A Confession, episode 6 review: a riveting finale to one of the year's best dramas

Joe Absolom as Christopher Halliwell in A Confession - ITV
Joe Absolom as Christopher Halliwell in A Confession - ITV

The final episode of A Confession (ITV) confirmed its status as one of the year’s best dramas. There might be far too much true crime on TV but when it’s done this well, all is forgiven.

It had been three years since the controversial investigation that led to his resignation and detective Steve Fulcher (Martin Freeman) was now in Libya, reluctantly working as a security consultant. Back home in Swindon, Fulcher’s former colleagues continued to look for ways to charge serial killer Christopher Halliwell (Joe Absolom). When the case was reopened, Fulcher returned to help the Wiltshire Police force that had hung him out to dry.

Even though we knew the outcome, the murder trial was rivetingly tense. Conducting his own defence, Halliwell got to cross-examine Fulcher – two foes crossing swords one final time.

“It was a pleasure ruining your career, you corrupt b-----d,” sneered Halliwell. Absolom physically transformed in these scenes, contorting his face into ghastly smirks and grimaces.

When the verdict came, there were tears of relief but no redemptive Hollywood ending, just a realistic lack of complete closure. “Halliwell was right,” acknowledged Fulcher. “In order to bring him down, I also had to lose everything, as if it were some kind of pact between us.”

Imelda Staunton as Karen Edwards - Credit: ITV
Imelda Staunton as Karen Edwards Credit: ITV

As mothers dealing with the same agony in contrasting ways, Imelda Staunton and Siobhan Finneran both delivered heartbreaking performances. When her family suggested Elaine (Finneran) talk to Karen (Staunton) outside the courtroom, she numbly muttered: “I can’t. It’s too close.”

Before the credits rolled, tributes to the real-life victims Sian O’Callaghan and Becky Godden-Edwards appeared on-screen. These featured poignant childhood photographs – a reminder that this wasn’t so much a story of cop versus killer as two lives brutally taken. It was a gut-punchingly powerful flourish but a fitting way to end.

Written by Jeff Pope with delicate precision, full of telling little moments and superbly played by the ensemble cast, A Confession has proved a far, far better drama than anyone could have reasonably expected. Everyone involved deserves great credit.

Read more:  Did Steve Fulcher do the right thing to get Christopher Halliwell to confess?