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TV review: Hinterland; Prey; Trying Again

Richard Harrington in BBC4's Hinterland. Photo: BBC/Fiction Factory/S4C/All3Media/Tinopolis

I blame Broadchurch. Ever since that show’s heady mix of murdered children, police procedural and personal purgatories garnered plaudits and ratings, other crime dramas have been falling over themselves to up the misery ante and out-gloom each other.

Cymru noir thriller Hinterland, set in and around the mid-Wales coastal resort of Aberystwyth, is suitably heavy on atmosphere, light on laughs and very liberal with the gore. It is also bilingual, which lends it a certain Celtic exoticism.

The drama’s inaugural, feature-length episode opened with a crime scene awash with blood but lacking a corpse, usually a prerequisite for such situations. Enter DCI Tom Mathias on his first day in the job, having recently transferred from the Met, possibly under a cloud. Hinterland is in no hurry to fill in the backstory details of its enigmatic and charismatic hero, broodingly played by Richard Harrington, rendering the detective almost as much of a mystery as the crime he is investigating.

[pullquote]Elegant, intelligent and infused with melancholy, Hinterland is reminiscent of Inspector Morse at its best[/pullquote]

The missing victim is elderly spinster Helen Jenkins, who, two decades earlier, was in charge of a children’s home at nearby beauty spot Devil’s Bridge. A probable motive of revenge soon emerges, as former residents accuse the  missing woman of having run the institution with a brutality that went way beyond abuse and into the realms of torture.

The story builds slowly and inexorably towards a tragic climax that could well have tipped over into melodrama if it wasn’t for the compellingly convincing performances of a universally impressive cast. Elegant, intelligent and infused with melancholy, Hinterland is reminiscent of Inspector Morse at its best.

In stark contrast to Hinterland’s slow-burn approach, three-part thriller Prey went straight for its audience’s jugular and refused to loosen its grip until the end credits arrived. A classic wronged-man scenario, the series stars John Simm as Marcus Farrow, a Manchester police detective who takes on a cold case concerning the disappearance of a local gangster and drug baron.

The investigation is beginning to yield some surprising results when it is interrupted by Farrow’s arrest for the brutal murder of his wife and child. Escaping from police custody, courtesy of a very impressively staged traffic accident, Farrow sets out to clear his name.

Prey is extremely frantic and unapologetically thrilling, but it still finds time to introduce small but intriguing character details that will doubtless be explored as the series progresses. Simm is, as ever, eminently watchable, and there is a remarkable scene in which he silently runs the gamut of emotions upon hearing of his son’s death. However, the supporting cast are equally good, particularly Rosie Cavaliero as a police colleague convinced of Farrow’s guilt, who harbours a few dark secrets of her own.

Taking a quick break from murder and death, there is just time highly to recommend Sky Living’s Trying Again, a bittersweet comedy starring Chris Addison and Jo Joyner as a young couple trying to salvage their relationship following her affair with her boss.

The script is witty, the comedy is unforced, the characters are likeable and the emotions on display all ring true.

Hinterland, BBC4, Monday, April 28, 9pm
Prey, ITV, Monday, April 28 , 9pm
Trying Again, Sky Living, Thursday, April 24, 9pm

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