Review: Marcella (S1 E2/8), Monday 11th April, ITV


Throughout the first episode of Hans Rosenfeldt’s Marcella, the eponymous lead character showed herself to be extremely unstable. In the face of a marriage breakdown, Marcella (Anna Friel) was prone to explosive bouts of violence and blackouts and at the end of the episode we saw her confront her estranged husband’s lover, Grace Gibson, only to find herself hours later, dazed, in a bath and covered in blood. Could this be shaping up to be a classic noir tale of one detective committing the crimes without even knowing it?

That was certainly the inference. And the first part of this second episode saw Grace Gibson called in as missing, and her powerful family frantically trying to find out what happened to her. There was no sign of her at home even though her bag and phone were left on the kitchen table. In came DI Tim Wilkinson (Jeremy Bamber) to investigate her disappearance. He interviewed Jason because Henry told him they were sleeping together.

When Marcella’s worst fears came true and she found out that Grace Gibson had indeed gone missing, she decided to investigate herself (after kicking a poor waste-paper bin to death in the toilets in a fit of rage). She confirmed from CCTV footage that she had indeed visited her the night before, but she still couldn’t remember what happened next. In her own mind she was a suspect.

Elsewhere though, she was still convinced that Peter Cullen was involved in the recent spate of Grove Park killer-alikes and continued to harass him. What was interesting here was when she was trying to justify her actions regarding Cullen to DCI Porter and DI Sangha, she reeled off her theory that he was suffering from a personality disorder, which manifests itself with fits of rage, inconsistent behaviour and compartmentalisation – exactly what she suffers from.

So once again Rosenfeldt isn’t just presenting us with another lead female character, but a lead female character who’s suffering from a mental illness. What is his fascination with female characters with mental illnesses? Only he can answer that.

Somewhat predictably, Marcella found the body of Grace Gibson at the end of the episode in the same wooded area her flashbacks reminded her of. Gibson’s corpse had a plastic bag over her head, matching the serial killer’s MO. Are we looking at Marcella as the prime suspect in not only Gibson’s murder but also the entire Grove Park killings all those years ago? Is she displacing guilt stored away deep in her subconscious and projecting it onto Peter Cullen? She seems desperate to prove his culpability because perhaps she knows that she’s the real killer. That’s the way it’s being set up.

Except… Peter Cullen’s colleague at the bakery revealed a wound he sustained in his upper torso, which matched that of an assailant in a failed assault earlier in the day. Elsewhere, sex worker and grifter Carla received threats online from someone she stole from and there has to be more to the Gibson family. Because, well, Rosenfeldt loves to involve big business somewhere along the way.

So, still only episode two and there will be plenty more twists and turns, no doubt. My only worry is that it’s not engaging enough. In typical ITV fashion – in fact, in typical every-channel-with-adverts fashion – everything is neatly wrapped up into bite-sized acts with a cliffhanger at the end of each one before the ad break, everything is signposted and I’m still not quite convinced Anna Friel – as good an actress as she is – is right for this role. Whereas Saga Norén was a character you rooted for, Marcella, so far, isn’t someone you care for a great deal.

Paul Hirons

For our episode one review, go here

For an interview with Anna Friel, go here


6 Comments Add yours

  1. simwood says:

    Hello! Completely agree with your cautious assessment of Anna Friel’s Marcella; however I confess my real reason for leaving a comment is to suggest correcting Jeremy Bamber to Jamie Bamber – the former is currently serving time for allegedly wiping out his entire family in the White House Farm murders, whilst the latter is a (albeit squirrel-faced) fine actor of no previous bad form 😊


    1. Paul Hirons says:

      Thanks!I have corrected.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. dmg says:

    Hello from Seattle, USA,

    Only recently have I caught on to the sheer quality of many British TV shows; I have enjoyed recently An Honourable Woman, Trapped, Follow the Money, … Oh gosh, I could name 10 or 20 different shows, some British, some made (obviously) elsewhere, but all aired there. God, what good TV we Americans miss out on when we instead watch Supergirl.

    Which is one reason, only one, I appreciate your many fine commentaries, such as this episode review, and your calendar listings. No way I would know about these shows without you pointing them out. My wife does not know whether to kiss me or curse me, because it seems all we do these days is watch one new (to us) British TV show after another.

    Thank you… I think!


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