Reminiscent of Scandi-Noir productions such as The Bridge and The Killing, Hinterland (or Y Gwyll, in Welsh) combines haunting scenery with suspicious disappearances, cold-blooded murders and family feuds which are guaranteed to see you coming back for more. The stunning though desolate landscape of Ceredigion, west Wales, provides the atmospheric visual backdrop to this BBC bilingual masterpiece.
As is the case with driven detective Saga Norén in The Bridge and investigator Sarah Lund in The Killing, Hinterland’s lead character DCI Tom Mathias – played by Richard Harrington, star of numerous BBC dramas including Silent Witness and, more recently, Poldark – has an inherently flawed persona yet is a first-rate detective. Arriving in Aberystwyth following a ten-year career at the London Met, outsider DCI Tom Mathias’ unorthodox methods steer his investigations to their conclusions – though not without compromising his reputation in the process, and garnering some less than supportive comments from his superior, the enigmatic CI Brian Prosser. On the run from his own past – though forced to relive it in order to resolve the crimes of the present – Mathias seeks solace in his ability to find justice for the living. Harrington’s performance is commendable as he faultlessly captures the innate vulnerability of a character who is on the brink of emotional collapse. With her knowledge of the close-knit local community and calm rationale DI Mared Rhys, played by Mali Harries, is the antidote to Mathias’ impulsive nature. Accompanied by talented DC Lloyd Ellis and ruthless DS Siân Owens, played by Alex Harries and Hannah Daniel respectively, the dynamic of this small team is nothing short of exceptional.
Vistas of farmhouses scattered across the remote countryside, isolated quarries, and secluded marshland are accompanied by an eerie soundtrack, which, in its lyric-less state, encapsulates the ethereal aura of the landscape. Hinterland opens with the discovery of a blood-stained bathroom and the mysterious disappearance of its owner Helen Jenkins, a children’s home manager. As the case unravels, so does the past – and there is no shortage of twists and turns as the case draws to a close. Subsequent episodes feature carefully-orchestrated murders in secluded locations, all fuelled by seemingly incomprehensible motives. Although each episode stands alone as a separate case, sub-plots surrounding the quartet of detectives at the heart of the show provide continuity. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the show is how its bilingual format gives the characters further depth, as the language spoken creates subtle changes in their mannerisms. Hinterland is the first BBC drama to feature dialogue in both English and Welsh, and was well-received by both Welsh and non-Welsh speakers alike.
A word of advice: a predominantly anglicised version of Hinterland is available on Netflix, but for the authentic experience opt for the bilingual version (series two is currently available on iPlayer) and prepare to see a darker side to the seemingly sleepy town of Aberystwyth.
Image courtesy of the BBC.