When you hear the terms The Wild West, what do you think of? Well if you are of a certain age, and grew up watching westerns at the movies, or shows featuring gunslingers, sheriffs, and gangs of bad dudes in long slickers that rode into a town, terrified the locals, and created havoc on TV, then you are likely to be thinking of America’s old west. Covered wagons, settlers, cattle ranchers, panning for gold, and then later, wildcat drilling for oil.
There were tons of open spaces, isolated settlers’ homes, hard scrabble land, and most folks had to find a way to live off the land.
But the American Old West as in the Wild West is now for most of us a distant memory. Oh westerns still get made, and we dutifully take them in. But if you take a look at Hinterland Season 2 (available on Netflix) you can see a newer west. Actually it is far older than the American West, in terms of how long it has been settled, but that’s just facts.
I’m talking about Wales on the west side of Britain. And more specifically, I’m talking about the second season of this detective series shot entirely in and around Aberystwyth, Cardigan, in Wales, of the UK. We’ll follow as our detectives drive down lonely lanes into what seems the middle of nowhere. We watch as they enter ramshackle, run-down homes looking for evidence, or at least something that might become a clue or a lead. And we listen as they question people quite down on their luck – all similarly garbed in what one might call country rustic – you know, big checked flannels, rough boots, jeans on occasion. And through four of the five 90 minute episodes, I’ve seen no sign of camo styled clothing, or even down parkas or vests. Edit: In the third scene of episode 5 a man working in a shipyard repairing a boat is wearing a camo jacket.
DI Mared Rhys, played by Mali Harries, is the lead female. She’s basically in vee-necked sweaters and slacks, and she’s worn a red, fur-trimmed parkas for outerwear throughout. Richard Harrington plays Tom Mathias and he wears rumpled denim shirts with a tie (he must wear a shirt and tie per the regs). jeans, boots, and a windbreaker jacket.
As this season begins we find Mathias in a rented trailer set high above the sea. on a hilltop.
He’s a wreck. Unkempt would be a kind description. He’s been on a leave of absence from cop work. He lost his young daughter to the dangerous riptide of the sea, and as his massive depression set in (he blamed himself for his child’s death); he simply has let himself go.
But his boss, Chief Superintendent Brian Prosser needs him back on the job. It is a simple choice – come back to work tomorrow, or never come back.
The first case is a tough one. There’s been a case of arson at an isolated farm-house. The home is destroyed, a young mother is hospitalized, and a six-year old boy will soon die from the burns.
Mathias comes back, and we can see that it is a struggle for him. Where ever you work they always tell you to show up, do your work, and leave your personal issues at home. If only it were that easy.
Harrington is marvelous as Mathias. You can see the grief on his face most of the time. He’s dour, and rarely smiles. He takes no joy in his work, and that is true even though, work is the best thing he can do at the time. The cases get tougher – a local bus driver has been forced off the road, and shot execution style with a bullet to the head.
A wealthy solicitor is found shot to death in his own home. A car is pulled out of lake with a body in it – who is it, and why was she killed?
The detective work goes with Mathias & Rhys doing the field work, and two others, Detective Constable Lloyd Ellis
and Detective Sergeant Sian Owens.
These two mainly are seen following leads and doing the communication, computer, and fact checking. There’s nothing special in how information is uncovered. Mathias doesn’t get any sudden inspirations or wild theories that seem to work out. Rather, he’s sharp-eyed and misses almost nothing when it comes to physical clues.
Rhys is and looks more sympathetic. It’s not quite good cop and bad cop. Instead we have softer vs harder.
But what sets this show up as a winner is the absolutely brilliant camera work, cinematography, lighting, editing, and attention to detail. You will be hard pressed to see anything that isn’t simply brilliant in the areas just listed. In the Netflix version (for the USA Market) the actors all speak English. But I am told that since this show is about Welsh people in Wales, there is a version out there in Welsh.
I highly recommend this series. It has marvelous actors, strong dramatic content, and not much in the way of action. This is not say there aren’t any chases or physical confrontations – they’re just not paramount in this skillful and intelligent dramatic series.
If I may make one small complaint. Netflix has released the show as 5 episodes of 90 minutes each. I think in the UK version they split each of the episodes into two parts. So there are times when you might think the series is simply too slow for your liking.
Here’s a trailer –