The latest update from Netflix at the end of last month came with the news that Hinterland would start streaming on the service on this month. A police procedural set in an around the welsh town of Aberystwyth Hinterland, which stars Richard Harrington, Mali Harries, Alex Harries, Hannah Daniel and Aneirin Hughes, strongly resembles the recent Nordic Noir output of the Scandinavian countries and it should come as no surprise that this is a show that I have been looking forward to since hearing of its strong performance on the Welsh language channel S4C and BBC One Wales.
Filmed in both Welsh and English the version currently available on Netflix is the latter. That’s both good and bad as it is certainly easier to watch a show without subtitles, but there is something truly magical and lyrical about the native language. And I’ll admit to a slight personal bias on this one as my late grandmother grew up in the town where her father owned a bike shop. I’ve never been to Aberystwyth (pronounced as near as an English tongue can manage it as Abba-wrist-worth), but as with the numerous Nordic Noir style shows the bleak and wind wrapped landscape is a character all by itself.
Harrington will be familiar to those who have previously watched Hustle, MI-5 (known as Spooks in the UK), Dalziel and Pascoe, New Tricks or Midsomer Murders. He was also the lead in a previous drama on S4C entitled Pen Talar that also starred Mali Harries and Aneirin Hughes. The latter is more on the periphery in Hinterland as Chief Inspector Prosser, but by the end of the first season there are hints that the character will be more involved. A second season has already been announced with filming taking place this month with a 2015 air date.
As Detective Chief Inspector Tom Mathias, Harrington runs his small, dedicated team as they deal with stereotypically involved crimes all the while as his own personal backstory is patiently filled in with snippets here and there. There’s a determined, methodical manner to the character that the actor portrays well along with a hint of a tortured soul. The layering that is added over the four episodes is quite superb and what starts out as almost a standard procedural in the opening episode has given way to all kinds of nuance by the end of the fourth.
Visually and narratively Hinterland takes its time with shots of the sunset and twirling clouds of birds and yet somehow it doesn’t feel like filler. There’s a sense of flow to the episodes, well directed by Marc Evans, Gareth Bryn, Rhys Powys and Ed Thomas, the latter of whom was the Executive Producer and co-wrote a couple of the episodes. Overall the pacing is quite beautifully done; never too slow to lose interest and yet without the hectic rush that so many shows seem to embrace today.
Certainly the show is not perfect. I’m giving nothing away from a plot standpoint when noting that the victim in the fourth episode had previously had an affair with her professor – that’s a cliché that really should be retired, but there are some standout performances along the way. What’s missing is a supporting cast in and around Aberystwyth to add a little depth to the location of the show, which at the moment revolves around the five main actors and the breathtaking scenery. That’s more than enough to highly recommend the series and hope that we see even more when the second season arrives next year.
– Wallace Poulter