Review: Shetland (S4 E1/6), Tuesday 13th February, BBC One


There has always been something – actually, several things – immensely watchable about Shetland, the series based on and then inspired by the books by award-winning crime writer, Ann Cleeves. The islands themselves always look stunning, Dougie Henshall’s Jimmy Perez is one of the good guys in crime drama and doesn’t wear his grief on his sleeve like others, his relationship with Tosh (another hugely likeable character) is lovely, and, of course, the crime stories themselves lend themselves to deep characterisation, and old, small communities. All these ingredients were present in the first of this fourth series.

The good news is that everyone’s back for this fourth series – Jimmy, Tosh, Sandie, Cassie, Duncan, Rhona, the whole gang – for a stand-alone story that runs across the six episodes.

And we were straight into it, being introduced to Thomas Malone (the always menacing-looking and excellent Stephen Walters), who was being released from a 23-year stretch behind bars after winning an appeal against a conviction for the murder of teenager Lizzie Kilmuir in 1993. He had originally denied the charge, but then confessed. Subsequent, new, DNA evidence had come to light exonerating him.

Now roaming the island again, it was left to Jimmy to tell the now-retired officer in charge of the case, Drew McColl (Sean McGinley), the bad news. The case, Jimmy told him, was being reopened so a definitive verdict could be found. But that didn’t stop everyone who could remember that far back from believing Malone got out on a technicality and he was the guilty man – he confessed, after all. And that’s one of the things Shetland explores so nicely – everyone in this small community knows your business, knows your family’s business, know your graddad or your nan and their business, knows a victim, knows a culprit… The community is certain that Malone did it.

If Malone’s re-entry into the community didn’t put the Shetlanders on edge enough, McColl’s daughter – Sally, a journalist – was found strangled, placed inside a ruined, open kiln, the next morning. The similarities between Lizzie and Sally’s murders were striking.

So what was this? Malone’s revenge on drew McColl, as everyone thought? It was the easy conclusion, but not for Jimmy who had begun to dig into the Kilmuir case and had begun to question things. As far as Sally was concerned, he was applying some pragmatism and logic to an undoubtedly emotional situation – he wanted to work the journalist angle, and, sure enough, Tosh found out that Sally had been working on a potentially explosive article, involving a Norwegian company.

Elsewhere, Tosh informed Jimmy that she was staying in Lerwick and Cassie had come back home, tail between her legs after being dumped. And all of these entanglements made things bubble along nicely, in the comforting way only Shetland can. As The Mob descended on Thomas Malone at the end of the episode, it’s clear that there’s more to these cases than meets the eye.

Paul Hirons

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Richie from California says:

    Typo – it’s Douglas “Henshall,” not Henshaw.


    1. Paul Hirons says:

      Thanks Richie, will amend.


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