Showtrial Should Be The Next Crime Drama On Your Winter Watchlist

Courtesy of BBC.
Hannah Ellis (Abra Thompson), Talitha Campbell (Celine Buckens), Dhillon Harwood (Joseph Payne)
If you think about the average primetime crime drama, the suspects normally end up being a particular character type: the old man who lives alone on a country road, the wealthy banker with dodgy police connections or, of course, the ex with an axe to grind. This is precisely what makes the latest offering from the BBC so intriguing, with Showtrial standing as one of the few mysteries where the suspect and the victim are both young women. 
Opening on scenes of Bristol's waterways, we watch as a mother enters her daughter’s bedroom. Like any parent turning up to a student house uninvited, she’s greeted with spilt vodka bottles and a messy, clothing-filled floor. She’s naturally annoyed, but it soon becomes clear that her anguish is rooted in panic. Anxiously calling her on the phone, we learn that Hannah hasn’t been in contact with her mum for two days, despite promising to visit home for her birthday.
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It’s here that we see flashbacks to a circus-themed university ball, where Hannah was working as a waitress. In the images we see her looking happy as she chats with fellow students in fancy dress, but it’s clear that something has gone wrong in the days since, leading Hannah’s mum to file a missing person’s report with the police. Shifting timelines to day two of the investigation, the crown prosecution service discuss details of potentially arresting a fellow student who also attended the ball.
Courtesy of BBC.
Andrea Ellis (Claire Lams)

The only issue is, the suspect is the daughter of a VIP, Sir Damian Campbell. Treading lightly, the police arrive at a local pub to arrest Talitha Campbell, a university student whose father is known around town for his inordinate wealth and sizeable influence. It’s clear from the get-go that her father’s prowess has made Talitha feel untouchable, displaying her elitism at the police station for all to see. Still, despite the attitude, it’s hinted that Talitha might not actually be in contact with her highly powerful parent.

It’s here that Cleo Roberts enters the picture, a former big-time lawyer who gets assigned as the duty solicitor for Talitha’s case. Though Cleo advises Talitha to avoid discussing her relationship with Hannah, it’s clear that Talitha is playing by her own rules, flippantly announcing her dislike for her fellow classmate. It’s here that the episode gets interesting, with the audience forced to choose between believing the police’s enemy driven narrative and Talitha’s seemingly plausible story of an innocent falling out.
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Courtesy of BBC.
Cleo Roberts (Tracy Ifeachor)
However, the more details we learn about Hannah’s case, the more confusing the disappearance becomes. While there is a missing sleeping bag and backpack from Hannah’s room which suggests she may have run away, she left her phone behind. Similarly, the last CCTV evidence is of her walking and arriving home from the ball, yet her debit card is being used miles away. It’s these pieces of information that cause the crown prosecutions service and police to butt heads, with the officers intent on an arrest and the CPS remaining cautious about jumping to conclusions.
Though the premise of the series is interesting, Showtrial’s biggest pull is its lack of male violence against women. While many crime dramas rely on these narratives to remain believable to an audience, the onslaught of storylines depicting gender-driven crimes can become an all too familiar reminder of real-life misogyny. In particular, recent real-life events have left the idea of violent police dramas somewhat soured, making Showtrial’s female-centric storyline feel like a move in the right direction, positioning women on an even playing field as both the victim and suspect.
Still, it doesn’t mean that the drama is without its faults. While it feels refreshing to see young people at the centre of a prime time narrative, there is an awareness that the characters are, in fact, an older person’s version of what it is to be young. From small out of place phrases to the fact that Talitha doesn’t put her jacket on properly for the entire first episode, there are a few things that break the Gen Z facade. However, the small details are easy to overlook, thanks to the fast-moving storyline and the enticing, cookie-crumb clues. 
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While the real details behind Hannah’s disappearance are yet to be fully fleshed out, it isn’t a stretch to say that Showtrial has promise. Discussing weighty topics such as privilege and gender, the series feels like a welcome break from more traditional crime dramas that centralise male violence. But with four episodes still to go, here’s hoping that it stays that way.
Courtesy of BBC.
Talitha Campbell (Celine Buckens)
Showtrial is available to watch on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Sunday 31st October at 9pm.

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