TV Review: Deadwater Fell

What better way to warm up for their Macbeth than by watching David Tennant and Cush Jumbo in in Deadwater Fell

“Is everything you said here a lie?”

Who knows why I didn’t watch Deadwater Fell at the time. Airing in January 2020, it’s not as if I didn’t suddenly have a lot of evenings to fill in the months to come but hey ho. As it turns out, leaving it until just before seeing its stars David Tennant and Cush Jumbo onstage in Macbeth at the Donmar Warehouse worked out alright in the end, though Anna Madeley and Matthew McNulty deserve equal lead plaudits for the TV show.

A twist on your usual whodunnit from writer and creator Daisy Coulam, it deals with the aftermath of a tragic house fire in the wee Scottish village of Kirkdarroch which sees a mother and her three young children perish, with only their father surviving. Investigators soon uncover that all were drugged and thus we go down the rabbit hole of secrets and lies and betrayal and abuse that sit under the happy facade they had long presented.

Using a flashback structure, we get to piece together how the public presentation of the key relationships in the village don’t match up to the reality. Tom (David Tennant) and Kate (Anna Madeley) are all happy families but her antidepressant use is causing some strain, including with Tom’s mum Carol (Maureen Beattie); and their best pals and neighbours Jess (Cush Jumbo) and police officer Steve (Matthew McNulty) are dealing with fertility struggles and co-parenting with Steve’s ex Sandra (Lisa McGrillis).

As the sole survivor, Tom quickly comes under suspicion and Tennant plays the dark ambiguity so well, naturally wracked by grief but carrying an undercurrent of something unpleasant which means he is surely involved, isn’t he? Madeley fleshes out Kate beautifully in those flashbacks and McNulty impresses as the guilt-ridden Steve, wishing he could have done more to save the kids. Jumbo completes the set with the somewhat cryptic Jess, her own sets of secrets weighing heavily on the whole affair.

Keeping it spoiler-free, the tension ratchets up brilliantly over the first three episodes and the ending doesn’t quite have the punch you expect, though it does offer a showcase for some seriously heavy acting and intense shows of emotion. Now onto Dunsinane.

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