REVIEW: Shetland (S5 E2/6)

Last week, the series five opener of this superior British crime drama saw Jimmy Perez and his team confronted with a head-scratching case – that of a young Nigerian man, Daniel, who had somehow found himself on Shetland. He ended up murdered, chopped up into pieces, body parts washing up on local beaches. By the end of the episode, there was the stench of human trafficking in the air, after Jimmy and Tosh had found something potentially horrific at a local hotel.

But there was more here – with ‘away day girls’ rackets, dodgy fishing quotas and secret oil pipelines, Shetland seemed to have become an outpost of petty crime and scams aplenty. Quite the opposite from the fiddle-playing, woollen sweater-wearing, atmospherically-landscaped paradise we had all thought it might be.

This second episode didn’t let up, either.

Suspects Prentice and Carla Hayes found were found murdered in their own home, while Jamie Hayes was left for dead, hiding in the family car. It was action stations, with a slightly incredulous Jimmy seeming to struggle a little bit to take everything in – not only was there the spectre of people trafficking swirling about the islands, but there was a double murder to now grapple with. Jimmy was certain the two strands were linked, while Rhona was less convinced – she wanted Jimmy to concentrate on the Hayes murders.

And this is where this series’ theme began to emerge – it’s asking the question: who is more important? Local victims of murder who, for good or for bad, have been part of the community for decades and generations; or an outsider, who has no reference point or local context? Jimmy – with Olivia breathing down his neck at every turn and asking this very same question (and threatening to do something stupid that would ruin the investigation) – was perhaps erring on the side of Daniel and his captive sister, Zezi; while Rhona was perhaps erring on the side of the Hayes. It’s an emotional and moral conundrum that feels especially relevant in today’s world and the only answer is this: they are both as important as each other.

The case itself saw some breaks: hotel owner Paul Kiernan had done a runner and was seen to be holding Zezi in a location unknown; while boat owner Calum Dunwoody was indeed found to be complicit in people trafficking. He had been using his boat to ferry captive women from Shetland – which was being used as a holding point – to the mainland. Before he could talk, he had slit his own throat in police custody (thanks to a mistake from Sandy, who had lent him a pen to write down the people who he worked for).

Elsewhere, there was some good detective work by Tosh – whenever isn’t there good detective work from Tosh? – who had uncovered a weed farm owned by Prentice Hayes and another of his mobile phones, which could come in handy to trace calls to his paymasters. And, of course, there were some personal elements to this story, too. Jimmy and Alice seemed to be getting closer and closer, the latter telling him it was time for him to stop acting like the grieving husband and start to live his life. Be careful what you wish for, Alice, be careful what you wish for – it looks for all the world that these two will get together any time soon.

The way it ebbs and flows, the way it’s plotted and the way we’re swept along by the tempo and the procedural journey (which, in turn, also strikes emotional and personal chords with the main protagonists) means that Shetland has really become one of those shows where you could sit and watch it forever – even Jimmy cooking a meal. The actors and the characters, at this stage, feel like they are in perfect synchronicity.

Paul Hirons



10 Comments Add yours

  1. Charlotte Carling says:

    I find it odd that the answer to “who is more important?” isn’t immediately “the one that is still likely to be alive”. It doesn’t quite seem to fit in with Rhonas character that she is hesitant on this.

    The switch from double episode cases to full series cases has worked out very well for Shetland. It was always great but the deeper exploration of a case over six episodes is certainly one of the reasons that it’s so engaging. And it means there’s plenty of time for that ebb and flow that you mention.


  2. Tom says:

    Jimmy’s too trusting of Olivia. That scene in her hotel room where she had her back to him and her eyes were darting every which way was simply amazing. It’s gonna come back to bite him at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sid Falco says:

    Just another BBC exercise in diversity. This ridiculous woman wandering all over an island by foot that she’s never been to before and Perez bending over backwards to be nice to her. Absolutely ill-making. They must have their quotas!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mike Sargent says:

    As soon as he gave him that pen I knew he was going to kill himself with it…. although how you do that with a biro I’m not sure and don’t really want to know!


  5. Dan Campling says:

    Good review Paul. There’s a couple of points I’d like to offer up. Firstly, have I missed something or have we definitely had proof that Olivia is actually any relation to Daniel and Zezi? There’s something about her that I can’t put my finger on. Or maybe I’m just paranoid after watching Episode 1 of Baptiste. Secondly I don’t understand why, after numerous series of being in full support of Jimmy, Rhona has now started questioning every new development that Jimmy is coming up with. Calum mentioned that the people smuggling conspiracy was far reaching so could it involve Rhona or her superiors? Finally I’m not very comfortable with Alice. She made a throwaway comment about having experience with people traffickers in a previous job, keeps popping up to speak with Jimmy, and Jimmy was providing her with a lot of details regarding the case when the two were having dinner. Plus we haven’t seen any more of her husband Chris and, given that the actor playing him is Derek Riddell and he more often than not plays a wrong un, leads me to think Chris, Alice or both are going to be involved. Roll on Episode 3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zeke says:

      I’m agreeing with you, the whole Olivia thing is off– but I cannot help but feel the Zezi character is also. Even the Safe House with the Matron (or whatever that was in Glasgow) seemed stiff. The regular characters are spot on, but the Guests….not so much. Direction? Acting? Intentional?
      They keep making me wince.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Andy W says:

    To add to the dramatic suspense, Tosh turns-up at Prentice Hayes’ other house, funbles in the dark and turns on the lights to reveal…not trafficked girls but a cannabis farm.
    No, not right : isn’t the thing that we know about cannabis farms that they are not in the dark with the lights off – the lights are bright 24 hours a day and the temperature and humidity are high, uses huge amounts of electricity and they usually hack-round the meter to avoid paying for it
    And cannabis smells, Tosh is a copper and might just have noticed a roomful of it before she turned-on the light

    Liked by 1 person

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