“Hinterland” (2013 – 2016)
Featuring: Richard Harrington, Mali Harries, Alex Harries, Hannah Daniel, Aneirin Hughes
If you have not heard of the television show “Hinterland”(2013 – 2016) then you have been missing out on a real treat, that, if you are a fan of dark, moody, nourish police dramas this will suit you down to the ground. The general conceit is not only different (for UK based shows) but also adds another layer to a format that lives and dies on differences that make them unique. The highly original aspect is that half of the show is in spoken English (with Welsh subtitles) and the other half is in spoken Welsh (with English subtitles) – which gives the show and immediate feel you will be hard pressed to discover in many other English television shows.
Even the title of the show is subtitles in Welsh; it is called Y Gwyll in Welsh (the translation for this is ‘The Dusk’) retitled “Hinterland” for English audiences.
The series first broadcast in 2013 was made up of four stories, each a two-parter; the 2015 series was the same but with a New Years Special; with the latest series in 2016 reverting back to the same format as 2013.
Even though the show can be seen as a procedural there is a main thread that runs through each story which is DCI Tom Mathias, who is on the run from his London past – there is no doubt that his inner workings which are somber also reveal a brilliant but troubled man, who continually isolates himself on the outskirts of a town that from the first episode indicate that they are filled with secrets as dark and destructive as his own.
It is simplistic to say that is a neo noir crime story set in modern times as Wales does add a layer that could be compared to the under layer that existed in post World War II America. If you look at some of the plot descriptions you get a feel for how the locale is portrayed not only through the people but the geography is important as is the climate that is in start contrast to the Noir of Los Angeles of the classic noir period. Of course the show is built around the central character of Tom Mathias who is as anti hero as ever there was, he is not a PI but at times he is not far removed from a hard boiled character. Instead of having been through the war or seen some horrors as a cop he has had some personal losses that inform not only his personality but the way he interacts with his colleagues, the families of victims, suspects as well as the guilty.
Of course it would not be much of a show if Mathias did not start to grow or find some closure, release and get to a place where he started to move forward – which can be something that happens in noir-ish stories.
Other aspects of the show that are integral to its difference is the location, set in Wales, that has been largely unknown, in particular the semi rural landscape which looks incredible, adding an aspect that is in stark contrast to other procedurals. That is not to say that the rural aspect is unique or new, because it most definitely isn’t – the difference is that those shows will show a quirky, fun or unusual type of local person, this program reflects a more hard boiled, hidden personality that struggles with reflecting what people actually are like and not what they are perceived as.
This, like many other UK based police shows are a slow burn normally over a period of an hour and a half which means that you go through many story points as well as emotional points on the way to the conclusion which is normally quite a way from the beginning of the story arc. This of course has become a trope within this genre, but “Hinterland” does offer something more as well as unique, that is the central character of Mathias who as we move through the series becomes a more whole individual than he is at the outset.
Overall I would recommend this highly and once again with a box set just released beg to be binged over a long weekend. This is at times a dark show but always has some positive point of view, mainly from the work mates of Mathias.
“Hinterland” is out now on DVD.
Series 1 (2013)
- Devils Brigade – On his first day in his new job in Aberystwyth, DCI Tom Mathias is called out to investigate a suspicious disappearance. In a quiet seaside bungalow, he discovers a bathroom covered in blood but no sign of the resident owner, Helen Jenkins. Discovering that Jenkins was once the manager of a children’s home, DCI Mathias and DI Mared Rhys venture up into the mountains, where DCI Mathias uncovers evidence which suggests Helen has been thrown from the parapet at Devil’s Bridge into the water below.
- Night Music – DCI Mathias investigates the brutal murder of 69-year-old Idris Williams, who was found bludgeoned to death in his farmhouse on the Aberystwyth mountains. Despite the lack of an apparent motive for the attack, the disappearance of camera equipment and one picture from the victim’s dark room suggest that whilst photographing the local landscape, Williams pictured something that nobody wanted him to see.
- Penwyllt – In the isolated village of Penwyllt, the body of a young labourer, Michael Reynolds, is found in the murky depths of a quarry lake. Initial forensics reveal that Reynolds did not drown where he was found, as water samples found in his lungs contain traces of sheep urine and faeces. As the investigation draws DCI Mathias into the heart of the close-knit community, he discovers that Reynolds was having an affair with the wife of the local pub landlord, and was taking the son of one of his co-workers deep into the forest to visit an hermetic villager, who some years previously had torched his own home and nearly killed his estranged wife and two children.
- The Girl in the Water – The carefully posed body of a young woman in a red dress is found in Borth Initial suspicion points towards an ex-boyfriend, who was assaulted by the girl’s father shortly before the girl died, and whose alibi is false. However, Mathias soon discovers the girl was also romantically involved with her university professor, who had tried to end their relationship on the night she died. As Mathias begins to grow close to the girl’s grieving mother, he realizes the investigation has missed one key suspect.
Series 2 (2015)
- In the Dead of Night – With blood on his hands, and his future hanging in the balance, DCI Mathias is forced to return to the front line after an arson attack on an isolated farmhouse leaves a mother and child fighting for their lives. Drawn into a community of failing farms and long-standing feuds, what is it about the case that draws Mathias in, pulling him back from the brink?
- Ceredigion – Mathias finds that his world has been turned upside down after his wife Meg turns up in Aberystwyth, and an investigation by the IPCC into his conduct is about to reach its conclusion.
- The Tale of Nant Gwrtheyrn – The murder of a local dignitary and barrister leads to the uncovering of a tragic story of love and loss, fueled by distrust and suspicion in the depths of the hinterland.
- Dark River – The discovery of a body in a lake leads to an investigation about a local teacher from a small rural school.
- The Sound of Souls – A burnt body on the dunes embroils the team in a long-standing family feud associated with the murder of a young mother, 13 years earlier.
Series 3 (2016)
- Aftermath – The murder of local minister Elwyn Jones leads a recovering DCI Mathias and his team deep into the secrets of a small farming village in rural Aberystwyth. Meanwhile, DS Owens leads the investigation into the attack on Mathias, and suspects that Iwan Thomas is more than likely responsible.
- A Poacher’s Discovery – Following the disappearance of Iwan Thomas, Prosser decides to distance himself from the case by pointing the finger of suspicion at Mathias. Meanwhile, the murder of a curator who is found buried in woodland leads Mathias and the team into the seedy history of a local artist, Lewis John, until he provides a solid alibi for the night of the murder.
- Both Barrels – A shooting at a rural petrol station leads Mathias and the team in search of a schizophrenic man who later resorts to kidnapping his own son.
- Return to Pontarfynach – The suicide of convicted murder Caitrin John gives Mathias a surprising new lead into the suspicious death of Iwan Thomas. With Powell having closed the case following pressure from on high, Mathias seeks Mared’s help to run a private investigation.
“Hinterland” is out now on DVD.