One of the best British crime drama shows, Shetland, made a welcome return tonight. I say ‘best British crime drama’ because it really is, and has lots of the ingredients that make up successful and engrossing crime shows: a lead character that’s likeable and watchable, a supporting cast that exhibits the same kinds of characteristics, gorgeous, sometimes otherworldly landscapes, and interesting crimes that often have their roots tangled with the local community.
These virtues were evident in this series opener. DI Jimmy Perez (Dougie Henshall) lamented the fact that he was living in an empty house with a humdrum life, when the phone rang – a severed hand had been found washed up on a nearby beach. Soon, the head appeared on another beach.
It was a grisly start to proceedings.
In the very first scene, we had seen a young African man standing, shivering, in the middle of a road, rolling green hills and mist enveloping him. He had been waiting for someone. He looked out of place, afraid, cold. He wasn’t dressed for the elements. What was this man in a grey suit doing in Shetland?
And so the scramble for clues, and the procedural journey, began. We saw Sandy pore over CCTV footage, we saw Jimmy and Tosh interview people at the locations he might have visited, and we eventually got a name: Daniel. We also got that cocaine had been found in the bag he had been carrying.
As ever with Shetland, some characters from the local community presented themselves as the investigation developed: a fisherman whose boat Daniel seemed to take a particular interest in; an unhelpful man who worked at a scrap metal business; a sneering hotel owner; ‘away day girls’ living in a caravan near to a new pipeline. And then there was also local industry: could the crime have been connected to local fishing scams?
All these questions and all these tangents are what give Shetland real flavour, but even with all of these elements, the procedural journey never gets diluted. Watching Jimmy – already furrowed of brow and deeply affected by the young man’s horrible death – go about his business, you can’t help but root for him and can’t help but become embroiled in the case as he does.
Things were further complicated when Daniel’s estranged mother turned up out of the blue. She explained to Jimmy that she hadn’t seen her son since he was a child, and that ever since then he had lived with his father in Nigeria. The mystery deepened: what on earth was he doing on Shetland?
Olivia, the mother, seemed to be extremely sensitive about her connection to her son, often snapping at Jimmy and Tosh if she thought her motherhood qualities were ever brought into question.
It was an excellent start to the series, with an intriguing, head-scratching case. We left Jimmy and Tosh searching through the rooms of a hotel (the same hotel owned by the manager who gave Jimmy some lip earlier on in the episode), after they had seen a short video in Daniel’s email inbox from her his sister, who gravely pleaded for him to ‘give them what they wanted or she would die’. Suddenly, Jimmy was faced with a people trafficking racket, or something that looked very much like a people trafficking racket, on the island.
With Duncan now staying with Jimmy (after he was his marriage crumbled) and the promise of something with a returning female friend to the island, it’s safe to say that our likeable copper is going to be kept very busy in this series.
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