NB: SPOILERS INSIDE
Hans Rosenfeldt’s Marcella divided plenty of people during its first run in 2016. Some people I know really enjoyed it, but the majority I spoke to about it thought it was a mess. And, I have to say, that’s where my opinion lies – the cast of characters were just so unlikable (which hasn’t stopped me watching and enjoying a series before… see I Know Who You Are), the story promising but shaken out into an unholy mess. So what did series two hold? More of the same, or an improvement?
There was just SO MUCH going on in this first episode it’s difficult to know where to start. We saw a teenage boy imprisoned, later drugged, subjected to some sort of experiment and then placed deliberately, dressed in a suit and photographed (was he dead? drugged?). (This kind of terrifying tableau is very Hans Rosenfeldt). We also saw the discovery of the body of a young boy, lodged into the wall in the house of an aging rock star. (Also very Rosenfeldt… remember series one of The Bridge?) We also saw a suspect – a convicted paedophile called Philip Dawkins, who spoke very clearly and calmly about his ‘illness’, his rehabilitation and the fact that he did not choose to have these impulses (he was later seen in some sort of brothel complaining that the boy that was sent to him was not young enough). (Was this the same place we saw the imprisoned young teen at the start of the episode?) We were also introduced to an angry skinhead man called Eric, who had a beef with another guy called Nick, who, in turn, had a young son called Simon; a young lad called Adam (a friend of Simon’s) who drew pictures of people killing each other, was in contact with an unknown person on his phone, and was then seen climbing into the back of a car at the end of the episode. We also said hello to the staff and the loathsome CEO of Red Cow Gifts, whose employees were laid off when they reached the age of 21 and then replaced by people in the 16-18 bracket (this is the whiff of Rosenfeldt’s ‘second story’ – zero-hour contracts and, when it came to the aging rock group, generational social mores and covered-up sexual activity with minors).
At the centre of all this was Marcella Backland.Series one was a convoluted noir story, where she was plunged into an investigation not knowing – because of her blackouts – whether she had actually committed the murder herself. I was interested to see how she had changed since the first series because she really wasn’t very likable, mental illness and all.
From what we saw in this episode, she hadn’t changed at all. Everyone around her had seemed to have changed – not least her estranged husband Jason who was now living with a new partner – but Marcella was still angry and aggressive, especially when dealing with suspects and new co-workers. In fact, she was angry and disagreeable with pretty much with everyone. That’s one of the problems I had with Marcella during its first run – I didn’t actually like Marcella very much and didn’t particularly care what happened to her, as opposed to Rosenfeldt’s other high-profile creation, Saga Norén, who we all adore and desperately want to find happiness.
I left scratching my head. The ridiculous and over-bearing music didn’t help matters (honestly, someone needs to chill their rockets when pressing the ‘add rumbling electronic music’ button), and certainly the whole kitchen-sink nature of this first episode made it difficult to want to carry on watching. And I haven’t even mentioned Marcella’s latest black-out and regression into mental illness, the fact that her son knew the boy found in the wall, and the ratting at the end of the episode, where Marcella’s webcam flickered to life and we saw someone watching her on the other side of a laptop screen.
So what have we got here? Certainly a presentation of the different ways children are exploited: from first-world slave labour, to sex to gaining leverage in relationships. How all the dizzying amount of strands are connected – if they’re connected at all – we’ll have to wait and see.
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