Last week’s opening episode of this four-part Channel 4 series was about as impactful and emotional as I’d seen for a while.
The tale of a close-knit, small-town community in the stunning west of Scotland, we (and the members of that community) were catapulted into despair when the town’s local doctor’s house was razed to the ground. Inside were Tom, his wife Kate and their three daughters.
Only Tom survived.
What looked like a tragic accident soon morphed into something far more sinister, and when you’re dealing with the tragic deaths of three young girls and a young woman in a fire, that’s already pretty sinister. Needle marks were found in the girls’ arms, and pine needles were found on their feet.
In this episode, the lens seemed to shift onto Jess, Kate’s best friend and partner to the local bobby, Steve. With flashbacks of her and Tom having sex flickering in her mind, she was an edgy, beady presence at the funeral. She was obviously feeling burdened with guilt and anxiety, and through this prism of hyper-realism – every sense seemingly on tenterhooks – she observed things she perhaps wouldn’t have done.
She saw Tom give a heartfelt eulogy to his three girls, and meet and greet attendees with ease and solemn grace. She also clocked everyone who was there at the ceremony and then the wake, zeroing in on a woman she had previously never met. Her name was Sasha, she explained, an old friend of Kate’s. She looked over and Tom, and said something along the lines of ‘he’s a good actor’.
In the first episode, the revelation of Kate as someone who was suffering from depression and anxiety – and taking pills to help – and CCTV footage of her buying something from the locks aisle in the local hardware superstore, meant that she was being set up as a prime suspect.
This second episode saw attention firmly fixed upon Tom, and, more interestingly, Jess’s role as an investigator of sorts.
She was our eyes and ears; she was a human manifestation of our suspicion. And the further she thought back on that fleeting, illicit sexual encounter with Tom, she remembered how he manipulated and seduced her, and how sex with him was rough, almost violent even. She also talked to Sasha again, who recounted a similar story.
So Tom was a philanderer, a manipulator and a seducer. All unpleasant character traits, but did that make him a murderer?
As suspicion fell on Tom, David Tennant’s performance shifted as well. From a good-natured, smiling town doctor who everyone loved, he now bristled with malevolence. Tennant is brilliant at these shifts – he can go from manic, kinetic energy, to easy-going likeability to snarling maniac in the blink of an eye, and, recently, he’s been testing his range by playing characters at the really unpleasant end of the spectrum.
Meanwhile, Jess – wracked with guilt and now armed with the knowledge that Tom was a rotter – decided to tell Steve of her misdemeanour. And then she told the police.
This episode was setting up Tom good and proper, but there feels as though there are more twists and turns to come. And there was one right at the end of the episode: Steve had brought Dylan, a youth from the village, in for questioning, and admitted seeing one of Tom and Kate’s daughters running in the woods. He also told them that he had seen Tom with her.
But when we saw this scene in flashback, it was Kate who had been with her in the woods.
So far, it’s good stuff: nicely plotted, paced and staged, and presenting us with a really intriguing whodunit. And who doesn’t love a good, old whodunit on a Friday night? (I have my suspicions about Jess, by the way… she was with Kate when the car spun off the road, and she was seen in the episode giving an injection to one of Steve’s kids. Just a theory at the half-way stage.)
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW