Law & Order: UK - Discussion For Episode 2.3, "Community Service" - Jamie Bamber News
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Law & Order: UK - Discussion For Episode 2.3, "Community Service"

"Community Service", written by Catherine Tregenna

This is an episode where I felt anger towards and sympathy for both the victim and assailant. OK, much more for the victim. And Harry Morgan's actions were in no way excusable. He was motivated by self interest, he let his emotions overtake him and he felt no remorse for almost killing Roland Kirk. Yet, given what we would learn about Roland Kirk, it is conceivable a normally rational non-violent person could snap, could feel he was performing a community Service and doing, to his mind, what the police could not or would not do.

If the verdict was unjust (and I believe it was), it was plausible. The jurors were able to put themselves in Morgan's place and feel his frustration, anger and fear. And given Roland's erratic and occassionally violent behavior, Morgan's lie (Roland attacked him first) could be believed.

What I do find hard to believe is the authorities did nothing to remove Roland from the park and uphold their oath to protect the community. Roland may not have intended to hurt anyone, but he broke Irene Morgan's wrist. He pushed a young boy into the street. He frightened people daily and damaged businesses. Did Roland have to seriously hurt or kill someone before the police acted? It seemed clear the neighborhood had a long list of justifiable complaints, why was he not in some sort of custody?

One quibble I have with the Order side of things (though not with Team Order ;) is Harry Morgan's promise to James at the end. Roland Kirk likely wouldn't be returning to the neighborhood. However, would you tell the prosecutor that if he did return, you'd do it again?

Now, I do have some issues with Team Law. First of all, didn't Ronnie tell the elderly woman, who feared her neighbors would abandon her, that they'd keep her name out of the investigation? Yet, in the next seen, we see he and Matt talking with Joe Butler and telling him he's been identified by her.

I also found Matt's behavior a bit troublesome. I understand he was frustrated by Roland's mental illness and how it made him both an unreliable witness and a witness who could easily be taken apart on the stand by the defense. I can see him making remarks to Ronnie and Natalie about it, in private. But as Roland struggled to remember and mentioned the dragon, Matt cracked, "And he's our star witness." Which lead Roland to state it wasn't funny and ask "Does he think I'm funny?" Matt has been known to make inappropriate comments at the wrong moment. If he apologized or showed regret it would be one thing, but he didn't seem to be bothered that he was rude and insensitive. The character beat struck me as off.


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zegeekgirl From: zegeekgirl Date: December 7th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
"Community Service" has become one of my favorite of Catherine Tregenna's episodes, though I wasn't quite as fond of it initially. What I found problematic at first - at the end of the scene in the Morgan's living room, when Ronnie gets the call and announces that Kirk has come out of his coma, the look on Harry Morgan's face basically gives him away IMO - became, on repeat viewing, less of a concern in light of the complex conundrum that the episode attempts to address. Where at first I felt that, like "Paradise," some of the suspense was aired out of the second half because of that, I later came to feel like the moral messiness that Kirk's attack sets into motion was worth examining step by step in spite of feeling "aware" of Harry's guilt early on.

As someone who has had a close family member on lithium for depression (and one who was very resistant to taking it at first), I can testify to how heartbreaking and stressful it can be for someone who cares for such an individual when you know there is only so much you can do to make sure they take the meds they need. The sad truth is that short of a really horrible incident taking place as a result of their illness (See: "Defence," Series 3), typically there's nothing the system will do to force them onto meds. And I feel so awfully in this episode for Kirk's sister, who clearly really feels a great deal of love for her brother and sorrow over the state of his illness, but as she tells the boys, she had to be a responsible mum first when it came to having him around her son. Could she/should she have tried to find the time to help drive her brother toward long-term help that could get him off the streets for good? Maybe. But the larger perspective here, I feel, is in really thinking about how the system fails the mentally ill most of the time and many of us struggle to find the strength/will to try and change that. It's all too easy to walk away until something dreadful happens.

Good cast this week but out of all of 'em, the actor who plays Nate, the Morgan's son, is really wonderful. There's a glum, mopey authenticity there that feels so real, and the look on his face at the end says so much. Wouldn't be surprised if that kid is outta there for good after that.

While I did feel like Harry admitting his guilt to James in the end is slightly for the sake of drama/OTT at first, subsequently I've started to feel as though this is the first and only time we really get to see Harry for who he is. There's a smug, controlling bastard there (the same one who constantly corrected his wife during the interview, the one who insisted to Alesha that he was far too liberal to ever be considered as a suspect in such an incident), and part of me feels like it's important that we see him w/out any self-assumed pretense of nobility in his actions or attempts to claim self defense, at least once in the episode.

zegeekgirl From: zegeekgirl Date: December 7th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link Me)

Matt's attitude does seem slightly more callous than usual w/ regard to how he treats Kirk during the ID session, but I honestly don't think that's intended to illustrate him as flip about the severity of the issue. I think, given that in that middle scene down at MIU he also argues in favor of the residents (particularly the Morgans, while Ronnie attempts to see it from Kirk's perspective), he probably feels the same sense of bewilderment and frustration that you do that this continues to happen with seemingly no recourse and all they have to go on is Kirk's unstable recall of the incident. And he's a policeman! - he realizes the limitations of his own department (Uniform can probably ask a transient to move on if necessary, but I don't believe for instance that they can stop him from parking his van periodically - which ends up, periods stacked end on end, permanently - in the square). Not to mention the flaws in the medical system that can basically treat someone like Kirk but has no leave to detain them so they boot him back onto the street. (Re: transients and police intervention in general in the UK, maybe someone over there can give us a better perspective as to the specific limitations of what the police can and can't do? It's worth noting that when Matt is giving Ronnie the run-down in that scene at the office, he mentions that the Morgans applied for an ASBO, but they were turned down because Kirk had initially been friendly with them and slept there in the past. Which does seem like a lousy reason to deny such an order if there is overwhelming evidence of harassing behavior, but still…)

I could yak about this ep a lot more but I have a department meeting in 5 minutes. ;)
lemurling From: lemurling Date: December 7th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
This was actually my -least- favorite episode of Series 2. I've watched it a few times now, and I still feel... uncomfortable about it. I think it's because I just don't like -anyone- in this episode. Not the victim, not one single person that lived in the square, not even really our boys and girls who all failed or showed lesser sides of themselves.

The acting was fine. And I think the script was quite believable, all the emotions and reactions, the frustration, the petty and not so petty concerns of everyone involved. It dealt with a problem that I confront myself, living in a large city in a warm climate with a lot of homeless: the difficulty of mental illness, and of dealing compassionately with the mentally ill in ways that allow them their autonomy and how that comes into conflict with the desire for ordinary people to live their lives in peace.

But the crime was totally repulsive, and James failing to get the conviction was quite upsetting to me. I end the episode feeling sick and unhappy about humanity. It's not an episode I'll skip, but every time I hit it during a series re-watch, I do think about it.
zegeekgirl From: zegeekgirl Date: December 7th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
See, losing the case is far, far easier for me to stomach in this episode than, say, "Samaritan"... not because it was any less horrific a crime, but precisely because of the fact that the ep addresses what I think is a real issue in every major metropolitan city and does so without any clear-cut answers. It's very raw and realistic in that sense. ("Samaritan" just made me want to throw things. Bright kid's dead, partner's complicity is reasonably assured. Lock the bastard up ;))
lemurling From: lemurling Date: December 7th, 2010 09:45 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
The two weren't even remotely equivalent for me. The difference between failing to provide medical assistance and deliberately bludgeoning a man practically to death... I'm honestly stunned that they would have the same emotional value for you.

I wasn't even convinced that the officer in "Samaritan" should have been put on trial. Kicked off the police force, absolutely, but I found it very disquieting that someone could be jailed for failing to act, however vile the reasons for doing so. "Samaritan" is one of my favorite episodes, actually, mostly for the Ron-Mattie relationship, but also a little bit because it was a case James didn't win, and I generally do like for the team to fail now and then, just to keep things lively.

I wanted the cop punished, but it didn't feel like a total indictment of society that he wasn't, which is how I felt about the end of "Community Service". "We're not going to put you in jail just because you didn't help that man, even though you only did it because you're a homophobic asshole" is somewhat more palatable than "We don't care if you maimed a man for life, because he was scary and smelly and we wouldn't want him living near us either."
zegeekgirl From: zegeekgirl Date: December 7th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
The difference in emotional value for me, as a viewer, isn't really what I was attempting to illustrate. Though for the record, I find both actions pretty god-damn deplorable. Ray Griffin was not being tried for murder, but rather manslaughter gross negligence (i.e. criminally negligent manslaughter in the US), which is a completely valid charge that does carry with it a prison sentence, and IMO if he consciously chose to let someone die for reasons of homophobia or anything else, he still made a conscious decision.

Rather it is, as you say, the "indictment of society" aspect as illustrated by the juries' decisions - for all the ugliness that, yes, it does entail - that makes me appreciate this episode more. Am I comfortable with the idea that a jury would sympathize with Harry Morgan, even if they bought his self-defense story or not? Hell no, I would have sent him down in a heartbeat. (Also, worth nothing: Harry Morgan claiming self defense for his actions isn't really all that removed from Ray Griffin's brief having the video thrown out for not being clear enough, IMO. Both introduce enough reasonable doubt, apparently, for the jury to hop on.) But I thoroughly believe that there are enough people out there so focused on their own comfortable (or even moderately comfortable) lives who would be susceptible into that argument to bring about an acquittal, and because it's a case that plays more deeply towards the "put yourself in these shoes" angle, it's one that gets a lot of mileage out of letting the audience ruminate on that dilemma for a while.
asta77 From: asta77 Date: December 8th, 2010 01:42 am (UTC) (Link Me)
he still made a conscious decision

And that's why both Ray and Harry's actions are equally reprehensible to me. Ray knew his partner had been shot and was bleeding out in the street. He stood by knowing he could die. Harry nearly beat Roland Kirk to death. Then went home knowing he could die. Neither men had any regard for the victims nor showed any remorse for their actions - or in-actions.

The outcomes of both cases disturb me, but I think Ray's acquittal bothered me more. As you mentioned, police take an oath to protect and serve the public and can't pick and choose who they wish to help. And the situation is made worse because police officers, partners, have to be able to trust and depend on each other. They have their lives in each others hands and that meant nothing, after years on the force, to Ray because his new partner didn't live up to his standards.

dramaturgca From: dramaturgca Date: December 7th, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
I think they're entirely comparable. I can see where, because Harry Morgan used violence to solve his problem, while Ray Griffin let someone else's violence solve his, it might seem like Morgan committed the more horrible crime. However, ultimately the jury's decision in that case came from empathy, understanding what it would be like to feel your home and family threatened by a force that the police will not control. Any animal, including humans, will lash out when it feels itself cornered. Do I think Morgan was right? Not even slightly. But it wasn't just a failure on his part, it was a failure of the system to provide help to Kirk, which is a commentary really on the way that our society doesn't know how to address mental instability. We haven't worked out how to work with and for people whose own minds turn against them. I say that as a person of non-normal brain chemistry myself. The issue in the Morgan case is muddy, there are a lot of component issues in play.

For me, the Griffin case is much more cut and dried, and because of that, it's more distressing that the jury renders a not guilty verdict. Ray Griffin, regardless of his personal beliefs, took an oath as a policeman to help those in need. He violated that oath because he didn't personally like who Nick Bentley kisses. To me, this is the same thing as a doctor refusing to treat an AIDS patient because he's gay. The doctor would not be directly responsible for the patient's death, but his aid could make a difference and prolong the life in question. From a personal standpoint, I don't like the idea that a police officer/emergency worker could choose not to help me because they don't like something about the me personally. If Ray Griffin was a private citizen and didn't go help someone after they were shot, it would be deplorable but not criminal. But he wasn't, he was a police officer. For him to refuse aid due to a personal issue is criminal and he should have been jailed for it.

Both men should've been locked up for their conduct, but to me, the threat to the broader community is more severe in having an officer on the beat who believes he has the right to decide who deserves his help.
lemurling From: lemurling Date: December 7th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
If Ray Griffin was a private citizen and didn't go help someone after they were shot, it would be deplorable but not criminal.

That's the crux of the difference to me. Was he a bad cop? Absolutely. Did he commit a criminal act? I'm less certain how I feel about that. It seems wrong to me that something is or isn't criminal depending on the job you have. This was clearly a person who could not protect all members of society equally. Therefore, he should have been fired, preferably after the severest of sanctions, loss of benefits, pension, whatever cops in the UK get. If he had used his authority to prevent aid to his comrade, that would clearly be criminal. I think his use of intimidation and destruction of evidence was clearly criminal, he should have done time for that at the least. And I wouldn't have been upset if he'd been convicted, because he did leave that man to die, it was a reprehensible act, and a conviction for manslaughter would have be a sort of karmic justice for that vindictive negligence. It's just a situation that I feel more conflicted about, because of the different expectations we have of people depending on their job. If something is wrong, it just feels like it ought to be equally wrong for everyone. And I didn't feel like the jury let him off because they thought the cop was justified in what he did, but rather because they were equally conflicted about whether his inaction was equivalent to manslaughter.

With "Community Service" I guess it just seemed so clear to me that any claim to self-defense was completely destroyed by the evidence that he battered the victim past the point where the victim could have possibly resisted. Since I don't understand how anyone could think differently, how anyone could excuse the perpetrator's actions in any way, but the jury -did- for some reason think that what he did wasn't a crime, it is far more affecting to me that he got off.
suzy_74 From: suzy_74 Date: December 13th, 2010 11:04 am (UTC) (Link Me)
OT for this post but... I just happen to read this review of the next episode 2.4, which was relevent to me since I saw that episode again yesterday. What I really loved in the review was how Jamie's comedic skills were noted. I think he's so deadpan funny at times and yeah, IMO he deserves more credit for that so that made me happy. :)

asta77 From: asta77 Date: December 13th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
What's really funny is Brittany and I follow each other on Twitter and we've had several discussions about Jamie. ;) On his next hiatus from shooting, I really hope he can pick up a comedic role on a show. Much like the people who are still shocked to learn he's British, I think there would be a lot people surprised at how funny he can be. One of my fave episodes of BSG is 'Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down', in large part to Jamie's reaction shots to what is going on around him. :)
suzy_74 From: suzy_74 Date: December 16th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link Me)


Me again. Gotta ask. The Bamber news on twitter. Is that you or one or all of the other moderators? Just want to ask if I may use that background pic of Jamie in my LJ. Do you know who made it?

I have not decided yet but have put it up as a background pic for now in my lj.
zegeekgirl From: zegeekgirl Date: December 16th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC) (Link Me)

Re: ps

Both asta77 and myself update the Twitter account. I created the background; if you'd like to use it, I'd ask that you please credit somewhere, but it's fine. Since New Twitter's layout has altered the dimensions, I'll probably end up doing a new one eventually anyway! ;)
suzy_74 From: suzy_74 Date: December 16th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link Me)

Re: ps

Thanks, that's wonderful of you. I love it! I will put up a credit on my profile page as soon as I can. Am on my way out now.
suzy_74 From: suzy_74 Date: December 13th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link Me)
Haa, what a coincident!

And another one... last night I also did a cruise on youtube and watched somebody's vid of fav scenes from just "Tigh me up". Yes, some really great reaction shots there.

I find it amusing how people still gets so surprised about his accent. I admit, I was too in the beginning when I went directly from hearing his accent in BSG to some interview or other. But I knew he was British so that wasn't the surprise, just how good I think he did it. :)
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