to the series while satisfying those who have been fans from the beginning.