Single Handed is an Anglo-Irish police drama featuring Owen McConnel as Sergeant Jack Driscoll, member of the Irish Garda police force who takes over his retired father’s patrol patch in the Connemara region of Ireland.
The Lost Boys is the two-part series 4 opener for the UK showings of the drama, though ITV in the UK showed the three one-offs from 2007 to 2009 as a single six-part series for British viewers. Part one centres around a long lost cousin Brian who arrives in Connemara from England after 30 years to trace his father, Jack’s Uncle. At work the cop has to get to the bottom of a murder of an old hermit who had been burgled days before, and the tearaway teen in foster care on an outward bound course becomes an easy prime suspect for Jack’s fellow Gardai.
It’s not long before (as with the cases of the first three shows), the personal and professional lines become blurred once Driscoll digs deeper and through the new character of Jack’s cousin Brian we follow his journey to discover his father’s past, taking in Irish work-house style reform schools and abuse. It uses the isolated setting and scenery to its advantage. The drama takes its own easy going time to build up to its revelations and wrong-footing the audience, though this was treated with impatience from some critics. Stephen Rea is the guest star playing Jack’s Uncle Sean. Rea nearly steals the show from the leads with his flat, understated performance as a man coming to terms with his past and the son he left behind. The other plotline with Sean’s son continues throughout the rest of series 4 but the main case is resolved without a neat little bow to round it off.
This two part episode was excellent drama and realistic from a survivor point of view, as well as a father-son reunion that’s much more raw and emotional than the sanitised version you’d get in a soap opera. The only annoyance was the use of Single-Handed as an attempted ratings spoiler by ITV, meaning I had to catch the end by streaming it. The show deserves an award, but at least there’s an immediate +1 repeat showing for the big screen, and if it was made two years ago, it can hopefully be bought as a box set eventually in the UK. Other than that, UK viewers can watch this two parter for three more weeks for part one, and just under a month for part two, at the ITV Player website. Just like BBC’s iPlayer, if the link fails to work head to the ITV Player’s front page and enter the programme title in the box at the top right to search on it. The other three specials also receive occasional re-runs on ITV3.