I’ve said it before but Hinterland’s (or Y Gwyll’s) relentless gloom, tortured lead character and stark but beautiful landscapes make it the closest thing to a Scandinavian crime drama these isles have ever produced. No wonder they love it in Denmark. At the end of the New Year’s Day special significant character development had occurred. Thanks to an emotional case involving a young mother who had started a fire designed to take her own life but took the life of her baby son as well, we found out the cause of DCI Tom Mathias’s woe – he too had lost a child. Add in the appearance of a mystery man asking Mathias to ‘come back’ and the re-emergence of his wife, and there was a sense that his past was catching up with him. Now, I was eager to see how he would deal with these returning characters from his past.
Straight away there was a confrontation between Meg (his wife) and Mathias in his weather-beaten, cliff-top caravan. There was talk of guilt, of having to move on and how staring at her picture would not bring her back. Meg and their daughter Hannah needed them, she told him.
That wasn’t the only thing on Mathias’s already overloaded plate. The IPCC had called him and DI Rhys in for questioning about the Mari Davies case. Did his personal angst and previous life experiences put him in the right frame of mind for this case? Why did suspect Dyfan Richard – who had slit his wrists – have bruising around his neck? Did Mathias remember physically attacking a suspect during an interrogation back in his London days? He slammed the table, unable to control his anger. That same anger his interrogator was suggesting that made him a liability had resurfaced once again.
But they were interrupted (just as well, for Mathias’s sake). A man had been shot on a rural bus route, the driver – Carl Probert – taking a shot to the back of the head. And so Mathias and Rhys started their investigation, visiting isolated businesses and homes to find out the truth. It was typical Hinterland – they visited run-down dwellings and met people who were barely able to scratch together a living. There was bus dept boss Endaf Jones, who had been caught putting red diesel into his fleet a few years back and who liked to sneak a gulp of whiskey now and again in his portakabin; there was John Bell, the company’s mechanic, who lived alone in his uncle’s old place after doing a stretch for manslaughter, after he had done a tour of Afghanistan; and there was ex-junkie Gary Pearce, who Bell had met in prison and had offered help on the outside to. All people (men in this instance) who had lived tough lives and were barely able to exist out in the harsh, quiet Ceredigion area.
They were all suspects, keyed in on by Mathias and Rhys. But in the end it was an embittered middle class family that emerged as the prime suspects. It was established that Probert had been using the bus route to deal drugs, with the help of Pearce, to sixth form and university students. One of them, Geraint Hopkins, had been left first in a coma and then in a perpetual state of mental disability thanks to Probert and Hopkins’ pills. Their family, it became clear, had been out for revenge.
And this, again, was pure Hinterland – very real, human stories and sound reasons for acts of crime. And, as ever, with Hinterland there were strong underlying themes to the case. This time it was parenthood. From Mathias’s guilt over the death of his daughter and his extrication from his wife and remaining daughter’s life and the examining of the idea that Probert was only dealing because he wanted to provide for his wife and daughter, to the Hopkins family’s vengeance, family and parenthood were everywhere you looked.
It all bubbled nicely along, but one thing was different in this first episodes – Mathias and Rhy’s relationship had completely broken down. They barely spoke a word to each other – Mathias, especially, was bitter at some of the answers she gave to the IPCC.
With his wife threatening to take herself and their daughter to Canada for a fresh start and the IPCC investigation a thorn in his side, there was a lot for Mathias to deal with. “I’m trying,” he whispered mournfully to his wife after he failed to turn up to a restaurant meeting. He needs to try harder if he’s going to turn his life around.
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