Trigger Point provided a particularly bold example in its first season, which was marketed as a two-hander between Vicky McClure’s Lana Washington and Adrian Lester’s Joel Nutkins, only for the latter character to be swiftly killed off.
In the season 2 premiere, DI Thom Youngblood (Mark Stanley) came awfully close to fulfilling this role, but managed to avoid a grim fate, leaving John Hudson (Kris Hitchen) as the sole named fatality – a loss few viewers are likely to mourn.
John was, of course, a deeply problematic guy. In the previous run, he was considered the prime suspect in Lana’s investigation of a terror campaign sweeping London, due to his far-right associations, as well as his openly racist and Islamophobic views.
He wasn’t the bomber in that case, but these aspects of his life remained a profound concern, leading to his suspension from the Met and later return on probation – something Lana was less than thrilled about.
While it initially seemed like John had genuinely changed, this was later exposed as a simple ruse to retain his earlier authority, with a disturbing private chat between himself and Lana proving him to be as cruel and hateful as ever.
Then he died. Suffice to say, it’s not a tear-jerker. But it does raise interesting questions about the worldview of the show, and whether this is the best use of the character that could have been imagined.
It would be a pointless lie to say that people like John Hudson, who are prejudiced against certain social and ethnic groups, aren’t living among us in the UK right now.
In fact, some may very well be inside the actual Met, which was declared “institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic” in March 2023 by a damning report from Lady Louise Casey.
Of course, the problem extends beyond policing and into the hearts of communities across the country, denoting a major societal issue that demands immediate attention as well as a long-term strategy.
As we’ve recently seen from the staggering response to ITV’s own Mr Bates vs The Post Office, television drama can be a genuine force for real-world change. But as that show also demonstrated, truly momentous results are hard to achieve.
In the pages of a script, a character can be unceremoniously discarded when they present too much of a challenge, as was the approach taken with John. But in reality, these individuals remain – and their words and actions can cause major harm.
I’m not suggesting that such a storyline would “solve racism” in the UK or anything daft like that, but simply proposing that mainstream media representations of such journeys are important for demonstrating that they are possible.
If executed well – avoiding the abundant pitfalls of preachiness and cringe – this optimistic character arc could have been moving, provocative and culturally relevant.
At the very least, it would have sparked more conversation and elicited a greater emotional response than seeing John get thrown a few feet across an abandoned car park, mere moments after spewing a gallon of verbal bile.
There’s something disappointing about the show suggesting that people like him can’t change their ways, which is surprising coming from series creator (and co-writer of this very episode) Daniel Brierley – who previously suggested the opposite might have been in store.
After the season 1 finale, he told RadioTimes.com that he’d be interested in a “redemption arc” for John, citing Hitchen’s “astonishing” performance in acclaimed indie film Sorry We Missed You as evidence he could handle the material.
Brierley added: “I’m very interested in people that have opinions and beliefs and then change them… I feel like John and Kris, the character and the actor, have got so much more to give us.”
So, why the change of course? Well, not everyone who holds these views does end up seeing the light, and perhaps Trigger Point was simply trying to reflect that grim reality.
But at such a polarised time for our country (and the world), when many people are indulging in extreme ideology or disappearing down conspiracy-fuelled rabbit holes, it might have been nice to inject a ray of hope into this predominantly bleak thriller.
It was too late for John, but I hope that we can still find paths to reconcile that which divides us – for all our sakes.
The Best Ever… TV thriller
Trigger Point continues on ITV1 and ITVX at 9pm on Sunday 4th February. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what’s on.
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