One of the joys of digging into online services such as Hulu and Netflix is finding a show that you had no idea existed. Such is the case this week as we take the time to look at a very popular Irish series called Single-Handed which is available for streaming on Hulu.
Set in the west of Ireland, a bleak, desolate and yet beautiful landscape, the series revolves around Sergeant Jack Driscoll, of the local Irish police called the Garda. Driscoll, played by Galway native Owen McDonnell, a stage actor marking his first break in television, has returned home to take over the position of the primary police presence in the area following the retirement of his father Gerry from the same role. McDonnell essentially is the show and he handles the responsibility well combining a sense of purpose, duty and honesty with an anger that is usually below the surface.
Gerry Driscoll was a corrupt cop who ruled the surrounding countryside for 30 years and knows all the secrets of the area. Nicely played by Ian McElhinney, who is instantly recognizable from his role as Ser Barristan Selmy in Game of Thrones, the senior Driscoll casts a large shadow over the proceedings.
Single-Handed is in many ways a western dressed up as a police procedural. The lone hero, hence the title, returning to town to help preserve law and order, while facing the challenges of an insular society and the corruption in place.
There’s a lot to like in the show that is again much more deliberately paced than an average US presentation. Each of the characters, with the exception somewhat ironically of McElhinney’s Gerry Driscoll, are various shades of grey and part of the enjoyment is seeing the layers get peeled back slowly and in what direction they are pulled.
Originally broadcast as stories over two-part episodes, with 12 episodes in all, Hulu instead combines the stories and presents the show in six episodes with each running an hour and forty minutes. Co-creator Barry Simner, well known to UK audiences for writing for such shows as The Bill, The Vice and Midsomer Murders, gets the writing credit for the first four episodes and each one flows nicely.
Caroline Catz, she of the well regarded Murder in Suburbia and Doc Martin, turns up in the second episode as a love interest for Jack Driscoll, but her Doctor character is under used and alas disappears back to England by the end of the story. It’s one of the few minor complaints I have about the show.
There’s no great epiphany here as you watch the show in terms of quality acting or impressive story line. It’s all excellent and enjoyable, but there’s no sense of shall we say brilliance. That is until you reach the end of the first episode and eagerly await the continuing story of Jack Driscoll, as the next is auto-queued.
— Wallace Poulter