REVIEW: Dublin Murders (S1 E8/8)

After seven episodes of this compelling yet uneven series, we were down to the final episode.

In last night’s penultimate instalment, we wrapped up the Cassie/Lexie storyline. This strand ended explosively and contained plenty of good moments, but let’s face it, if you’re dealing with a storyline that features an imaginary friend turned undercover identity turned actual murdered person with the exact same name who just happens to be a doppelganger, that’s a lot to take in and believe.

And there was also the fact that this strand took the wind out of the momentum of the procedural case back up in Dublin, which had been engrossing and addictive up until the middle of the series, where the Cassie/Lexie storyline briefly took hold. And yet, I understand why this happened: Dublin Murders is about identity and the examination of past lives. So when the relationship between Cassie and Rob fractured and they both went off on their own little tangents, it kind of made sense because we had to take in Cassie’s own shattered identity and watch that resolve itself, too.

But because the Cassie/Lexie storyline had come to an end, it gave the final episode a chance to concentrate on what we really wanted to know: who killed Katy Devlin, and what really happened to Adam, Peter and Jamie 20 years ago.

We’ve had a few suspects – chiefly Katy’s dad, Jonathan, and his friends from the 80s Cathal Mills and Shane West – but they seemed to be being saved for the Adam, Peter and Jamie storyline. Terence Andrews was a red herring in both story strands, and we were confronted with the who in the whodunit at the end of the last episode: archaeological dig worker, Damien Donnelly, was revealed to be Katy’s killer after a chocolate biscuit clue gave him away.

Yes, a chocolate biscuit.

This breathless and often brilliant final episode got to work on Damien Donnelly. Rob and Phelan were playing out the good cop-bad cop dynamic in the interview room, with Rob going full throttle for the kill. It was a scintillating scene, with lots of back and forth – Donnelly willing to admit culpability and Rob trying to nail him mercilessly. But there was something wrong: Donnelly could tell them what he did to Katy Devlin but not why. He also couldn’t tell them what kind of relationship he had with Katy. He insisted he wasn’t a pervert and he didn’t want her in that way. So why, Rob continued to ask, did he kill her?

Rob knew that something was up and sensed that Donnelly was protecting something or someone. When he was told that wouldn’t be able to go home and care for sick mother, that’s when the gravity of the situation really hit Donnelly. Caring for his sick mother both gave him purpose in a lonely life and isolated him, making him both vulnerable and ripe for manipulation.

This is one of the things I’ve really loved about Dublin Murders – Sarah Phelps has given each character three dimensions, real, believable backstories and proper emotional depth. Like she does with all her characters in any series she works on.

A new search was on, and soon photographs were found in Donnelly’s bedroom. Units sped across the city, to the Devlin’s house, in order to apprehend and arrest the mastermind behind this heinous act. Many readers pointed out that there was something going on with Rosalind Devlin throughout this series, and so it proved.

It all happened in the blink of an eye.

Soon Rosalind was in custody, smiling, vacant and accepting of her fate. But instead of being interviewed by Rob, she insisted that she would only talk to Cassie.

It seemed that she had taken to her in the initial stages of the investigation, and so Cassie – traumatised from her shoot-out experienced and now pregnant (we never really found out by who) – came back in to extract the confession from Rosalind.

It was another sizzling interview scene, and clearly Rosalind had a plan. It reminded me of Se7en, when Somerset and Mills brought in John Doe. They thought they were in control, but they were very definitely not. Cassie was being strong and hard, snuffing out Rosalind’s games as best she could but accused kept on coming in a calculating and clever way. The psychopath wanted to know why Cassie had left the investigation. Why did you do that, she asked? Did something happen between you and Detective Reilly?

She smirked.

She knew.

Rosalind was controlling this. She asked for an answer before she explained why she did what she did. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. Reluctantly, Cassie gave her what she wanted and so Rosalind reciprocated: she told her that she didn’t hate her sister particularly, she manipulated Damien Donnelly into killing Katy to get at her parents. They had never wanted her, had never noticed her, and expected her to care for her Jessica. She was nothing to them.

There was more to come.

Just as the interview was wrapping up, just like the aforementioned John Doe, she dropped a bombshell. After their meeting in the cafe where he had tried to build a connection with her by telling her he was like her, that he had been left behind, she had gone off and did some research and found that he wasn’t quite who he said he was. He was Adam.

She laughed, O’Kelly, looking aghast behind the glass, did not. Rob’s secret was out.

He and Cassie’s working relationship was now over, as was their love affair – two freaks who had found each other were now being forced apart.

It was quite a 10, 15 minutes or so – utterly enthralling, brilliantly written and choreographed, and very well acted.

But of course there was even more.

We still had to find out what had happened to Adam – now unmasked – Peter and Jamie all those years ago. After Cassie went across the water to get an abortion in England, Jonathan Devlin met with Adam and told him what happened – Sandra Sculley had indeed been raped by Cathal Mills and they were complicit as they held her down. But he maintained that they did nothing to him and his friends.

He sighed – perhaps his part in the incident had indeed unleashed an evil, as Shane Waters was so fond of scrawling everywhere.

The woods of Knocknaree were often a character in itself in this series, and in the end it was implied that the woods themselves took the children. It was Frank of all people who showed Adam, who had gone for a final walk in the woods just as they were going to be bulldozed, an ancient relic that had been dug up.

Perhaps there was something in these woods after all.

And I get it, I really do – a case isn’t always solved. A case can be left open because there is no explanation. But because so many loose ends were tied up tonight so successfully, I’m sure some viewers will have been left scratching their heads at this open-ended final scene.

In fact, this finale seemed to embody the whole series – brilliant in large parts, and arguably not-so-brilliant in other parts.

As this series concluded, something strange happened – I realised that I would really miss these characters, despite their warts and all. Killian Scott and especially Sarah Greene were superb in lead roles that were complex, flawed and multi-faceted. Backed up by a strong supporting cast, these characters really stuck with me and affected me. That’s all down to Phelps, who not only fused two novels together both dealing with the same themes of identity, but also sketched these characters with depth and empathy.

And, despite its saggy middle, the fact that I would miss these characters was a sign that this, even though you could argue that it would and perhaps should’ve made two separate series, was actually a very good yarn indeed.

Paul Hirons








S4C drops Craith teaser ahead of series two premiere

One of the treats we have to look forward to in the coming weeks is series two of Craith.

The Welsh-language crime drama – which airs first on S4C – returns for a second series on Sunday 17th November.

And S4C has dropped an intriguing teaser ahead of the premiere.

Series two sees the return of DCI Cadi John (Sian Reese-Williams) and DS Owen Vaughan (Sion Alun Davies) nine months after the chilling events of the first series.

The brutal murder of an ex-teacher leads our investigators into the slate-strewn mountains of Blaenau Ffestiniog – into a world of lies, neglect and revenge.

Hand in hand with the investigation, the series delves deeper into the lives of John and Vaughan as they deal with seismic change in their lives: for John the death of her father and for Vaughan the birth of his first child.

Lives shattered. Lives re-built. The story continues.

Look out for some exclusive content from us on the show next week.