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Dark Harrowing Detective Drama Boasting Compelling Characters and Suspenseful Stories
on 29 June 2014
HINTERLAND, 2013. Series 1. This is a BBC Wales four-part crime drama television series set and largely filmed in the bleakly beautiful coastal town of Aberystwyth, Wales. Against backdrops of the city, mountainous terrain with remote close-knit villages, a seascape of windswept coastland, sand dunes. And the moors, which function as the badlands of the hinterland. The gritty noir police procedural that has been compared to BROADCHURCH and THE FALL stars Richard Harrington, (LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD), as the intense and troubled DCI Tom Mathias, another flawed hero for our times.
What WALLANDER is to Sweden, and THE KILLING is to Denmark, HINTERLAND is to Wales: dark harrowing detective drama boasting compelling characters and suspenseful, multi-layered stories. Harrington’s DCI Tom Mathias is a brilliant, brooding loner, now on the run from his past after ten years with London’s Metropolitan Police. Mali Harries (FOYLE’S WAR) is smart, hard-working DI Mared Rhys, a local girl who knows her land and people. The boxed set contains four feature-length episodes on two DVDs, running about 398 minutes. Interestingly enough, it was originally filmed in both English and Welsh. Even the English-speaking—heavily-Welsh accented-- version includes some Welsh dialog. Coarse language, nudity and violence make it for mature audiences only, please. It’s in widescreen, series 2 is in production.
The episodes are:
Disc 1, Episode 1, Devils Bridge.
DCI Mathias arrives in Aberystwyth, begins to settle into his lonesome seaside caravan when he's called to a blood-spattered house. It seems clear that the 64-year-old woman who lived there was brutally attacked, lost so much blood she must have died, but her body is not there. The investigation leads to scenic Devils Bridge and its falls, and an inn, formerly a children's home with a cruel history.
Disc 2, Episode 2, Night Music.
A 69-year-old man is found bludgeoned to death at a remote farmhouse. To solve his mystery, Mathias must go back into local lore and piece together eerie photographs, a tale of World War II German prisoners of war, an old letter in German, murky land deals, an organization of professional men, and a love story that spans some 70 years.
Disc 3, Episode 3, Penwyllt.
In an isolated quarry lake in the hills above Aberystwyth, amateur divers find a young man’s body. Mathias is pulled into the complex web of a nearby close-knit mountain village. The case is complicated by an apparent suicide and a hermit ex-convict whose lonely life in a caravan is too close to the detective's for comfort.
Disc 4, Episode 4, The Girl in the Water.
In marshland, two teenage boys come upon the body of a lovely young woman in a scarlet dress. Mathias becomes emotionally involved with her mother; Rhys notices. A suspect takes matters into his own hands; a previous case comes back to haunt the detective.
The series is gorgeously filmed. It is superbly acted, even to the smallest parts, by actors who, unlike those in American cop shows, look like they live in the real world. There isn’t a single pretty boy or girl among them. (Though I couldn’t help wondering why the British police tolerated Mathias’s scruffy appearance.) The powerful production seems to have been originally written for the screen; it gives us engrossing, moving characters with opaque character arcs. The occasional use of Welsh lends to its sense of place; the unobtrusive but appropriate soundtrack adds to every scene. The main protagonists are multi-faceted. Viewers will want to know more about them, but the writers, at least in this first series, are keeping their secrets. We get only bits about what caused our protagonist Mathias to relocate to this land that time seems to have forgotten. I found it hard to believe that someone, somewhere – in Wales – was able to create a show like this, that I found so exciting I was completely gripped by it, and nearly an overwhelming emotional experience. Wow.