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New Tricks: Last Man Standing

May 4, 2021

Series 12 starts with a two part story of real quality that is a fitting swansong for the great Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman). It is a story that takes us back to 1983 and Gerry’s early days with the Met. In 2015, a body has been dug up in the basement of a house. Danny (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and Gerry head over there. There is little to identify the body, but Danny notices Gerry’s strange reaction to a signet ring that was found next to the body. He doesn’t remark on it then, but he recalls it later. The body is identified as DCI Martin Ackroyd who disappeared in unusual circumstances.

The Background

We find out that around that time Gerry had been transferred to DCI Martin Ackroyd’s team. The Gerry we meet then, a brilliant performance by Samuel Oatley, who channels the Waterman of The Sweeney down to the brown jacket, is a young pup not an old dog, cockier than his older counterpart has become but just as instinctive. His starry eyed recruit to CID gets a very rude awakening. Ackroyd tells two Sergeants, Bryant and McCabe, to show Gerry the ropes. He quickly realises they are on the payroll of local gangster Dominic Chapman and he is determined not to join them. His nickname of Last Man Standing came from this determination not to take bribes even when everyone else was. He reports it to Ackroyd who advises him to take the money anyway and then report back to him with times, dates and places. Gerry does this, leaving the money untouched in a shoebox even though he could really do with it as a young husband and father. Gerry becomes friends with another local gangster, Tommy Naylor, a far less psychotic individual than Dominic Chapman, but still a clearly unwise choice of friend for a young policeman. This friendship comes to the attention of some very dangerous people and places Gerry in a situation that will take all of his cunning to get out of.  

In the present day, the team start to investigate Ackroyd’s death and Gerry’s behaviour starts to ring a few alarm bells. They want to know what he is hiding, but he becomes more and more evasive, determined to sort out the case on his own. However, he has come to the attention of Bryant, McCabe and Chapman who have set an ever tighter trap for him which turns out to have been 30 years in the planning. His colleagues have to consider the possibility that the Gerry they have known for so long might have been involved with Ackroyd’s murder especially as the evidence is all pointing in one direction. Can they help to prove his innocence, or will their investigations end up proving his guilt? It is a race against time and for Gerry it could literally be a matter of life and death.

Highlights

Sasha (Tamzin Outhwaite) gets the fright of her life when she discovers Strickland (Anthony Calf) not only in her office but in her chair! He apologises but admits he came to the office as it was the only place he could escape from the crying of his new baby. At that point, Gerry brings his grandson into the office for Steve and Danny to look after and when the baby starts crying Strickland genuinely believes he has lost his mind!

Gerry enquires after Ethan, Sasha’s prospective boyfriend, who we met in the last episode of Series 11. Danny tells him that what happens in Barcelona stays in Barcelona, as did Ethan with a 25 year old occupational therapist!

Gerry’s younger self has a chat with an attractive young WPC and tries to get her to go on a date with him. Ackroyd warns him off, telling him not to go near her as she’s Mr Pullman’s daughter! Clearly Sandra’s reputation as someone not to mess with precedes her!

When Gerry is trying to get baby Caitlin off to sleep, he starts crooning ‘It’s alright, it’s OK’!!

Samuel Oatley shows a dangerous side to Gerry and shows that the lines between cops and criminals may have been unacceptably blurred by Gerry himself, but only in the cause of justice.

The 1983 reconstruction is superb throughout with all the younger characters matching their older counterparts perfectly. The attention to detail with mannerisms and speech patterns really brings the whole story together as there are no jarring inconsistencies to take you out of the story. Oatley is Waterman and there really should have been thought given to a Last Man Standing series, because it would have been every bit as good as Ashes to Ashes was.

When Steve (Denis Lawson) is asked to go on a stakeout after Danny refuses he tells Sasha it will cost her time and a half. She asks where his civic responsibility is and he tells her his civic responsibility costs 50% more after 6pm!

At the end of Part 1, a clearly rattled Gerry refuses to go back to UCOS with Sasha to answer her questions. To everyone’s shock she proceeds to place him under arrest for involvement in the murder of DCI Ackroyd! Tamzin Outhwaite is absolutely not to be messed with and this scene crackles with energy and tension.

At the beginning of Part 2, Strickland’s increasing involvement with the team comes to the fore as he gives Gerry the chance to go off grid to clear his name, before telling Danny to go home because he looks ‘a little unwell’ and not to contact him until the morning! It has become clear to me throughout this rewatch, that Anthony Calf never got the credit that he deserved for his subtle loosening up of the character. You saw how tied he was by his position but here, as on a number of occasions in the later series, he shows he is totally in UCOS’s corner.

Steve, Sasha and Strickland ask Forensic Anthropologist Dr Fiona Kennedy, played magnificently by Tracy-Ann Oberman with a perpetual twinkle in her eye, to rush through analysis of a bloodstained shirt that could clear Gerry, but her answer shocks them to the core. It really plants the seeds of doubt in the audience’s mind.  

As ever, Danny’s past in the Diplomatic Service is enquired about, but in this episode it becomes far more part of the plot as Danny tries to keep Gerry alive as the net closes around him. We even find out that he was called ‘The Gardener’, although that may not be entirely accurate!  

When Danny and Gerry ask Tommy Naylor to look at a photo of policemen in the upper ranks at the time of Ackroyd’s murder and point out the ones they can trust, his answer is shocking. It does, however, lead them to Ted Case, played by the marvellous Larry Lamb, whose clear headed approach and eye for detail might prove very useful for UCOS in the future!

The Verdict

Gerry, as the last original Old Dog gets a fitting send off in a double episode that just stacks the cards against him and then asks him how much he’s prepared to gamble to see his opponent. The team around him are absolutely magnificent throughout and it shows how important Gerry’s new colleagues have become to him. Part 2 starts with a brilliant set-up which the ending then nails perfectly. Of all the final stories in the series, this one is the best. Dennis Waterman just reminds us what a brilliantly gritty actor he is with a powerhouse performance full of strength, menace and tenderness. Farewell Gerry and farewell Dennis, you were far more than alright and OK!    

From → New Tricks

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