Lisa Armstrong (Morven Christie) is dressed for a night on the town with her BFFs. After several drinks and a few rounds of karaoke, she chats up an attractive guy at the bar. Soon the two are in a back alley having sex. Since The Bay is a crime mystery, we expect that the unfortunate Lisa will be brutally murdered. Instead, the next time we see Lisa, she’s on her day job as a family liaison officer for the West Lancashire Police Service. Holly and Dylan Meredith, 15 year-old twins, are missing, and Lisa’s assigned the case. She shows up at the Meredith house to meet with the parents and – surprise! She and the dad, Sean, have already met, in that alley last night.
The right thing for Lisa to do is to immediately inform her superior officer, Detective Inspector Anthony Manning (Daniel Ryan), that she has a conflict and should be taken off the case. But when Sean, for obvious reasons, shows no signs of giving her up, she decides to stick it out. After all, she’s good at her job and, a mother herself, she wants to find those missing teenagers.
You’ll have to look closely to recognize Christie as Amanda, the lost love of the Rev. Sidney Chambers (James Norton) in Grantchester. Amanda had dark hair, wore expensive dresses, and exuded upper class charm. In contrast, Lisa is blond, a working class single mother, struggling to keep her job while raising two adolescents. She has help from her mom, Penny (Lindsey Coulson), but the demands of being a police officer often mean she’s MIA at home, missing warning signs that one or both of her children may be in trouble.
Adding to her responsibilities is a rookie Manning asks her to train. Detective Constable Ahmed (Med) Kharim, is hard working and eager to learn. But for Lisa, he’s a complication she can do without. Rather than take him along on interviews, she leaves him behind, alienating someone whose support she will later need.
A family liaison officer, or FLO, plays a dual role in an investigation. Lisa’s job is to provide support for the family of the victims, while continuing to investigate the crime. It’s a tough balancing act. Getting close to the family may cloud an investigator’s judgment, something that could prove fatal. And Lisa has the added burden of knowing that she might be exposed at any moment for her liaison with Sean.
As with most crimes, the answer lies close to home. In season one’s six episodes, Lisa does manage to identify the killer, but not before her secret is uncovered and she’s suspended and demoted. An upside is that the extra time she spends with her son, Rob (Art Parkinson), and daughter, Abbie (Imogen King), brings them closer together.
The series takes its name from Morecambe Bay on the west coast of England in the county of Lancashire. While the water serves as a backdrop, the bay is utilitarian, supporting the area’s fishing and shipping industries. A seaside arcade, where Abbie meets an unsavory character (just one situation involving her children Lisa knows nothing about), is honky tonk and down market. The bay is a working class area, not one where people come on holiday.
In season two, Lisa is now a detective constable with Med her boss. But her skills are once again needed when the police must investigate the death of a prominent lawyer, Stephen Marshbrook, who was running the family business, an accounting firm. Unlike the Merediths the Marshbrooks are upper class and not accustomed to being questioned by the police. Lisa must tread carefully, getting close to Stephen’s wife, Rose (Sharon Small). Lisa soon discovers the family has many secrets, both business and personal, producing many suspects.
Also complicating matters is the future of Oliver, Stephen’s 11 year-old son, who witnessed his father’s shooting. Rose is not Oliver’s biological mother and now that Stephen is dead, she risks losing custody.
Both Lisa and her boss, Manning, are dealing with personal problems themselves. Manning’s wife is pressing him to sign divorce papers, something that sends him on a bender, leaving Lisa to rescue him. Meanwhile, Lisa’s ex-husband, Andy (Joe Absolom), shows up, his motives unclear. Abbie and Rob are willing to give their father a chance, but Lisa’s mother is suspicious and comes up with information that may send Andy packing.
The tragic death of one of the officers on the case, threatens to derail the investigation. But Lisa becomes even more determined to find the killer.
Season two ends on a high note, perhaps fitting since Christie has decided not to return for season three. The lead will be recast with Marsha Thomason playing Detective Sergeant Jenn Townsend. U.S. audiences will recognize Townsend for her long running roles on Vegas and White Collar. Seems like West Lancashire Police Service will be in good hands.
The Bay can be streamed on BritBox.
Top photo: Morven Christie as DC Lisa Armstrong
Photographer: Jonny Birch / © Tall Story Pictures, Courtesy of BritBox