“Time to come back, the past is the past”
Our appetite for dark crime dramas is seemingly insatiable but it is helped by the quality of programming that is now being sourced from a wide range of countries. One such drama that is closer to home than most is the Welsh-language police procedural Y Gwyll, which is also broadcast in a bilingual English and Welsh format as Hinterland. The 5 part second series of feature-length episodes has just been released on DVD by Nordic Noir and Beyond.
Labelled as part of the Celtic Noir movement, it is interesting to try and locate Hinterland in the televisual landscape and it does fall naturally somewhere in the North Sea – the influence of the all-conquering Scandi-crimewave is certainly there, as are hints of something more homegrown – as reductive as comparisons are, I’d say this is a cross between the Icelandic Trapped and bleak West Yorkshire of Happy Valley.
Shot on location in the mid-Wales county of Ceredigion, Hinterland makes fantastic use of the beautiful but often harsh landscape in which it is set. Windswept beaches, isolated farms, unforgiving woodland, these locations are very much a part of the stories being told, particularly in the ways that they have shaped the long-enduring, long-suffering rural communities who lie at the heart of the crimes being committed here.
The second series opens with former Met officer DCI Tom Mathias having some of his much-guarded personal life revealed in light of the traumatic events of the last series’ end. Having moved to Ceredigion coast to live in an isolated static caravan with just a photo of two young girls hinting at his past, matters of professional conduct and personal tragedy come to a head with powerfully moving results.
Richard Harrington gives us a great grizzled tactiturn detective in Mathias, and his scenes with Anamaria Marinca as his wife, are some of the series’ best. And unwilling – or unable – as he is to show much emotion, the rare moments when something breaks through, whether a scream or a smile, are brilliantly done. As his red mac-sporting sidekick DI Mared Rhys, Mali Harris is a great foil, inscrutable but loyal and unlike Mathias, a vital local link which frequently proves invaluable, reinforced by the rest of their equally bilingual team in Alex Harries and Hannah Daniel.
The five cases featured in this series, written by a scriptwriting team that includes locally-based writers, delve interestingly into this complex rural society, held together by nothing so much as secrets and feuds as anything. The late emphasis on an overarching storyline that harks back to Series 1 and presumably to what will happen in Series 3 is clunkily managed though, pulling focus horribly and confusingly in the final episode in a way that doesn’t necessarily feel needed, the action having already felt suitably epic.
Still, Y Gwyll / Hinterland is a worthy addition to the canon of strong crime dramas and particularly interesting as an uncompromisingly Welsh one.