TV Review: Cape Wrath / Meadowlands

“The consequences of doing the right thing…”

Cape Wrath, or Meadowlands as it was retitled for the US market, was a 2007 TV drama which aired on Channel 4, following the fortunes of a family who have to enter a witness protection programme in an idyllic new neighbourhood but increasingly find that they may just have jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Lucy Cohu stars as the matriarch of the family, Evelyn Brogan, who with her twin children have been uprooted due to some unspecified incident that involved her husband, David Morrissey’s Danny and over the eight episodes of the show, it proves a good showcase for her talents.

Created and largely written by Robert Murphy, the story unwinds as a psychological thriller as the Brogans struggle to come to terms with their new way of life and find many a mystery which keeps their paranoia levels justifiably high. Morrissey’s Danny is the main investigator of the strange goings-on around him as his testy relationships with Nina Sosanya’s Samantha, the bureaucrat who runs the programme, Ralph Brown’s magnificently moustached policeman and Tom Hardy’s lascivious handyman with an eye on his daughter instantly put him on guard as he soon clocks that something suspicious is going on in their new home.

Cohu is excellent as Evelyn, as tolerant as she can be about the enforced change in circumstance but soon having to fight her own battles as Tristan Gemmill’s local GP gets fixated on her and threatens to reveal hidden secrets. And the heavy fringes and pouty lips of Felicity Jones and Harry Treadaway make them a convincing brother and sister pairing and the strange family dynamic between the four really works as they each get pulled into the strange world of Meadowlands through their various interactions with the slightly odd neighbours.

Since it was cancelled after just the one series though, there is a little frustration at the way in which the series plays out. A future life for the show was clearly intended and so there’s a whole lot which isn’t explored to a satisfactory degree and this largely affects the supporting cast. In the latter stages, we get increasing knowledge about the various occurrences that landed all of these people into the witness protection programme and thus explain (at least some of) their strange behaviours. Where this works, as in the case of Melanie Hill and Ella Smith who pair up as a Scouse mother and daughter duo, it is extremely effective. 

But too many others are left under-explored (perhaps we would have learned more in a second series) like Don Gilet and Siân Brooke’s operatives and Sosanya’s Samantha, who gets most of one episode devoted to an extraordinary incident from her past, has nothing more of substance to do. So it becomes a bit frustrating in the last third as it becomes apparent what we will and won’t get to find out and as we hit the final episode, which really does feel a little rushed with its grand plans and big reveal, it was hard not to feel just a little disappointed. Still, it’s undoubtedly an engaging watch overall and a great opportunity to see Cohu work at length on a strong character.

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