Netflix unveiled its latest series today September 1st. They didn’t make this one, it is from the Wales in the UK and it aired there last fall in Welsh, and an English language version in January of this year. The series is called Hinterland. It consists (the Netflix version) of four episodes with each episode running 90 to 95 minutes.
IMDB describes the series: A noir crime drama set in Aberystwyth, Wales, where the knackered and troubled but intense DCI Tom Mathias [is] in search for redemption, while solving hate crimes.
And from Netflix: Forsaking London for the rustic landscapes of Wales, a police detective with a troubled soul finds himself in a place with secrets as dark as his own.
Now if this sounds somewhat familiar, I’ll gladly respond that yes, this is something like Broadchurch which took a whole season to solve one murder. This show is the opposite with a new case each week. The setting is in coastal Wales, and this is a place with mountains, and hills, and sea cliffs, and wet, cold, and damp weather. The terrain is the same as the weather – difficult and is best suited for people who can be described as hardy.
Deputy Chief Inspector Mathias is played by Richard Harrington, and his right hand is Deputy Inspector Mared Rhys played by Mali Harries. So, like Broadchurch, the two police leads are a man and a woman. Mathias lives in a ramshackle house high on a bluff overlooking the sea. He’s bearded, in his early 40’s, and is of medium height. We aren’t quite sure why he’s been posted to this part of Wales – which is across the sea and opposite Wexford, Ireland.
He lives alone and all we know of him is that he keeps a picture of two girls in his house. Likely his daughters – but there’s no sign of a wife. Each episode begins and ends with him doing his early AM run – and that he does this come rain or come shine on a daily basis. He’s not a big or imposing fellow, but he looks, judging from his running, to be quite fit.
In the first episode called Devil’s Bridge we meet Mathias on his first day on the job. Of course he’s an experienced homicide detective, but he can’t even get his tail into a chair before getting a call. He meets his right hand at the crime scene. An elderly woman has disappeared under what is likely violent circumstances; if the amount of blood found in the out-of-the-way sea-side bungalow is any kind of indicator. Besides the forensics there is one solid clue – a painting in a smashed glass frame. The painting (famous in this locality) depicts the face of the devil which seems to appear in the light and shadows formed by the folds of a scarf on the painting’s subject.
The missing woman, a Helen Jenkins, is a former mistress of a home for wayward children that is now a hotel. It’s location is in a nearby hamlet called Devil’s Bridge. We are not surprised when Detective Mathias finds the body of Helen Jenkins in the river bed in the gorge below.
The second episode is called Night Music, and this one also begins with the murder of an elderly man. As Mathias and Rhys do their work in solving the homicide a window into the past opens, and we’re going to learn of shady deals, and a dark and frightening history of events.
There are two more episodes but I’ve not watched them yet. Needless to say I am hooked by this bit of a very well done police detective drama. This is civilized Wales, and although the area dates back to the Mesolithic Era, we are definitely in modern times – with computers, cell phones, automobiles, and skilled forensics. But as we learn, despite the advances of science and technology, wherever you go, there still exists some kind of savagery.
The appeal of the series is the exoticness and emptiness of the locale, the distinctly ‘different’ English that we hear spoken, the skill of the leads both as detectives plying their craft, as well as the actors plying their craft. The cinematography is excellent, and in all honesty – I didn’t want to miss anything. In short I was all but glued to my sofa as the mysteries played out. The mysteries are murders that need solving – and as such they are like any other murders – both gruesome to consider as well as riveting.
But I’ll give the screenplay writers much of the credit as, to this viewer, these are very well written mysteries and the production values do match. The music is unusual and fits the series perfectly – matching the atmosphere of the location, as well as the characters and the crimes. I’ll gladly recommend the series for which the main ideal is the intelligence, yet the series, while it may lack enough action to be called exciting, is one that holds your interest and can be described as ‘gripping’ from the first moment to the last.
I’ve read that there will be a second season, and there’s a DVD available from Amazon. But if you want to see it straight-away, you ‘ll need a Netflix streaming account.
You can get a good sense of the series in this short trailer from The Guardian: