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.
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