Review: Hinterland/Y Gwyll (S2 E8/8), Sunday 31st October, S4C

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Apologies for the late review of this, but it has been another busy week. There has been another reason for this lack of punctuality – I needed to digest this final episode of the series throughout the week, and watch it again. Why? Because things started to get a bit incomprehensible towards the dénouement. In fact, I’m still none the wiser.

Lest we forget, this final story of the series concerned the murder of Aron Bowen, a convicted murderer, whose charred remains were found on the beaches of Ceredigion. Bowen had recently got out of prison after serving time for murdering his partner Abi Watkins. In happier times they had had a daughter, Ffion, who was raised by Aron’s brother Cal and wife Delyth.

The first part of this story established that the Bowen and Watkins families had a long-standing beef – their boat-based businesses had clashed, to tragic effect, decades before – and Aron and Abi were star cross’d in many ways. They were head over heels, but their families were dead against the relationship. It was also established that there were holes in the original Aron Bowen case, and Tom Mathias, always one to side with the underdog and the wronged when he gets a whiff of injustice, was starting to pry into something he evidently shouldn’t be prying into. He was told in no uncertain terms by Prif Arolygydd Prosser that he should concentrate on finding Bowen’s killer, not re-examine his murder conviction. Why? We weren’t sure just yet, but it was obvious Prosser was involved, to the extent he was talking to shady, unknown figures on the telephone about shady and unknown things.

And so the case slowly unfolded. Mathias and Rhys steadfastly moved around the coastal community of Aberystwyth, the clanging of boat yard bells never far away from our ears. They tolled for the dead, those lost at sea, but also for the lives spent forever forging and mending in the yards, smashing and shaping metal as the salty sea winds buffeted them until their skin became scratched and parched. These are the people who Hinterland/Y Gwyll gives a real voice to; the forgotten people who, like on the farms in the Ceredigion valleys, live isolated, wretched lives.

It was from this well of muted, suppressed bitterness Aron Bowen’s killer was forged. It was his brother Cal who finally ‘fessed up, explaining that Aron insisted he take back his daughter. This was the same child who Cal and Delyth had raised after Aron had gone away to atone for his unspeakable act. But it was becoming clearer that Aron did not commit this other crime, and Mathias knew it. Eventually, he was led back to the boat yard and to Aron’s mother Annes, who more or less admitted she was responsible for the murder of Abi Watkins because of the hatred that existed between the two families. She had worked so hard for so long in the Bowen family boat yard since her husband died, and she couldn’t bear to let it fall to a Watkins, and a potential daughter-in-law at that.

Again, two very Hinterland/Y Gwyll-style reasons why these two murders had been committed. Both were rooted in long-standing family feuds, of unresolved hatred that bubbled up into something evil and rageful.

Throughout the investigation Mathias had taken a real shine to young Ffion, who was being torn apart now both her father and mother were gone. She had no one else to turn to, and Mathias, who had a two-daughter hole in his life, comforted her one stormy night in his caravan when she came knocking. He exhibited tenderness and compassion and saw in this broken 17-year-old not his own daughters but also part of himself. The night didn’t end well. When Ffion misunderstood Mathias’s compassion, moved in for a kiss and was rebuffed, she fled the caravan – with some of Mathias’s sleeping tablets. She telephoned him the next day saying that she blamed herself for her father’s death and intended to end her life. She was saved just in time.

Hinterland/Y Gwyll specialises in heartbreaking, plausible stories like these, stories that are rooted in the environment and stories that have so much earth beneath their nails it’s hard not to feel deeply affected by them. These stories are often about families, but this series has been about parenthood, mirroring Mathias’s (and Rhys, to some extent) own failing parental duties and the breakdown of his family.

So that was the good bit. Now we get to the perplexing bit. The Iwan Thomas storyline had been bubbling underneath the surface for a couple of episodes. I have to admit I could not, for the life of me, remember who Iwan Thomas was and how he fitted into the story. When I interviewed excellent showrunner Ed Thomas recently he said the finale of this series would hark back to the very first episode, and the Devil’s Bridge school abuse case.

Iwan Thomas had met Prosser for a secret, late-night meeting in a diner in this finale. He told him he was coming for him and asked him why didn’t he support him the same way he supported Mathias. I was frantically trying to remember what happened in that first episode almost two years ago, and what part Iwan Thomas played in it.

The end of the episode saw Prosser, as is his want, sit in a dark office staring at the Devil’s Bridge case files. The text was obscured but Iwan Thomas’s name was in there. I still had no clue what was going on with this angle. Iwan Thomas was an ex-police officer, that was for sure, but I had to google him and try and refresh my memory. If you have to google a key plot point and character from the past, that’s never a good ting. I just wish there was a little bit more explanation, because, as Thomas (it was obviously Thomas) burnt down Tom Mathias’s caravan right at the end of the episode, destroying the only photograph of his two daughters (as well as knocking Mathias unconscious as he stood watching his home go up in smoke), the series ended in confusion for me.

Between now and the next series I’m going to have to find out who the hell Iwan Thomas is.

Paul Hirons
@Son_Of_Ray

For all our Hinterland/Y Gwyll news and reviews, go here

15 thoughts on “Review: Hinterland/Y Gwyll (S2 E8/8), Sunday 31st October, S4C

  1. Mike Sargent

    Just watched it and was equally baffled by the Iwan Thomas thing, which is what I googled and found myself here! The writers clearly over estimate our memories!
    Plus it it likely that a mother would kill her daughter in law and let her son lie in jail for 13 years for a murder she did? Or am I totally confused?

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  2. I think Iwan was the father involved in another case – the one where girl was killed and placed in a field. In that case, Mathias got involved with the mother. She was killed as a result.

    This was the ‘Gwen Thomas’ case that keeps getting mentioned, one of the two Mathias had been investigated for misconduct.

    So Iwan may have been the estranged husband. I can’t remember. But this is the only case where a mother and daughter had been killed, and this was referred to twice in the last episode.

    I can’t remember Iwan’s involvement in the Devil’s Bridge episode – need to watch that again – and probably the last episode of series one, where Prosser went in to a Iwan’s cell (I think).

    Any way, further investigations will follow. I hope you keep us updated too.

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  3. I am very impressed by the fact this second series has added a thread of complexity by referring back to two cases from series one. Of course, it also emphasizes the smallness and the closeness of the communities involved.

    The last episode forces us to go back to the first series and watch it again with more attentiveness – the attentiveness that Mathias has but we don’t as we sit back and enjoy a good cop show.

    It’s a kick in backside for us, I think it’s great!

    What gave me the genuine creeps was in series 2/ epsiode 4 / part 1 they meet Aron Bowen’s landlord and he recognizes him – ‘Mr Latimer helped with our enquiries in the Devil’s Bridge case’ says DC Mared Rhys. It is a passing comment early on the episode but it gave me a jolt. I can’t remember him at all.

    The unresolved report Prosser looks at reads as follows (some words cannot be made out):

    “Report II
    Re: Accusations of Child Abuse

    Compiled evidence leading to a detailed examination made by detective inspector Iwan Thomas makes a strong case for accusations of sexual and violent physical abuse in the ‘Devil’s Bridge Children Home’, now know as ‘The Devil’s Bridge Hotel’, between 1982 and 1990.

    Officer in Charge questioned suspected victims Llion Gethin, Elan Rhys, Catrin John and Hywel Maybury.
    Victims were all under the age of 14 when they were residents at the home. Prime suspects in the investigation are a Miss Helen Jenkins (Carer at the home), a Mr Byron Rogers (Caretaker at the home) and Father […] Daniel (Local Vicar and close friend of Miss Helen Jenkins)

    Accusations were made by three of the home’s former […]

    […] unresolved as no eyewitnesses came […]. […] Officer in Charge believe this is to be a result of […] and fear amongst the victims of the […] speak.

    […]”

    Throughout the second series Prosser tells Mathias that Iwan Thomas is a drunk, as some one who could not take the pressure, and warns him to avoid contact with him.

    Iwan Thomas does have a reason to hate them both, and I assume the alcoholism was a result of his investigation shut down and the horror he has encountered on that case.

    It seems to be there were deals made – may be the investigation was closed because of pressure from powerful people who abused the children. As a result Prosser may have favours on account.

    Helen Watkins was killed 12 years ago, again Prosser was involved, this time to rapidly close the case.

    I can only suspect that she had information on the child abuse case and was killed as a result.

    I think Prosser knew about this. He and the pathologist have shut that down and they are trying to do the same this time. Possibly manipulating Iwan Thomas to do their dirty work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Cox

      Thank you for that transcription, Chamira. I’ve just seen series 2 and came back to read Paul’s review again. I could read a little of the file, but not all, and you’ve done a great job! I enjoy those little scraps of information they show onscreen. I recognized Iwan Thomas from the last series (father of the girl in the marsh/lake and ex-husband of murdered Gwen. I also remembered that he was the investigating officer in the Devil’s Bridge case. This does make me want to watch series 1 all over again to pick up hints of what’s to come. I loved that Prosser was the investigating officer in the Aron Bowen case years ago and got it wrong. This show is like a tapestry with so many connecting parts- it rewards the faithful viewer.

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  4. Binnebrook

    I never consider a movie or a TV show to have been properly watched until I’ve watched it at least twice. I’ve actually watched Series 1 twice and couldn’t , when I watched Series 2, place Iwan Thomas (nicely played by Geraint Morgan), who clearly has a bone or two to pick with any number of people in and around Aber. It bothered me enough that I Googled him, and ended up here. Prosser clearly has some dodgy doings we can only hope come to light in a third series!

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    • Yes, Iwan Thomas was not supported in his investigations in the Devil’s Bridge case, he was estranged from his wife, his daughter killed, and then Mathias gets involved with his wife which gets her killed.

      Mathias was cleared off misconduct in that case, and where the girl jumped off a cliff, and there is a potential investigation in the future about how a young girl got hold of his anti-depressants to attempt suicide.

      It is no wonder he is a tormented, alcoholic out to get revenge – he thinks Mathias is Prosser’s man for all the support he seems to get, but I think it will be Mathias that will upend everything and vindicate Iwan Thomas’ concerns in the earlier case.

      I am sure Iwan is under the impression Mathias is protected by Prosser using the same connections and power has had used to suppress the Devil’s Bridge case.

      OK I am definitely going to have to watch series one again. Everything I have said so far has been based on my memory and it needs refreshing.

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      • Patricia Cox

        Great observations, Chimera. I wonder in Series 3 if Mathias and Mared end up going after a corrupt Prosser? Why does Prosser give Tom so much support when he (Tom) is his own man, and cares more about truth and justice than anything else. Does Prosser think he can blackmail Tom for his “failings” to keep him in line? Prosser has nothing on Mared. I think Prosser is in for it in series 3 … but Iwan Thomas will be a danger to all three,

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      • Hello Patricia,

        Iwan Thomas’ mental state is basically unravelling, leading him to arson and attempted murder.

        I can understand why, he has had Nabokovian levels of misery, humiliation and grief heaped upon him.

        I think the continued support from Prosser for Mathias is just a part of the plan to push Iwan over the edge.

        I think something terrible happened at Devil’s bridge, worse than what we know, and deals had been done. What happened then has corrupted Prosser and other and that is the thread than runs through the series.

        I think the Aron Bowen case also related.

        I wonder if Prosser thinks that by entangling Mathias in all this he is creating a perfect scapegoat if anyone ever comes close to finding out the truth. He can always dredge up Mathia’s past record as well as his slightly vulnerable mental state as well.

        The plan is to manipulate both Iwan Thomas and Mathias. Ideally, one would kill the other and get arrested, and Prosser & his chums would be safe.

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      • Patricia Cox

        Great analysis, Chamira. Are you a writer yourself? I never thought of Prosser manipulating quite at that level. Can’t wait to see how this all plays out! I hope the series ends on a positive note- I don’t think (from Paul’s interview with Ed Thomas) that a fourth series is planned – I hope I’m wrong about that. In any case, series 3 is going to be really spectacular.

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  5. Laurie

    Having just watched series 1 episode 4 – and Prosser bothering me more and more, I looked up Prosser and found this.
    Part way through this episode with Gwen and Iwan Thomas, Matthias had gone to the files to look up Iwan’s file, I think since Prosser’s antagonism seemed so out of place. In it you see a photo of Devil’s Bridge and a photo of the children, and at that time Mathias hands it to Prosser, who puts it away.
    Can’t wait for season 3, I love this show.

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  6. Connie

    I’ve so enjoyed reading everyone’s input. I, too, had to google Iwan Thomas and ended up here. I always thought there was more to Prosser than met the eye, that he was doing a kind turn,covering for Mathias. However, it looks like Prosser is doing some first rate manipulation and will possibly turn out to be a stone-cold killer!

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