by Kathleen Costa
AcornTV was my first streaming experience…my gateway entertainment, so to speak. I tested a few free trials, but this membership offered me everything I could want as an incurable Anglophile. With access to several favorites, often iconic, British productions and a vast number of new-to-me programs I thought I’d never be able to enjoy short of traveling to London, I was in Heaven. The first week I was lightheadedly giddy over all the shows that I could watch anytime, anywhere, on any device…sitcoms, detective shows, dramas, documentaries and even game-style shows that never made it to America. After four-years of bliss, I’ve watched so many my husband has seen a change in my manner…I forego coffee for tea with milk, scones with jam replaced toast, it’s the loo, my bum, and cursing the news includes words like “bloody” this and “bloody” that. All this delight is well worth the $5.99 monthly fee or my favorite special $59.99 annually, especially when new-to-me programs pop up like the Welsh Hinterland and New Zealand’s One Lane Bridge.
Hinterland. (Y Gwyll) (2013-2016; 26 episodes), an original creation by Ed Thomas and Ed Talfan, is a noir crime drama set in West Wales. Despite the police station being situated in an urban setting, several crimes take place in the surrounding diverse urban areas often making the landscape an underlying character. Some of the murder investigations, frequently dark, with which a small team of four detectives grapple involve karmic justice, yet others reveal a prejudice, greed, or deep psychological deviancy. In episode one, the tale of Devil’s Bridge provides some insights into the tone the series would take: the devil being embarrassed by the cleverness of an old lady explains why “he [the devil) never set foot in Wales again,” however, Mathias, the lead detective, responds, “Some would say that he never left.”
YouTube—Hinterland Trailer (0:1:36)
DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) is a veteran detective who jogs by himself, lives in a caravan on the edge of a cliff by himself, and often investigates by himself. This perfectly illustrates his emotional isolation after suffering a breakdown following the death of one of his young daughters which reoccurs throughout the series. Chief Superintendent Prosser (Aneirin Hughes) assigns Mathias as the lead of the detective squad, yet he’s demanding, interfering, and closely scrutinizes Mathias’s manner. DI Mared Rhys (Mali Harries) was the lead detective, a local and valuable for her knowledge and insights, but with Mathias assignment, she’s demoted, in a sense, to second-in-command. She’s not happy with the changing of roles often being snippy with Mathias or other members of the team, young DC Lloyd Ellis (Alex Harries) and DS Sian Owens (Hannah Daniel). But, there is growth, a closer understanding, and a rate of successful cases closed. It is important to note that the first and last episodes of the series are deeply connected; like the closing of a circle, it is truly a shocking, yet satisfying type of closure many productions often ignore or find unable to provide.
Hinterland. is a unique bilingual production filmed in Welsh (titled Y Gwyll, Welsh for ‘the dusk’), and English, (titled Hinterland, appropriately one definition is ‘an area lying beyond what is visible or known”). Each scene is actually filmed twice, in Welsh and in English. It was reported at the time this was meant to mainstream Welsh language, life, and culture. A Behind-the-Scenes is included for each of the three seasons exploring the unique production, the cast, and post-production work for each telemovie. Earns 5/5 Welsh Mysteries…Riveting!
One Lane Bridge (2020; 6 episodes) is set in Queenstown, New Zealand, surrounded by stark mountains, some covered in snow, adding to the eerie feelings brought about by the one lane bridge. Although not spoken of, the one lane bridge is said to be a link to the other side and awakens second sight, matakite. This is illustrated well in the opening scene as viewers pan over a drowned kayaker, a couple lying on the shore with wrists covered in blood, a man hanging from the bridge, and an overturned vehicle with four mangled bodies strewn across the road. “Stay away from the bridge. It’s not safe,” is a good warning, but one the new DCS finds hard to heed.
DSS Stephen Tremaine (Joel Tobeck; Dr. Blake Mysteries) introduces DCS Ariki “Riki” Davis (Dominic Ona-Ariki) to Queenstown with a missing person search. Jack Ryder, a family friend suffering from dementia, has gone on “walkabout,” and although the man is found not worse for wear, Riki meets the Ryder family riddled with disfunction from alcoholism, strained relationships, and a farm burying the family in debt. It’s even more disturbing when Jack’s son, Andrew Ryder, nicknamed “Grub,” is found dead at the bottom of the bridge.
DCS Riki Davis is a Cook Island Maori, previously worked in Auckland, and has come to learn from the best. He’s also a road biker training for the Coast to Coast race, and has taken up temporary residence in the guest room at Tremaine’s home. There he meets Lois, Tremaine’s wife, who for decades has been confined to a wheelchair as the result of a foolish dare to jump from the bridge made to her by Grub, her boyfriend at the time and the latest victim to add rumor to the bridge. She tells Riki of the bridge and warns him of its unusual dangers, but Riki keeps to himself the unsettling images that have already confronted him on the bridge.
The investigation into Grub’s death may be complex, but the motives are those typically found among family, friends, and even members of the investigation making it a challenge to focus on one. A dysfunctional family dynamic spotlights jealousy, unrequited love, revenge best cold, and, of course, money…always money. While dealing with issues within the police station that might be described as racist, DCS Davis slowly embraces his “second sight,” yet often finding more mystery than clarity. His final vision does lead to tragic answers. But, it’s the shocking image at the end of the show that is the most disturbing. The hanging man? A second season is set for the UK in November. US? Soon after. Earns 5/5 Creepy Bridges…Outstanding!
Iconic Gem is Back!
Midsomer Murders has returned for its twenty-second season, and like many productions dealing with Covid restrictions and concerns, Midsomer Murders had a lapse between the first two episodes (Reviewed HERE), which aired in early April, and the conclusion of the season with four more episodes now available. Neil Dudgeon returns as John Barnaby with his partner DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) and together they’re abandoned with a not-so-happy-extended-family in “Happy Families” with guest stars Rachael Stirling (Detectorists) and Caroline Quinton (Jonathon Creek, Blue Murder), exploring not-part-of-the-display victims in “The Scarecrow Murders,” directing not-so-Penzance-Pirates in “For Death Prepare” with Nick Hendrix and Fiona Dolman showing off their singing voices along with guest star Kevin Whately (Morse, Inspector Lewis), and navigating not-so-“psychic-twaddle” in “The Witches of Angel’s Rise.” The new investigations maintain the clever and intriguing drama that twenty-four years have established with multiple victims further diminishing the Midsomer population, crafty twists to keep fans guessing, and a continued endearing dynamic between the detective partners, the detectives and the coroner Dr. Perkins (Amanda Badland), husband and wife Sarah (Fiona Dolman), and parents and child Betty. All 132 episodes are available on AcornTV for fans to binge John Nettles thru Neil Dudgeon. Earns 5/5 Iconic Detectives…Brilliant!
Consider These Excellent Dramas!
Manhunt (2019; 2021 seven episodes) showcases the diversity of iconic actor Martin Cunes (Doc Martin) as DCI Colin Sutton in this true-crime drama based on the memoirs of real-life former Met police detective DCI Colin Sutton. Season one’s three episodes focuses on the true-life story of the murder of a French student. Season two has just aired episode one out of four focusing on the Night Stalker that for eleven years has had no closure. Earns 5/5 Murderous Headlines…Compelling!
The Beast Must Die (2021) is a British thriller focusing on Frances Cairnes (Cush Jumbo; VERA, The Good Wife) who is bent on avenging her son who died in a car accident by killing the man responsible (Jared Harris; Guy Richie’s Moriarty). Troubled Detective Nigel Strangeways (Billy Howle) is working to bring her justice, but also stop her from taking the law into her own hands. A season two has been confirmed and will focus on Detective Strangeways’s past. Earns 5/5 Vengeful Mothers…Intense!
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