REVIEW Sherwood (S1 E2/6)

After the excellent start to Sherwood on Monday night, all eyes were on episode two. That first instalment to this story introduced us to a sprawling, top-line ensemble cast who were tasked with bringing to life the story of a former mining community in Nottinghamshire, rocked by the murder of father, grandfather and former miner, Gary Jackson. Instead of many of his colleagues, Jackson was fully and passionately in agreement with the strike, while many of the miners in the town chose to carry on working.

If the mining angle seems a little niche, tell that to these real communities that still exist – those like we see in this show – because such was the division and such was the damage caused by the strike, long-held beefs exist 30 years down the line.

With a deep and emotive social context underpinning it, Sherwood excelled with character, too – it took its time to provide full, believable profiles before the murder hit.

And now the aftermath and the continuing investigation.

DCI Ian St Clair (played with a quiet intensity and a kind of benevolence by the always-terrific David Morrissey) had to contend with the arrival of DI Kevin Salisbury from the Met in London. Again, people in Ashfield remember the Met officers’ role in policing the strike in 1984, and not least St Clair, who deals with Salisbury with a mixture of professionalism and disdain.

However, Salisbury tags along when the team when it’s called out to a train that has been shot at with an arrow – the same MO that killed Gary Jackson. Driving the train was Andy Fisher, father-in-law to Tory councillor Sarah Vincent.

More on Andy later. Much more on Andy later.

Another person is targeted by the crossbow person, this time Gary Jackson’s lawyer, who reveals that he and his deceased client were working on the assumption that a ‘spy cop’ sent to infiltrate the local community during the miners’ strike in ‘84 was still living in the town (a ‘spy cop’ being someone sent to go undercover among radical organisations to feed information back to their superiors).

The miners’ angle is ever-present in this story, and it may well be the key to finding whoever killed Gary Jackson in the end. But for now, we can see how this subject is still so emotive for the people – from those connected to the original strike, to Sarah Vincent (who embodies the Conservative side of the argument), to St Clair and, especially in this episode, Salisbury, who is rocked by just how thick and resonant his own memories are from that period (we’re talking love affairs, all sorts).

But Sherwood is also a murder-mystery, and it also did a fine job of developing the case – we saw two male members of the Sparrow family hauled in for questioning when the police find evidence of a drugs link between them and Gary Jackson, and finally Scott Rowley became suspect number one. We’d seen Scott in the woods throughout episode one and in this instalment, too, with his bow and arrow, and now St Clair and the team have now peered into his garage – a veritable planning hub with newspaper cut-outs on the wall and maps to boot.

But is it too early in the piece to nail Scott as the perp? We’ll see.

Whatever happens, you just can’t take your eyes off Sherwood – it’s just terrific, with shades of Happy Valley, Mare Of Easttown and Broadchurch… in fact, it has the same feel and tone that any high-quality whodunit set in a small, working-class town.

This episode ended on a genuine, jump-out-of-your-seat moment, too, when Andy Fisher clobbered Sarah Vincent with a gardening implement after she had goaded him about his late wife. It was a violent and completely unexpected scene, especially when you consider Adeel Akhtar plays such a loveable, seemingly eccentric character. It just shows you that anyone has that inexcusable violence within them.

Sherwood is a heady brew, for sure, and something tells me that it’s about to get headier still.

A few other observations? It’s great to see former DI Banks actress Andrea Lowe back on our screens again. And if Jamie Graham is rightly getting plaudits for his story and authentic script, admiration should also be expressed for Lewis Arnold’s direction. There have been some very Broadchurch-like tracking shots and pacing on show, and there was a pleasing focus on neon in the back end of this episode – from the cross in St Clair’s incident room to the panels on the ceiling in a supermarket. Perhaps just a stylistic feature, but it’s worth noting that Kevin Salisbury was in both scenes featuring the quasi-religious iconography. Could guilt for a wrongdoing in his past be weighing heavily and he’s about to atone for his sins?

Episode three next week, and it’s safe to say that, so far, this is unmissable stuff.

Paul Hirons

Rating: 5 out of 5.