REVIEW Y Golau (S1 E1/6)

As regular readers of this website will know, I’m a big fan of S4C’s Welsh-language dramas. Over the years, we’ve had the likes of Y Gwyll/Hinterland, Craith/Hidden, Yr Amgeuddfa/The Museum… the list goes on. So far, the channel’s output has fallen into two camps – the slow, thoughtful procedurals of Y Gwyll and Craith (heavy on emotion and social commentary, with an almost spaghetti western pace), and the high-concept, contemporary stylings of Yr Amgueddfa.

Besides the cast, the first thing you see and feel with Y Golau (The Light), is the pacing – it’s definitely more in line with Y Gwyll and Craith in that respect, even though showrunner of the aforementioned shows – Ed Talfan – is not involved in this six-part series.

But while we’re here let’s talk about the cast, because it really is tremendous. Recent BAFTA winner Joanna Scanlan takes the lead role of Sharon – a middle-aged mum who is still coming to terms with the disappearance and supposed death of her 15-year-old daughter, Ela, 18 years ago. The man who has been doing time for this crime – and has indeed admitted to killing her – is Joe Pritchard, played by Iwan Rheon (a global name thanks to Game Of Thrones). We see him in this opening episode tortured by flickering of memories of that fateful day as he sits before a parole board, awaiting its verdict.

There’s one problem – although he admits killing Ela, due to an amnesia condition he can’t tell anyone (not least himself) what he did or where he hid the body.

In the middle of all this trauma, grief and heartache is Sharon’s other daughter Greta, who still lives at home with her mum. Together they’ve recovered as best they can, help others who have experienced the same kind of losses they’ve experienced and are trying to carry on and live their lives.

But of course, before Ela’s body has never been found there has been no closure. Without a body they can’t say goodbye, or give Ela the send-off she deserves.

Also skirting the story is journalist Cat Donato (the always excellent Alexandra Roach), who’s after a meaty story to reinvigorate her career. As is the way of this world, she wants to write a true crime story, but the one subject matter that’s staring her in the face she doesn’t want to take on – she was one of Ela’s best friends at the time of her disappearance.

But when Pritchard is released from jail, Cat decides to confront those memories from the past and takes a trip back to her home town of Llanemlyn to try and persuade Pritchard – now in a halfway house – to give her the big interview. Also converging on the safe house is Sharon, who is still – after all these years – desperate for answers.

It’s a fine, intriguing premise that’s just ripe for good drama, and it’s beautifully played. Episode one – like some of its S4C predecessors – doesn’t go for the jugular like other shows on other channels perhaps would but instead takes its time to really explore Sharon’s grief and horror that the man who killed her daughter is now free. There are moments in this first episode when Sharon walks around her empty house that are genuinely affecting – she can still sense, see, her daughter from years gone in a shard of sunlight through the window, still desperate to retain that contact with her; still desperate to feel the connection. As you would expect, Joanna Scanlan is just terrific in these scenes, showcasing the range and the kind of believability and naturalism that has finally gained her the plaudits she deserves, and has deserved for many years.

So where is this going? There’s a sense – thanks to something Greta said in passing – that Ela may not be dead, and she still keeps her sister’s diary hidden from everyone. Does she know something about Ela that we don’t? And what of Cat’s investigation into the case and Pritchard’s assimilation back into society? You get the sense some buried secrets are about to be uncovered.

A strong first episode.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Y Golau is available to watch on S4C Clic or BBC iPlayer


The 10 Best Crime Dramas This Week (Monday 16th – Sunday 22nd May)

It’s pretty much as you were this week, with continuing series like Shining Girls, Bosch, Beck and Y Golau all available. But we also get a new episode of Grace – I thought I had a handle on when this series was being played out, but no, ITV has done a number on me again. Enjoy!

No synopsis available.
Friday 20th May, Apple+ TV

S1 E7&8/8

No synopsis available.
Friday 20th May, Freevee

S1 E2/6

Cat continues with her inquiries, which makes her more unpopular with each question she asks. As the news of Joe Pritchard being released spreads through Llanemlyn, Sharon is more determined than ever to get answers – despite police warnings. Meanwhile, Joe is trying his best to cope with life outside prison and move on from his past.
Sunday 22nd May, 9pm, S4C

S8 E3/4

Alex Beijer’s participation in a morning TV show turns into a nightmare when an unlikely hostage drama arises in the studio.
Saturday 21st May9pm BBC Four

S2 E3/6

The hunt for serial killer The Birdman intensifies as Lola and Jackson desperately search for a link to Freddy, who is playing a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the killer
Thursday 19th May, 9pm, Alibi

S1 E1-3/8

the lives of a group of college best friends are forever changed after a celebratory weekend ends up with one of them dead. Now, 20 years later, the remaining five are reluctantly reunited by a threat that puts their seemingly perfect worlds at risk.
Friday 20th May, Apple+ TV

7 The Nordic Murders *NEW UK PREMIERE EPISODE*
S3 E2

Dr Brunner’s mother dies at a luxurious retirement estate. He has been in a relationship with the director of nursing at the estate, Kerstin Matthies, so is in complete shock when it transpires that she may have been mistreating his parent. Soon after, the director disappears. Dr Brunner suspects foul play, but has he himself played a part in Matthies’ disappearance?
Friday 20th May, 9pm, More4

S1 E5/8

No synopsis available.
Thursday 19th May, 9pm, Sky Atlantic

S2 E3

A body is dredged up from the English Channel, setting in motion a truly disturbing investigation that forces Detective Superintendent Roy Grace to ask himself just how far someone might go to save the ones they love. 
Sunday 22nd May, 8pm, ITV

10 Who Killed Sara? *NEW UK PREMIERE SERIES*

Hell-bent on exacting revenge and proving he was framed for his sister’s murder, Álex sets out to unearth much more than the crime’s real culprit.
Wednesday 18th May, Netflix

REVIEW Beck (S8 E2/4)

Now that Martin Beck has an allotment, can we expect him to come into the office offering his colleagues a look at his massive marrow, or the pick of his aubergines? Seemingly not – as his daughter says, you can take Martin out of the police, but you can’t take the police out of Martin.

He’s fascinated by two complex cases that turn out to be connected. A goldsmith has died of a heart attack while his workshop was being robbed, and the police have bungled the investigation. Josef foolishly gets involved in the case, as the victim’s daughter was an old flame, and soon he’s tracking down the burglar while getting into Cissi’s bed.

In another case, an antiques dealer is found dead in a forest – his partner suggests gangsters wanted to buy the business. But his story doesn’t quite add up.

As Martin doesn’t seem to do any gardening – his allotment seems to be used only for al fresco dining – he’s happy to get involved in the two cases, which turn out to be connected by the same hit-man, a failed share-dealer who is found dead at the scene of one of his hits. His victim, the goldsmith’s cleaner, seems to have been responsible for the burglary – so who paid to have her killed? Could it have been Cissi, or was it her unstable sister?

Josef should certainly have learned the lesson not to mix business with pleasure, particularly when he has previous chewed out Alex for doing the same thing, as she points out. But, having spectacularly messed up with Cissi, he has the consolation of Alex comforting him. (Hopeless Oskar seems to have given up on finding love, a relief to every woman living in Stockholm.).

When the hitman’s employer turns out to be Cissi’s sister, but she is also found dead, another suspect is identified by CCTV – the cleaner’s father. Since he’s been quoting Robert McCall from Equalizer 2 on the subject of revenge and murder, that one should have been easy to spot.

The climax comes in Cissi’s place of work, an adventure room, where she takes out her tormentor using night vision goggles, in a scene reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs. The antique dealer’s killing was paid for by his own partner – as shown by money transfers from his bank account. Aren’t hitmen always paid in cash, though?

Not as action-packed as last week’s episode, but satisfyingly twisty-turny, this episode maintains the standard, and gives us a bit more insight into why Josef is so shouty and furniture-smashy; he had an abusive childhood, and his older brother, who he visits in jail, killed their father. That would be enough to make anyone a bit twitchy.

As Martin’s eccentric neighbour Grannen sings in a final barbecue scene on the allotment (and since when does Grannen come out of his apartment? We don’t think we’ve ever seen him in the open air before), don’t try to swap pants with someone when you don’t have any pants to swap. A lesson that Josef could certainly do with learning.

Chris Jenkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.


Beck is shown on BBC Four in the UK