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There is no Next Episode of DCI Banks planned.
The crime drama series returns with the first episode of a two-part story. When a victim of a frenzied attack is found in the woods with his head caved in, initially the team wonders if it is a random attack or related to the location - where a local girl recently committed suicide. Banks, however, has a theory of his own. When the victim is identified as small time drug dealer Damon Horsley and Banks uncovers a link to local crime boss Steve Richards, he is convinced the hitherto untouchable Richards had a part in the murder.
The post mortem into the daughter of crime boss Steve Richards reveals that her death isn't a simple suicide – could someone else have been involved? And if so, who?
While the violent Richards conducts his own unique brand of investigation, the focus shifts once again when the team discover that despite Kat's confession, she can't have murdered Damon Horsley.
The break comes when evidence is uncovered that puts Kyle Finn, who found Horsley's body, in the spotlight, and under questioning he confesses to something truly shocking ‐ but Banks already knows he's lying, the real murderer has been hiding in plain sight all along.
Xun Li, a hard-working and devoted husband, makes a speech at a rally for Lanternlight – a charity supporting Chinese nationals like himself who fled persecution only to find themselves at risk from ruthless protection gangs in the UK. After the rally he finishes some work at his property rental business, calling wife Rachel as he walks to his car to head home – but he never makes it as a masked figure pepper-sprays him, bundles him into a car and speeds off.
Xun's worried wife Rachel tells them Xun is an asthmatic who left without his medication and all signs point towards a kidnapping - if Banks is right he doesn't want to provoke the perpetrators into doing anything rash.
Digging into Xun's past reveals a son from his first marriage – Bo and a brother, Chang, who also fled persecution in China. Banks and Annie visit Christine, Xun's head of finance who can't think why he has been targeted and claims to have no knowledge of Xun being under any kind of financial pressure.
Meanwhile, Helen and Ken visit Xun's brother Chang and niece Wei at the restaurant Xun helped them set up. They explain they came over from China after the death of Chang's wife, An, who died in prison. Helen hears how Chang owes his life to his brother for saving him and Wei.
Banks and Annie locate Xun's car and all signs indicate Xun was taken by force. The kidnappers finally break cover, texting Rachel their demands: £250,000 in cash if she wants to see him alive.
The next morning Annie opens the post at Rachel's house to find a specific Bag For Life. Thinking on her feet, Annie gets an identical bag and sends the original off for testing. Rachel is instructed to put the money in the bag. Then, via a text message, she is told where they want her to drive.
Taken on a roundabout journey including swapping cars, Rachel arrives at a busy shopping centre. Here she's told to look in the boot, where she finds a dozen Bags For Life, identical to the one with the money in. Banks instructs Annie to stay with Rachel's car in case the kidnappers return after the drop to make a getaway while the rest of the team watch, concerned, as Rachel moves around the busy shopping centre, depositing the Bags For Life in different places. Without enough people to observe every bag, the team have no way of knowing which one has the ransom money inside.
Tracing the car used in the drop draws another frustrating blank – the previous owner has no useful info that could lead to the perpetrators. Recovering in hospital from mild hypothermia, Xun reveals he has no idea who the kidnappers were, but doubts it was the protection gangs because he's still alive. Banks concurs – while in captivity they left him water and food – but more importantly, an inhaler: clearly whoever took him knew about his health problems, which would suggest someone closer to home.
As Ken looks into Xun's tenants he finds there was a case of carbon monoxide poisoning brought to court by Mark Rundle, the husband of the victim, but the court found in Xun's favour – something that would certainly give Mark motive for revenge. Ken and Helen are tasked with checking it out while Vince reports back on the protection gangs. It seems a local woman, Wendy Xiao, who looks for all intents and purposes like she runs a legitimate dry cleaning business, actually uses it as a front for making money through fear and intimidation. Vince cites a case where Wendy's boyfriend was suspected of suffocating and burning someone before dumping them in a skip. Banks decides to check her out with Vince. As they depart, Annie gets a call: a police station in Thirsk has arrested Tamsin Richards for drink driving and she's requested to see DS Cabbot.
The visit to Mark Rundle's is a sobering affair as Mark introduces Ken and Helen to his wife, Jenny – the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning and now confined to a life of 24/7 care by Mark and their daughter Lilly following brain damage. Mark insists he knows nothing about the vandalism or the kidnap and ransom – his alibi? He was home alone looking after Jenny...
Arriving at Thirsk police station, Annie is greeted not by Tamsin but by her protective husband Steve Richards. Cowed, Tamsin apologises for wasting her time, saying it was a mistake and that everything is fine – but Annie's instincts are quite the opposite, sensing Steve is gagging her. Annie leaves wondering what Tamsin really wanted – and how Steve knew she was there when the custody record shows Tamsin didn't make any phone calls.
Meanwhile Banks and Vince visit the acerbic Wendy Xiao, who plays the innocent businesswoman and pleads ignorance to knowing Xun Li. Frustrated, Banks remonstrates with Annie for yet again defying his wishes and going to visit Tamsin. But the argument will have to wait as Banks gets an urgent call from Helen – he needs to get to Xun's house, now.
The murder of Xun Li hits the team hard. This case is more complicated than they first thought, and it's not necessarily connected to the kidnapping. Given there are no indications of forced entry, all early signs point to Xun knowing his murderer. But Xun was also targeting protection gangs and so their boss, the formidable Wendy Xiao, is a prime suspect. And then there's Xun's property rental business – a disgruntled tenant may have an axe to grind.
Banks and Annie pay a visit to Xun's brother, Chang and niece Wei at their Chinese restaurant. As Chinese immigrants themselves, Banks imagines them to be prime targets for Wendy Xiao's protection racket so is surprised when Wei has no idea who she is. At the restaurant, Banks also finds Xun's estranged son, Bo, whose alibi is that he was at work the night his father was murdered. Annie talks to Xun's wife, Rachel, who also has a watertight alibi. The mystery deepens further when the autopsy reveals the cling film found wrapped around Xun's head was applied post-mortem.
Meanwhile, Ken uncovers CCTV footage that identifies a vehicle near Xun's business the night it was vandalised – the same vehicle that he has matched to one of Xun's disgruntled tenants – Mark Rundle.
Still no closer to cracking the case, that evening Banks cuts a lonely figure at home, with only his father Arthur for company – until Annie turns up and gives Banks a confession he wasn't expecting.
Banks has a spring in his step as he and Annie question Wei as she turned up at Wendy's. Wei admits that she and her father Chang pay protection money to Wendy. At first they refused, but when all their stock was smashed, they decided to pay like everyone else. Banks wants Wei to give evidence against Wendy, but Wei refuses for fear of repercussions – until Chang steps in, bravely declaring that he's determined to end Wendy's reign of terror.
Meanwhile Helen is having a tough time at her DCI board interview – not helped by the fact that Chief Superintendent Anderson is leading the interview panel, asking undermining questions in a thinly veiled revenge attack for Helen rebuffing his advances. Despite him pointing out all her apparent flaws, Helen counters Anderson's character assassination and defends herself. However, she can't help feeling that the damage has been done and her chances of making DCI have gone up in smoke.
Helen goes back to what she does best, uncovering a clue that puts Mark Rundle's car near enough to where Xun was kidnapped to question him again.
Under questioning, Bo makes an admission. Banks presses him about the night his father was murdered – was he really at hospital working? Bo insists he was – but rather than take his word for it, Banks tasks Ken to find out.
Having searched Bo's flat, Helen has found something that may be of interest. On Bo's tablet is footage of his father Xun, sent by a friend back in China. The timing is significant because it matches with when Bo told Lilly he had a way of getting Xun to pay up. Helen believes this footage could be important. She tells Banks she will get it translated.
The net appears to be closing in on Bo but the puzzle remains incomplete and Helen receives surprising news from Chief Superintendent Anderson.
Banks ponders the footage of Xun found on Bo's tablet, and that is when his eagle-eyes spot an anomaly that slots the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle into place. As he beckons Helen to go with him, Annie receives a call, the person on the phone clearly in a state as Ken witnesses Annie calming them down and promising to be there as soon as she can. As Annie dashes off, Ken offers to go with her, but Annie knows Ken has promised girlfriend Lydia a romantic night in, so declines, reassuring him she'll be OK.
Back at the station, Banks kicks off a double celebration. As the champagne flows, Annie is in town, meeting someone in a restaurant. But she is being watched by someone else. As she leaves the restaurant, walking past a car where the watcher remains hidden, Annie wanders down an alleyway, leaving an urgent voicemail for Banks – he needs to ring her urgently, she's got big news... and by the way, she loves him.
Banks and the team begin the painful job of finding out exactly who was responsible for the incident that has affected all their lives.
Following dogged police work, they locate and close in on a suspect, only to be thwarted when it's proven there's no way they are to blame. While Chief Superintendent Anderson puts pressure on Helen to reign in Banks and close the case, Banks becomes increasingly certain that this is all down to one man – crime boss Steve Richards. Banks' obsession with nailing Richards sends him over the edge, resulting in Anderson exiling him from the station and making Helen acting DCI in his stead.
Having been thrust into a dark place from where it looks like there is no coming back, Banks' mission to solve Annie's murder is made all the harder by the fact he has been taken off the case and sent on gardening leave – but that won't stop him. While his old team struggle, Banks operates for the first time on the other side of the law, using his years of experience, wits and wisdom to secure the all-important break-through. It finally looks like Banks has done the impossible and is on the verge of bringing crime boss Steve Richards to justice when the case takes an unexpected twist, sending Banks and the team back to square one. Will Banks be able to come out on top after an explosive confrontation with Richards – he needs to try and begin to rebuild his shattered world.