Review: Hinterland/Y Gwyll (S2 E3/8), Sunday 27th September, S4C


Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 22.25.20Apologies this is a day late – it’s been quite a weekend, a weekend spent mostly at the Radio Times Festival. So this is the first time I’ve had a chance to sit down and savour the third episode of this second series of Hinterland/Y Gwyll. And savour is the right word because it’s slow-moving, intense stuff, with thoughtful, heartbreaking human stories set in foreboding, rugged rural communities. And this week – the start of a new two-part story (series two comprises four two-part stories) – was no different. 

By the end of the first episode of the series the writing team had established its main suspects, while the second episode we saw huge amounts (for Hinterland at least) of character back story being played out. We saw Mathias’s battles with the IPCC, his wife and himself play out. Now, with his wife out of the picture and the IPCC situation on the back burner the start of this new story was all about good, old-fashioned procedural.

It started with the murder of Owen Benyon, an affluent solicitor who to’d and fro’d between Ceredigion and London. Only a pair of expensive, antique guns had been stolen.

Mathias (after waking up in his car… has he ditched the caravan?) and Rhys got to work, first snooping around Benyon’s house (is there any better crime scene investigator than Mathias? He really looks for those little details), interviewing suspects and then, and this is very Hinterland, combing the valley and interviewing the people associated with Benyon for clues. We met Benyon’s neighbour and cleaning lady, Esyllt Jones, and her seemingly disgruntled twentysomething son Lewis, and the Powells – a dysfunctional family with a grumpy patriarch (Glyn), a kindly midwife wife (Beth) and a dreamer of a daughter (Branwen).

The Powell household was circled by dead vermin, hung up on washing lines (yes, more quintessential Hinterland), designed to ward off poachers. Glyn Powell, when interviewed, explained that he had lived in the valley for decades and he was damned if he was going to let anyone ruin his life’s work and income. He told Mathias and Rhys to go and find Daniel Protheroe – a weirdo who lived with his mother in a run-down shack in the middle of the valley, and who had a history of theft and poaching.

When Mathias and Rhys searched the shack in darkness they found a gruesome scene – the skeleton of Daniel’s mother, who had been dead for a while. With cobwebs and dust covering everything, it was obvious that this place had been undisturbed for a long time. The body, too, was curious – it had been laid out and dressed lovingly.

The search for Daniel Protheroe intensified, and not just by Mathias and Rhys – the farming community, led by Powell, had formed a mob to search this strange boy down. They had rage in their eyes and tasted blood, and it was only an intervention by first Mathias and then Rhys, in brilliant no-nonsense form, that dampened their bloodlust.

We found out that there was a personal reason for Powell’s hatred of young Daniel Protheroe – his daughter Branwen enjoyed a close relationship with him, which he was dead against.

The episode finished with Mathias pulling on his beanie hat and searching the valley at night, only to stumble upon Powell’s mob also searching for the young man. He also stumbled upon what seemed to be a grave.

Once again Hinterland proved to be intense, slow-moving viewing, with strong key themes running through it: family, dysfunction, feuds, anger and retribution.

We also had a small cast of suspects – Esyllt (who looks as though may have been in love wit Benyon) and her son Lewis and the angry Glyn Powell for starters. But Daniel Protheroe? Not a bit of it. You could tell that Mathias – who was sick of everyone telling him he was the man who did it – was sympathising with this young man on the run, the butt of everyone’s jokes and the outsider in the community. The fact that the news about his dead mother was now well known – thanks to Prosser – made the locals scared. It was a classic case of an outsider, who was always looked upon as a misfit, now provoking fear and ignorance throughout the community. You can bet your life that real murderer of Owen Benyon was someone who had a long-running feud with him, had family ties to him or was someone who had suffered heartbreak at his hands. That’s just the way Hinterland works.

One other thing – Prosser, who was so supportive of Mathias in the first two episodes – seemed to not necessarily turn against him in this episode, but wasn’t exactly helping Mathias in this episode. He seemed to take a special interest in the case, admitting he knew Owen Benyon. He also called Rhys into his office to ask her whether she thought he had done the right thing in supporting Mathias. When Rhys diplomatically (and a bit suspiciously) told him she thought Mathias was a very capable officer, Prosser agreed and told her that the IPCC had cleared him of any negligence in the Marie Davies case. Why he told Rhys alone is intriguing.

Paul Hirons

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