S4C’s latest Welsh-language crime drama, Y Golau, has been – so far – an excellent watch, full of subtleties, an intriguing plot and a compelling whodunit.
As ever with these things, the final episode of any crime series is important – for the characters to get closure (and boy, do Sharon and Joe and everyone else deserve closure), and for us, the audience, to get a satisfactory ending. So it was all eyes on pennod six to see if the Regina Moriarty could land this story smoothly.
And, for the most part she did and, in keeping with the rest of the series, really focused on the emotions of the characters as she tied things up. In fact, I was emotional as the final scenes played out, dismayed and upset for a life lost needlessly, and a life unfulfilled.
With any kind of cold case, it’s important to acknowledge that we as an audience need flashbacks in order to see what really happened. It’s just when and how they’re used that’s tricky part, but here, in episode six, they were used expertly and for maximum impact.
To begin with we saw what happened inside the Roberts household the day Ela disappeared. As a (very) young Greta sat on the stairs, Ela heard mum Sharon and partner Gafyn arguing downstairs. As she rushed down, she heard Gafyn accuse Sharon of having an affair, to which it seemed Sharon had no comeback. As Ela stormed in and screamed at her, she reflexively slapped her, causing the teen to run off.
That was the first part. The rest of the episode saw the cast of characters simmer somewhat, perhaps knowing subconsciously that a reckoning was edging ever closer – Nina and Izzy Vaughan were uneasy in their country pad, especially when Joe turned up and demanded to know the truth; Caryn and Cat held clear-the-air-talks after the former had defaced the latter’s apartment and quite obviously still had an axe to grind against the journalist; and Joe himself, hiding in his (now late) father’s house, confronting all sorts of demons.
Let’s face it, we knew that Nina and Izzy were central to the mystery of Ela’s disappearance as soon as they were introduced quite late in the story, and so they proved.
After he visited the Vaughans, Joe ended up trudging into the same woods where Ela disappeared (situated behind the Vaughan house) to try to remember what was really happened. Izzy, on edge and having enough of the charades, soon followed. As did Cat Donato.
And then we were told what happened.
Izzy, a flirtatious and playful teen, had been toying with staff member Joe all those years ago. So when a distressed Ela came around seeking a shoulder to cry on after the confrontation with her mother– Ela and Izzy were in a star cross’d relationship of sorts – Izzy told her that Joe had rubbed himself against her.
Absolutely enraged, Ela stormed into the woods and to Joe’s caravan to have it out with him. After a brief struggle (which determined that Joe had NOT killed Ela, although for a brief moment it looked as though he had, which was a neat bit of writing) Ela walked out only to be told by Izzy that her story about Joe was a joke. And then the real struggle – between Ela and Izzy – took place. Ela had stabbed Izzy in the shoulder (hence the scar we saw there in episode five) and she, in turn, pushed her backwards causing Ela to fall and (what looked like) smash her head on a rock.
A life gone in the blink of an eye.
On hand was Wyn, who offered his help to the then-present Nina. The three of them conspired to cover up the crime and blame poor Joe.
Two lives lost in the blink of an eye.
(I’m still undecided whether an unmotivated killing is as terrifying as one that is premeditated… the sadness of it all, and the fact that something awful can happen so quickly.)
Was this a plausible reason for what happened? I thought so. There was no super-huge twist here, but it took its time to explain what really happened to the three central characters at the heart of the mystery, just like the series had taken its time to introduce and flesh out the characters and their motivations and emotions – Sharon, Cat Donato, Caryn…
The only character I felt I didn’t really know was Cat Donato. In this episode, Caryn had repeatedly told her that she had been a bitch to Ela and to everyone else, and Sharon had more or less told her the same, finally handing over Ela’s diary and imploring her to make it up to her daughter. But we were never really told why Cat was such a ‘bitch’ back in the day.
And that – and perhaps the non-use of Ela’s diary to look for clues until this episode – was perhaps the only slight qualm I had with this series. It was well written, superbly acted (what else do you expect from Joanna Scanlan?), incredibly consistent and nicely paced, taking its time but also sprinkling in a twist or two just when we needed it. And we also got the tease that Cat Donato is now intent on becoming a private detective, which I am very much here for if ever the writers want to make that series.
So another success for S4C, and the country’s acting talent. I just love the fact that the gang of actors we see time and time again in Welsh-language series are like a repertory company – Sian Reese-Williams, Hannah Daniel, Annes Elwy, Aneirin Hughes, Delyth Wyn… they’re all really good actors, this time supplemented by award-winners and global names like the aforementioned Jo Scanlan, Alexandra Roach and Iwan Rheon. All terrific.
In the end though, Y Golau was a tale about real people experiencing grief, trauma and guilt, all trying to make sense of shattered memories. An effective murder mystery, yes, but a sensitively-told study of the lives we lead with authentic and credible details, like Sharon’s light switch in the hall. We – and she – now knows what happens when you turn it off.
Life still goes on.
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW
READ MORE: OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW
READ MORE: EPISODES THREE AND FOUR REVIEW
READ MORE: EPISODE FIVE REVIEW
Y Golau is available to view on S4C Clic and BBC iPlayer in the UK