'The Tower 2: Death Message' shows the 'scary,' 'ugly truth' of real crime scenes

Starring Gemma Whelan, Tahirah Sharif and Jimmy Akingbola, the second season of the Britbox series gets darker and more dangerous

When it comes to a gritty, detailed crime drama The Tower 2: Death Message (available to stream on Britbox), starring Gemma Whelan, Tahirah Sharif, Jimmy Akingbola and Emmett J Scanlan, is certainly worthy of sinking your teeth into.

Season 2 of the series, from writer and executive producer Patrick Harbinson (Homeland, 24) begins with DS Sarah Collins (Whelan) and DS Steve Bradshaw (Akingbola) taking on new positions at Homicide Command, with PC Lizzie Adama (Sharif) returning to work for the Farlow Police station, after being cleared of any misconduct.

Sarah is tasked with a cold case, a 17-year-old girl who disappeared 25 years earlier, on the day of Princess Diana's funeral.

Sarah and Lizzie's paths cross again when they have to work together on a murder case involving a domestic violence victim, with the killer still at large.

For the actors coming back for the second season of The Tower, they were all particularly excited about having the ability to really dive into their characters' backstories, extending beyond what we saw in the first season.

“I was excited to explore the fact that she's got some grief in her past and in the book, we sort of learned that she's got a sister who died,” Whelan told Yahoo Canada. “With four episodes, it was really nice to have the space to explore a bit more of Sarah's personal life, and to give her a bit more flavour and colour and dynamic, in terms of her backstory.”

“To sort of note how that grief is carried with her everywhere and it's sort of very subtly, just for my work anyway, fed into everything that Sarah does. I think she's incredibly dedicated to her work and her life is her work, I think because she's running from the grief she never dealt with. Then she's forced to confront some of it within Season 2 and I really was excited to explore that part of her a bit more.”

“I was quite excited to see … my parents because I think a lot of the time you watch shows, and some of the main characters seem to kind of exist solely in the world by themselves,” Sharif added. “I was really excited when I was like, ‘Oh, I've got some real life, parents.’”

For Akingbola, the excitement, broadly, was about being able to explore "everything that was going on with Steve in Season 1."

“I really was looking forward to exploring the other side of Steve's personality," he said. "His passion and how he's a bit more confrontational this season.”

Gemma Whelan as DS Sarah Collins and Jimmy Akingbola as DC Steve Bradshaw in The Tower, available to stream on Britbox
Gemma Whelan as DS Sarah Collins and Jimmy Akingbola as DC Steve Bradshaw in The Tower, available to stream on Britbox

'Your police officer response should be more important'

A highlight in The Tower: Death Message is watching Sharif and Whelan act with each other, really exploring the frictions between their characters. As Sharif highlights, Sarah and Lizzie have to work together "by circumstance rather than design."

“In Season 1, even though our storyline is so intertwined, we hardly ever physically were in the same scenes together because Lizzie was on the run and Sarah was hunting her down, until you kind of have that big confrontation ... towards the end,” Sharif said. “So this time it was obviously new for both of us, for both of our characters to exist in the same space at the same time, essentially working on the same case.”

“[Lizzie] has something to prove to Sarah because she knows certain things. She's a good cop and Lizzie has a lot of respect for Sarah, I guess not only as a kind of detective, but her level of experience.”

Whelan praised her experience working with Sharif, adding that it was particularly interesting to portray Sarah and Lizzie's differing opinions, while Sarah is also pushing Lizzie to be a better officer.

“I think, in her own way, Sarah is trying to push Lizzie to be a ... more rounded police officer," Whelan said. "Just think more, think with your head rather than your heart, don't make these rash decisions based on your human response. Your police officer response should be more important.

"I think they're always going to disagree about that because Lizzie will always lead with the heart, and Sarah will always lead with the head. That's probably why they make a great team because they've got all factions covered. But they're standoffish, I think, … they're certainly cautious of one another. I think neither agree with each other's procedure entirely.”

Tahirah Sharif as PC Lizzie Adama in he Tower 2: Death Message
Tahirah Sharif as PC Lizzie Adama in he Tower 2: Death Message

'Scary' crime scenes happening in real life

If you enjoyed Season 1 of The Tower, Season 2 is significantly darker and the level of danger in this storyline is significantly more severe. Akingbola stressed that this works particularly well because it's so linked to things that happen in real life.

"These things are happening in real life and we can try and do a watered down version, or we can give you, as close as we can, to how things actually happen," he said.

"What I find really interesting is some of those interview scenes that Sarah had, the language and how these people are owning who they are as well. The sex offender, ... there was no sense of shame or anything, it was terrifying at one point. But I think it's really important to show those aspects of what we have to deal with as police officers."

Whelan echoed her co-star's comments, adding that it was "quite scary" to execute these very real crime scenes.

"I [had been] sort of so naive and thought, I guess it's probably like one murder maybe every month or something, it's like every day, like many," Whelan said. "But you don't hear about them because there's often people that say ... [that's] just not newsworthy."

"This is happening day in, day out. These gritty, awful, terrible things are being witnessed by the police force."

Sharif also applauded the show's bravery to not shy away from the "ugly truth of crime."

"Especially with something like The Tower, it's dealing with really harrowing, awful situations," Sharif said.

"But these are not fictitious. These are things that people are going through every single day and I just think it's so important to show those as authentically as you possibly can. I do believe that we've done that."