Contrary to popular opinion, I have been watching Marcella on ITV… I just haven’t had time to write it up. It has been a busy couple of weeks, so I haven’t been able to dig into the series as deeply as I would have liked. But I’ll say this now, and anyone who has read my reviews of the first three episodes will already know, I’m not a huge fan. Although… it has all the ingredients, all those Hans Rosenfeldt tasty bits we’ve come to love and expect from him, and it has an intriguing storyline. I should love it, so why don’t I?
Those first three episodes portrayed London as a sleek, modern city, but bathed in dark shadows, teeming rain and that certain type of emptiness only a big city can produce. We met retired cop Marcella Backland, haunted by an unsolved case that had driven her nearly insane a decade ago. It (we had thought at the time) cost her her marriage to the eternally pouting Jason.
Soon she was back on the job (really, just like that) smelling a route to redemption. Except there was a catch – thanks to violent outbursts and black-outs, she may or may not have been responsible for the killing of Grace Gibson, who, it was revealed, was the pregnant mistress of her now estranged husband.
Ever since episode four, we quickly managed to tie up the Peter Cullan angle (quite skilfully), who, in a decent interview scene with Marcella, who goaded and cajoled, finally admitted to his role in the Grove Park killings. It was hardly Line Of Duty, but it was a competent and engrossing interview scene. Marcella also seemed to absolved herself from suspicion her own role in the murders, too, thanks to some risky DNA switching and the discovery of a necklace that Grace was wearing.
Episode four and the opening scenes from episode five helped to move the story on a bit, and we entered the final half of the series with a new angle – Marcella and her rag-bag team of fairly incompetent cops were now on the hunt for a copycat killer.
And then episode six. It threw pretty much everything into the mix – a serial, copycat thriller who had changed his MO to include abducting and murdering young children, and giving Marcella an even more tortured backstory: it was revealed that her daughter had died in her infancy. When you look at it from afar, it has everything a good detective story should in these modern times. It has all the affectations, the themes, the character traits… and yet it all feels hollow. The main plot propellers have tended to be Marcella and her much-maligned Parka coming up with hunches out of thin air, all the time being correct.
We also know that Rosenfeldt like to introduce lots of characters, whittling them down one by one until we get to the killer. And he does so here, too. There’s the shady Gibson family (the husband of matriarch Sylvie, Stephen, who has displayed some very odd behaviour since his step-daughter Grace’s death, to the point of him becoming a suspect), same-sex couple Yann and Matthew (both suspects), murdered sex worker Cara, Stuart’s strange relationship with his Eastern European lodger Bendek, original suspect Clive Bonn coming in and out of things and the illegal immigrant taxi drivers (Mo broke into into Marcella’s house at the end of episode six and was about to take revenge for his brother’s death). So far, so Rosenfeldt. But while the huge raft of characters and their fates are left to simmer and pan out naturally in The Bridge, here it feels clunky. Marcella lurches all over the place. There are snippets of awful dialogue, strange unemotional, ho-hum plot twists and even more characters that have made an appearance never to be seen again. And another thing I really feel about this series is that the characters don’t match, don’t mesh and don’t interact well at all – from Marcella and Jason, to Yann and Matthew and to Sylvie to Stephen… none of them look as though they belong together.
And yet I’m starting to feel some sympathy for Marcella herself (about time, really). Up until episode six she had been an entirely unsympathetic character, her and her Parka stomping around London, coming and going as she pleased, aggressively interviewing suspects and leads without a care in the world, and using her infamous hunches to lead her to the next layer of story. Her black-outs and violent outbursts have inexplicably left her, but now the pace has been upped and her backstory has revealed an entirely broken character. I’m edging towards a feeling I’ve not felt for the entire series – I want her to find closure and some sort of peace.
And that’s why Marcella is so infuriating.
For our episode one review, go here
For our episode two review, go here
For our episode three review, go here