Review: Quirke (S1 E3/3), Sunday 8th June


Sorry, sorry, sorry. Time got away from me last weekend – it was nice out, ok, and I had to go to Southampton – and I didn’t manage to review the second episode of this mid-1950s-set Dublin noir, starring Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon (although I did watch it). It has been a studied and engrossing examination of the taboos of mid-century Ireland, a country that has provided endless subject matters for thriller writers over the years. The acting has been superb and the stories interesting during the series, and the finale delivered more of the same, good-looking noir stuff.

Priest: How often do you pray?
Quirke: Who would I pray to?

This final episode of this stylish three-part series started with The Rehabilitation Of Quirke, which showed our crime-solving pathologist shivering and cold turkeying his way out of his affliction of The Drink in the austere bosom of St John Of The Cross, a Catholic retreat (probably a little too neatly if truth be told).

He’s been through the mill, Our Quirke. Not only did his drinking reach worrying and destructive levels. And who could blame him? In the previous episode we saw the wholesale rejection of Quirke by his daughter, Phoebe, and Quirke’s frisson with his brother’s wife came to full fruition. We all know how that ended.

Throughout the three stories there has been an examination of identity. Who is Quirke? Where did he come from? Who is he now? Not only has Quirke himself been dealing with these questions, his daughter is now experiencing the same notions of displacement and disillusionment her father did when he found out his true parenthood. As ever, Quirke, at its heart, hasn’t been a crime drama at all – it has been the story of a dysfunctional family in mid-1950s Ireland, a place of heavy, ancient religious codes and repressed family secrets.

But it has been identity that has served as the underlying theme here. Family members who have been ripped apart because of secrets and lies have experienced that one, most precious thing being taken away from  them – who they thought they were and who they have been told they are. The grand tent of artifice that everyone constructs around them, the pegs hammered into the ground by their families, blown away by the storms of truth.

In episode two we also saw an examination of identity – that time visual representation and identity – while in this episode we examined the identity of a young woman called April, who had gone missing. This was identity through reputation – even though Phoebe, her friend, was worried about April’s absence, her family maintained that this was usual for the young woman and that she was reckless and slightly wanton. The story provided a shocking dénouement.

There were interesting side plots too – Quirke’s relationship with his new actress friend and his possible route to sobriety; his ever-closening relationship with Phoebe; the intriguing story of Patrick and racism in 1950s Ireland and, right at the very end, the relationship between the two step-brothers, Malachy and Quirke, and their father, Garret.

This last strand of the story was interesting. After such heinous revelations in episode one, the three men had become much closer, proving that despite the secrets, the lies and the destruction that families can cause, they’re all we have.


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