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British Crime Dramas on Netflix Taking Me on a UK Tour From the Safety of my Couch Part 2

British Crime Dramas on Netflix Taking Me on a UK Tour From the Safety of my Couch Part 2

The Streaming Experience: British Crime Dramas on Netflix started yesterday with “Broadchurch”, moving on…..

Alas, there is no more “Broadchurch” to consume, at least for now, so rightly Netflixlead me to the powerful “Hinterland”, another British crime series that surprisingly uses a very similar formula, but with its own unique twist and a much darker, more disturbing underbelly. Also called “Y Gwyll”, which is Welsh for ‘The Dusk’, the police detective drama, which was original broadcast in the Welsh language on S4C, follows another slightly damaged big city detective, DSI Tom Mathias, played beautifully by the very appealing Richard Harrington (“The Crown”), who is quickly paired with a homegrown detective, DI Mared Rhys, dynamically portrayed by the subtle but powerful Mali Harries (“The Indian Doctor”). It is both tense and caring, finding the right edge of misogyny to play the game well with. Their dynamic bonding is as intricate and well crafted as each episode of this moody series. Mainly filmed in Aberystwyth and the surrounding county of Ceredigion on the west coast of Wales, each episode follows one particular case to its conclusion, with a dirty underbelly of deceit and manipulations in its central nervous system. We can’t help but feel the insidious dark treachery ride up and down the spine, as it seeps its way into all the cracks and crevices within. We watch, glued to the psychological twists as the tense knot is unraveled with clarity and expertise. Here is the key to why these shows dig in so deeply. It’s the trauma that is infused, not just within the crime and the victims, but reverberating in the souls of the ones trying to understand it. It is in the fact that it is happening within their own small community that fills their complex hearts with pain and connection, pushing them forward, not just for the sake of the law, but for the sake of their faith in humanity.

Remarkably, the show and each scene were filmed not once, but twice, in both Welsh and English, with the English-language version being aired on BBC One Wales. That impressive detail adds an air of authenticity that seeps into every aspect of the structure. The cast is magnificently steadfast and compelling at every deliciously detailed turn, with strong performances delivered by the talented Alex Harries (“The Sheffield Affair”) as Detective Constable Lloyd Elis; a complex Hannah Daniel (‘Black Mountain Poets’) as Detective Sergeant Siân Owen; and the compelling Aneirin Hughes (“EastEnders”) as the formidable Chief Superintendent Brian Prosser. The show pulls us in with a psychological outsider ease, centering itself around DCI Mathias’s troubled traumatic past that is kept delicately dangled before us, ensconced in a photograph tacked by his bedside. Running hard and fast from his London past, the show never gives too much of an explanation for his isolating and destructive ways, but when partnered with the intense and determined DI Rhys, a woman who has her own set of issues, the engagement finds force in its complications, grabbing hold of our collective heart and mind as tightly as one could hope for. Each gripping mystery bridges the Devil’s gap between the singular and the every overarching theme, delving and falling deep into the chasm between the innate care of a child and the horrors of neglect and abuse that can find its way in. The energy of deceitful shame and danger radiates and vibrates in the air and falls deep into the darkness and mud. It sneaks most assuredly into every moment, caking itself under their skin and nails, whether they are complicit or not. “Hinterland” is a truly emotionally satisfying framework the encompasses the whole from beginning to end, making the three season engagement with the detectives exceptional, gripping, with a conclusion that is thoroughly complete and riveting.

The formula for these two shows seem to works, and the similarities are obvious: the out of town troubled male detective, partnered with the homegrown female detective. It brings honesty and integrity to the mix, as well as a strong jolt of electricity in their disconnect. They don’t really get on well with one another, even as the shows barrels forward, but the ties that bind tighten with each emotional twist of the historic knife, feeding on the tense psychological trauma from before and finding a foundation and salvation that, although (and thankfully) never feels like a Hollywood ending, connects and enlightens. “Shetland”, the third series of my personal British crime drama invasion, is somewhat cut from the same cloth, although the details are as unique as the stunningly beautiful locale. (My god, I need to travel there, or anywhere, to be honest, one day soon.) THIS AD

“Shetland” is a Scottish crime drama drenched in a wanderlust atmosphere and oceanic mist, made by ITV Studios for BBC One. Initially based upon the novels of Ann Cleeves and brought to the screen by David Kane, the principal writer of the series, “Shetland” follows DI Jimmy Pérez, played brilliantly by the engaging Douglas Henshall (“Angels and Insects“; National Theatre’s The Coast of Utopia), a strong minded detective who returns to the islands of Shetland, an eponymous Scottish archipelago north of Scotland, to find life with his teenage daughter after the death of his loving wife. His police department partner, the young and fascinatingly clever Detective Sergeant Alison “Tosh” Macintosh, devilishly well played by Alison O’Donnell (‘Holby City‘), along with Detective Constable Sandy Wilson, delicately portrayed by Steven Robertson (“Vera“), unpack and investigate criminal activity in the small sparsely populated Shetland islands over two episode arcs. The setup sounds familiar, and it is, but the resulting drama has as strong a character as the other two shows, without feeling overshadowed of bested by either.

Steven Robertson, Alison O’Donnell, and Douglas Henshall in “Shetland” – (C) ITV Studios – Photographer: Mark Mainz

There is a tenderness and beauty in the production, and although mostly filmed on the Scottish Mainland, the crime series has a dynamic that feels as authentically unique from the crowded genre, as “Hinterland” does from “Broadchurch”. The cast is equally impressive, with Mark Bonnar, Lewis Howden, Erin Armstrong, Julie Graham, and Anne Kidd filling out the space on the islands dynamically as principal characters that ebb and flow with the tides. There are numerous finely tuned episodic performances of note, particularly with the always enticing Bill Paterson (“Fleabag“) as the island-bound father of DI Pérez, and also, the amazing Brian Cox (“Adaptation“; “Red“) as the recluse Magnus Bain. It is in the empathetic connection between Henshall’s detective and Cox’s intricate Bain, that the heart and soul of this drama are held strongly in an engaging warm glow that radiates out across the breathtaking vistas of the show’s namesake islands. 

Henshall won the 2016 BAFTA Scotland award for best actor for his turn as the complex mournful detective, searing his passion and his paternal care into every frame of the engaging series that also, most deservedly received the same award for Best TV Drama. I have yet to make my way through all of the episodes, as I just started season 2 last night. And low and behold, the structure has seemingly shifted from a two-episodic storyline, to a longer ongoing seasonal investigation, or so it appears as I look into the waters of season two/episode three. Luckily for us all, it seems more are on the way. BBC One announced on December 2, 2019 that two more seasons would be airing respectively in 2020 and 2021, with Henshall confirmed to return in his detective role, along with the indispensable O’Donnell. I have no idea how the pandemic has played with this intention, but I can tell you, as I get closer and closer to the end of this delicately crafted series, I will most definitely tune in to continue my tour of the Shetland Islands. It’s like a wanderlust gift to their captivated (and captured) audience, with suspense, mystery, and intrigue attached at every stop on its UK tour. If I’m going to be kept trapped in the couch riding out the pandemic in Canada, I might as well see some of the world as I do it, safely from my living room. With no need of a mask. Thanks Netflix, I appreciate the travel visa. But what is my next stop after “Shetland”? Maybe a trip to Iceland, via The Valhalla Murders. This eight-episode police procedural might just do the trick. I’ll let you know.


My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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