A former police officer from Liverpool, Tony Schumacher brings his own real-life field experience to a fictional tale and carves a central protagonist played by ace actor Martin Freeman. The 5-part BBC series, “The Responder,” follows a corrupt police officer, Chris Carson, who is on the brink of madness yet tries to save the truth inside him by performing one good deed. However, his act of saving one’s life soaks him into a web of affairs that deals with stolen drugs, drug mobsters, and a drug peddler trying to change her life. Will Chris be able to save his mental peace and come out of the mess without getting killed? Let’s find out.
‘The Responder’ Plot Summary
Chris Carson (Martin Freeman) is a middle-aged police officer who lives with his wife, Kate, and young daughter, Tilly, in Liverpool, England. An inquiry committee of the Merseyside Police Department found Chris guilty of corruption based on evidence submitted by Chris’ arch-nemesis, Raymond Mullen. It, therefore, demoted him from the position of detective inspector to constable. Chris’s family had already been living on the edge due to the expensive treatment and lodging of her mother, June, who is suffering from incurable cancer. Hence, to support his family, Chris starts working for a rookie drug dealer, Carl Sweeney (Ian Hart), who happens to be Chris’ school friend. To raise money, Chris even undertakes solo patrolling night shifts and responds to the radio, which toys with his mental health due to lack of sleep. In short, Chris is on the edge of insanity, which causes violent outbursts and irrational decisions that throw his life into a mess.
“The Responder” begins as Chris visits his therapist to help him control his thoughts and emotions as he fears that another week of night shifts will crack open his mind. But due to ongoing expenses and debt, Chris cannot afford to take a break from the job or end it for good. One night, Carl Sweeney calls Chris and asks him to locate a drug peddler, Casey, who owes a debt to Sweeney. Without any other option, Chris searches for Casey and brings him to Sweeney. However, moments before he hands Casey to Sweeney, Casey reveals that she stole a stash of cocaine from him, which she has lost and has no means to pay back. Chris is certain that Sweeney will kill Casey for her actions and thus decides to betray Sweeney in order to save Casey.
For the first time in his career, Chris feels at peace after saving a life. However, a rivalry with Sweeney invites a plethora of problems for Chis, which he needs to deal with alone while hiding his immoral ways from his department and especially from his newly assigned idealistic partner, Rachel Hargreaves.
Major Spoilers Ahead
What Happened To The Stash Of Cocaine?
A hot-shot drug dealer, Greg Gallagher, was sent to prison for 20 years straight, and soon after his arrest, all his debtors refused to settle the accounts. Gallagher owed money to some dangerous crooks, and to pay his bills, he organized a drug deal from prison to sell off a big bag of coke. However, no one wanted to be a part of Gallagher’s deal, and so he gave the assignment to a rookie drug dealer, Carl Sweeney, who thought it was his only chance to prove his worth.
Sweeney facilitated the deal, but the bag filled with cocaine was lost in transit. A low-life drug addict, Casey, stole the bag and hid it. When Chris searched Casey’s hideout, a closed-down factory, he found a bag of cocaine and tried to sell it to a drug dealer who was associated with Gallagher’s sister, doctor Diana Gallagher. Diana informed Sweeney that Chris had tried to sell her the drugs, and thus, to get the drugs, Sweeney set up a trap to return the bag to its owners. However, during the exchange, Gallagher’s men inspected the stash and concluded that someone had replaced it with washing powder. They suspected Sweeney was double-crossing them, and so they stabbed him to death while Chris escaped to save his life.
Casey had replaced the original stash bag with washing powder and hid it in her grandfather’s house, intending to sell it to change her life for the better. However, Casey and her partner, Marco, failed to sell it because, wherever they went, everyone knew that the parcel belonged to Gallagher and didn’t dare touch it.
Meanwhile, Chris found a burning vehicle with Sweeney’s body inside it, and so, with remorse and a heavy heart, he informed Sweeney’s wife, Jodie, about his death. Jodie told Chris that Sweeney left with nothing for the family to survive, and thus Chris got one more responsibility on his head. However, before he could help the family, Chris was kidnapped by Gallagher’s men, and Diana revealed to him that Casey had switched the bags.
Chris finally found Casey and Marco and took the bag from them to return it to Diana. But Casey didn’t want to give up her only chance to change her life to save herself from eternal misery. All her life, Casey believed that she was just a low-life drug addict who didn’t matter to this world, and no one loved her, neither her grandfather nor her estranged mother. But in Chris’ world, Casey played the most important role. She was the silver lining in Chris’ life who influenced him to help others amid his own mental, emotional, and financial crisis. After saving Casey’s life, Chris experienced the much required peace and balance in life for which he had been searching for a long time, and he wanted to get more of this feeling, which probably pushed him to become a better person, if not a better police officer. It can be stated that Casey saved Chris from becoming insane, and hence, for him, she mattered the most.
Chris got the bag, but now he had one more decision to make, which would reveal his true nature and transformation. If Chris had just brought Casey to Sweeney in the first episode, then he might have been able to save his life and save his family from misery. Hence, Chris blamed himself for the chaos and tried to rectify his mistake by saving the lives of the people he could save. He lied to Hargreaves that he would throw the bag into the evidence locker room without booking it in. However, he forged papers that proved that police seized the drugs and handed the evidence to Diana so that Gallagher’s creditors wouldn’t kill him in prison. In the end, Chris gave the bag to Jodie so that she and her young daughter could live a comfortable life after Sweeney’s death. It was Chris’s act of redemption.
What Happened To Rachel Hargreaves?
From the beginning of ‘The Responder’ rookie constable Rachel Hargreaves had a lot going on inside her head, because of which she constantly suffered mental breakdowns. In the end, it was revealed that Hargreaves’s live-in partner, Steve, used to abuse her physically and emotionally. He even threatened Hargreaves to kill her in her sleep, which was the reason why she probably took the night shift. In Episode 5, Chris found out about Hargreaves’s abusive boyfriend and the trauma that she had been hiding inside her head and decided to help her conquer her fear.
When Chris found Hargreaves locked in a wardrobe, he pointed out that it wasn’t the hanger that stopped Hargreaves from breaking the door; instead, it was the fears of her own mind that held her back. With Chris on her side, Hargreaves finally confronted the monster and revealed his true nature to his colleagues, after which he would probably lose his job. However, Hargreaves tried to file a report in the domestic abuse department, but she couldn’t gather enough strength to do so, which suggested that the grain of fear was still there, and if the predator attacked again, she might just give in.
‘The Responder’ Ending Explained
After being demoted, Chris started working for Sweeney and needed money for his mother’s expensive treatment. In Episode 6, he finally revealed the fact to his wife, who had been pleading with Chris to share his personal thoughts and conflicts with her. Chris had been carrying out a lot of immoral acts, like stealing from the priest and taking bribes from the peddlers. However, he often used the money to help the needy, like when he gave the cash to Jodie that he stole from Father Liam Neeson (ref. to the ace actor). And this was when Chris himself needed money, as he had a negative bank account balance.
Though Chris was helpful towards others, he never had the courage to ask for help from people around him, which created hundreds of issues in his life. In the end, he told Kate about his financial crisis, and without any further discussion, she paid June’s hospital bills. After all this, Chris wanted to get himself arrested, but Kate convinced him that he owed his family as well and should look after them. Hence, she lied to Chris’ senior, DI Deb Barnes, in order to save Chris from another investigation that could have cost him his job.
Chris didn’t want Kate to lie for him or be a part of the corrupt practices he was involved in, but Kate intentionally did so because she wanted to be a part of Chris’ secret life. From the beginning of “The Responder,” Kate wanted Chris to open up, share things with her, and involve her in his routine, but he didn’t. Now that she has become a partner in his crimes, Chris would probably feel less awkward about sharing things with her and would have an obligation to make things better with her. But it’s hard to say whether he will continue bending the law or become a straight police officer, because, for Chris, it’s his corrupt Robin Hood persona that makes him a better police officer.
The closing sequence of “The Responder” depicts Chris spending time with his daughter, Tilly, which suggests the first change in his life. As the episode ends, we see Chris and Hargreaves on another adventurous night patrolling the streets of Liverpool while the radio buzzes again, and the responder responds to save the city from crime.
“The Responder” is a 5-part mini-series created by Tony Schumacher for the BBC.