by Kathleen Costa
BritBox, to me, is synonymous for “binging.” With the variety of mini-series or multiple-season programs from comedies to dramas to mysteries, it is marvelous that BritBox provides them in bunches or all at once. No waiting. I can start at the beginning and in an afternoon, over the weekend, or all month long I can enjoy a few laughs, a few sighs, or a cringe or two. If I really like it, I can enjoy a rerun, or with my American ear, I can pause and rewind to more clearly catch an odd Scottish phrase. From all thirteen episodes of Cadfael, eight seasons of Inspector Morse, and twenty seasons of Midsomer Murders…I missed nothing! My membership fee has been well worth it!
Murder Midst the North Sea
Shetland, based on the crime novels by Ann Cleaves (author of the Vera Stanhope novels), is a compelling contemporary detective drama set on the Shetland Islands northeast of mainland Scotland and surrounded by the cold depths of the Norwegian and North Sea. The largest of the Shetland islands and the main setting of this drama is called Mainland, and the culture and observances are a blend of Norse and Scottish. The islands are more than just a backdrop, often they are an integral character in the story with its stark environment often isolated, bleak, and the perfect circumstances for betrayal, theft, trafficking, and murder.
The Shetland National Police Constabulary is headed by DI Jimmy Perez, brilliantly cast with Douglas Henshall. He is a widow and father/guardian of step-daughter Cassie whom he has adopted. The biological father, Duncan Hunter (Mark Bonnar), is quite the challenge, and the dynamics between Jimmy and Duncan is more like brothers: friendly, competitive, and a bit of dysfunction. DI Perez is supported by an excellent and dedicated team: the young, intuitive DS Alison “Tosh” Macintosh (favorite Allison O’Donnell), DC Sandy Wilson (Steven Robertson), Sergeant Billy MaCabe (Lewis Howden), and procurator fiscal Rhona Kelly (Julie Graham). The interactions between the characters maintain a hierarchy associated with their rank, but they are intwined with familial concern, protectiveness, and respect.
Season Five earns 5/5 Detective IDs…Don’t Miss This!
A severed arm washes up on shore instigating a massive search for a killer, but the subsequent evidence points to a more sinister crime…people trafficking. DI Perez’s deliberate, yet compassionate, manner runs afoul of a distraught mother, questionable businessmen, additional murder victims, and threats too close to home. Perez has been a widower for quite awhile and seems to be opening his heart, but things aren’t easy.
Most compelling! The six episodes (50+ minutes each) are all part of one intense story. The crime deals with the issue of human trafficking, and DI Perez shows his extreme emotions. Although he has always shown a “by the book” attitude, his emotions get the better of him as he gets into some faces and threatens others. The stories are never straight forward; there are always left turns and twists leading to a satisfying conclusion. Happy endings? Some. Justice? Enough. Eager for season six? Absolutely.
Binging at its Finest!
The 2013 season one pilot is the perfect introduction with two near 60-minute episodes based on the novel Red Bones by Ann Cleaves and earning my rave reviews. DI Perez investigates the death of DC Wilson’s grandmother, discovery of a more modern skull at an archaeological site, and connections to the WWII Shetland Bus. All this makes the influx of tourist for the upcoming Norse fire festival of Up Helly Aa a questionable impediment.
Season 2 (2014) has six episodes with each pair of episodes based on a different Ann Cleaves’ novel. Each story is brilliant, engaging, and always with a twist you don’t see coming! Raven Black begins with the discovery of a local teenager, but the investigation leads to the remains of a young seven-year-old girl missing for nearly twenty years. Dead Water has Perez chasing the killer of an old friend, whose investigative reporting may have been deadly. However, nothing is ever what it seems with an additional death. Blue Lightening has Perez and Tosh stranded on Fair Isle investigating the death of a scientist, and although it seems they have the answer, a final piece of the puzzle just changed it all.
The format for season 3 (not yet available) and season 4 changes as, like season 5, all six episodes are part of one story. Season 4 (2018) is intense and compelling as DI Perez is forced to reopen a twenty-three-year-old cold case after the man convicted of the crime is released from prison. When a reporter is found murdered in the same manner, the town goes on high alert and Perez discovers a connection close to home.
Just for a Bit of Fun!
YouTube – Douglas Henshall’s Guide to Scotland & Glaswegian Slang (2:46)
Free Trial Offer on BritBox?
Check out the website for any free trial offers…just imagine what you can watch in a week. You’ll be hooked! The monthly fee is very reasonable to continue as a member.
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