Putting Wales on the crime drama map.
UK Channel: S4C/BBC Four/BBC One Wales (Netflix globally)
Cast: Richard Harrington, Hannah Daniel, Mali Harries, Alex Harries, Aneirin Hughes
This week’s #TBT is a modern entry, and only a few years old.
Created by Ed Talfan and Ed Thomas (ably assisted by writers like Mark Andrew), Hinterland – or Y Gwyll to give it its native Welsh name – was the show that really put Welsh crime drama on the map, and created a whole new sub-genre: Welsh Noir.
Thanks to greater funding from BBC Cymru Wales and S4C – and external grants – suddenly Wales could produce dramas that would happily sit on the world stage, and all in the Welsh language. (Until it was shot simultaneously in English for broadcast on the likes of BBC Four and Netflix.)
Running for three series, it starred Richard Harrington as DCI Tom Mathias, a brooding, traumatised detective re-booting his life in the coastal town of Aberystwyth after the break-up of his marriage and the death of his daughter.
Paired up with DI Mared Rhys (Mali Harries), they investigated crimes in and around the Ceredigion region, as stark as it was beautiful.
The crimes they were tasked with solving were often extraordinary in their ordinariness – they often concerned farmers and rural folk, a forgotten section of society who carried with them beefs and familial feuds carried on through the generations. There were murders in children’s homes, council estates, labourers, mechanics… those who live on the breadline and who struggle to make ends meet.
Why we loved it:
In part, the stunning scenery provided Hinterland/Y Gwyll with such a strong sense of place. Along the coastal paths and atop the cliff where Mathias often went for a mind-clearing run it was beautiful, inland it was rugged and in summer, Aberystwyth’s neighbouring towns and countryside were parched and yellow. Ceredigion provided a rich and diverse topographical platform on which to base the stories.
The stories were shot cinematically, like Spaghetti Westerns. They were slow, careful and intensely procedural, with Mathias and Rhys working through suspects and leads painstakingly. As they did they moved through the scenery like cowboys and cowgirls.
We saw grand, abandoned homes, rocky cruives popping up out of the landscapes like carbuncles, lush forests where you could almost smell the sap of pine trees, and slate-grey farmhouses with whispers of smoke escaping from a single chimney.
Bubbling under the cases was the intrigue provided by Matthias and Rhys’s shady, mysterious boss, CS Brian Prosser (Aneirin Hughes), who was always lurking in the shadows. Finally, he was revealed to be complicit in historic crimes himself.
Mix all this together and you had a series that was deep and involving, harrowing and brooding. And each actor seemed to hit his or her character like a glove – Harrington provided perfect brood factor, while the likes of Mali Harries and Hannah Daniel were also superb (they both went onto to Un Bore Mercher) and showcased their talent.
That Hinterland/Y Gwyll was followed by something like Craith/Hidden was not a surprise. Suddenly Wales was producing crime drama every bit as dark and watchable as the Nordic territories.
Did you know?
The police station in the series is the former Queens Hotel in Aberystwyth. After being closed as a hotel, it was actually used as the town’s police station up until the mid-1990s. However, the entrance used in the series was on the other side of the building.
What they said:
“If there is a more darkly brooding detective on TV at the moment, I’ve yet to meet him.” Vicky Frost, The Guardian