Bregus

Bregus | New Thriller from S4C

Is S4C’s Bregus following the path of a typical thriller, or will it surprise viewers with an elaborate plot twist? Gareth Smith reviews Bregus, the six-part series starring Hannah Daniel.

Bregus, fresh off the assembly line at the S4C thriller factory, boasts a strong cast, an intriguing central mystery and moments of considerable suspense, but risks running out of steam with a disorientating and meandering narrative. 

This is not to say that Bregus is bad. It certainly revels in the cliches of its genre – opening with a flashback of a teenage girl running through the woods in slow motion while haunting music plays – but familiarity is part of its appeal. The problem is that its marketing as a psychological thriller was misleading, essentially due to a lack of palpable thrills. The pace is measured, the dramatic shocks emerge gradually and the emphasis is on domestic tensions rather than pulse-racing twists. 

As with many programmes of its ilk, Bregus features a professional protagonist with a seemingly idyllic life. Ellie Bateman (Hannah Daniel) is a successful surgeon with an impressive home, a contented family and a circle of close friends. Daniel brings much to the role in fleshing out Ellie’s character, imbuing her with charisma and a sense of humour that reinforces her presence beyond the dictates of the plot. The supporting cast (including Rhodri Meilir, Sara Gregory and Hedydd Dylan) are equally convincing as Ellie’s husband and friends. There is often a tendency in TV dramas to emphasise close bonds with a forced and awkward sense of camaraderie, but here the natural chemistry between the cast effortlessly conveys their shared histories.

Ellie’s life is, of course, not as perfect as it seems. The first episode jumped chronologically between a typical day and footage of her running in terror from her own home. This mystery is resolved (somewhat) by the end, but only serves to raise more questions about the fractured relationships between Ellie and her inner circle. The second episode focuses on the aftermath of these events, wallowing in the grief of its main characters and producing some poignant and tense moments. 

The unravelling of Ellie’s life is clearly the purpose of the drama but, now two episodes in, it’s difficult to work out exactly which threads to pick up. The sudden death of a friend, the haunting presence of an overpowering father and a bizarre midnight tryst all with vie with for the biggest contribution to her impending breakdown, but their connection to an overarching mystery remains frustratingly vague. By playing its cards so close to its chest, Bregus risks obscuring any secure narrative trail for us to follow. 

The show is either playing a long game in which drip-feeding information will pay off successfully in later episodes or is gradually losing its way. The slow and steady pace might eventually reveal a more complex and layered narrative than the typical thriller, but it’s something of a gamble to assume that viewer patience will last the course. There have been so many dramas recently which match Bregus in style and tone that it’s difficult not to compare them and find it deviating from the expected product. Whether this is because it is offering something new, or is in fact simply faulty, will be revealed over the next few weeks. 


Fflam BregusRecommended for you…

Gareth Smith writes a bilingual review of Fflam, the latest offering from S4C that marks the channel out as a force to be reckoned with in the field of original television drama.


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Mae Bregus yn gynnyrch newydd S4C o’r diwydiant ‘thriller’ poblogaidd ond, er bod e’n cynnwys yr elfennau disgwyliedig, mae’n arafach na llawer o’i gystadleuwyr yn y farchnad. Nid yw’r cast cryf, dirgelwch diddorol neu’r rhannau cyffrous yn ddigon i achub y naratif dolennog a ddryslyd.  

Nid yw hyn i ddweud bod Bregus yn wael. Mae’n mwynhau cliches y ffurf (gan agor gydag ôl-fflach o ferch yn ei harddegau yn rhedeg trwy’r coed wrth i gerddoriaeth ddychrynllyd chwarae) ond mae hwnnw’n rhan o’i apêl. Y broblem yn rhannol yw cafodd Bregus ei farchnata fel rhaglen gyffro seicolegol, sy’n gamarweiniol oherwydd diffyg cyffro amlwg. Mae cyflymder a siociau dramatig y ddrama yn cymryd ei amser, ac mae’r pwyslais ar densiynau domestig yn lle throellau sy’n achosi’r galon i redeg.

Yn yr un modd â llawer o ddramâu tebyg, mae Bregus yn dilyn gweithiwr proffesiynol dosbarth-canol sydd â bywyd sy’n ymddangos yn perffaith. Mae Ellie Bateman (Hannah Daniel) yn llawfeddyg llwyddiannus gyda chartref trawiadol, teulu bodlon a chylch o ffrindiau agos. Mae perfformiad Daniel yn sicrhau bod Ellie yn teimlo’n credadwy – mae ei phersonoliaeth a hiwmor yn dangos bod hi llawer mwy na chymeriad yna i wasanaethu’r stori. Mae gweddill y cast (sy’n gynnwys Rhodri Meilir, Sara Gregory a Hedydd Dylan) yn argyhoeddiadol fel gŵr a ffrindiau Ellie. Yn aml mae tueddiad i bwysleisio bondiau agos yn dramâu teledu gydag ymdeimlad gorfodol a lletchwith o gyfeillgarwch, ond yma mae’r cemeg naturiol rhwng y cast yn cyfleu eu hanesion agos yn ddiymdrech. 

Wrth gwrs, nid yw bywyd Ellie mor berffaith ag y mae’n ymddangos. Wnaeth y bennod gyntaf neidio o gwmpas yn gronolegol rhwng diwrnod cyffredin yn bywyd Ellie a hi’n rhedeg mewn arswyd o’i chartref. Mae’r dirgelwch hwn wedi’i ddatrys (rhywfaint) erbyn y diwedd, ond mae’n codi mwy o gwestiynau am y perthnasoedd toredig rhwng Ellie a’i gylch agos. Mae’r ail bennod yn canolbwyntio ar ganlyniad y digwyddiadau hyn, gan edrych ar alar y prif gymeriadau a chynhyrchu golygfeydd ingol ac effeithiol.

Mae’n amlwg mai datgeliad graddol bywyd Ellie yw pwrpas y ddrama ond, ddwy bennod i mewn, mae’n anodd gweithio allan ar ba ran o’r stori i ganolbwyntio. Mae marwolaeth sydyn ffrind, presenoldeb brawychus ei tad a chyfarfyddiad gyda dieithryn yn cystadlu am sylw’r gynulleidfa ond mae cysylltiad nhw gyda’r prif dirgelwch yn parhau i fod yn amwys. Trwy gadw ei gyfrinachau yn agos at ei galon, mae Bregus mewn perygl o orchuddio unrhyw lwybr amlwg er mwyn i’r gynulleidfa dilyn.  

Mae Bregus naill ai’n chwarae gêm hir lle bydd cyflenwi gwybodaeth yn araf yn llwyddiannus mewn penodau diweddarach neu mae’n dechrau colli ei ffordd. Efallai bydd y cyflymder cyson yn datblygu mewn i naratif mwy cymhleth, ond mae’n gambl i feddwl bydd amynedd gwylwyr yn para’r cwrs. Bu cymaint o ddramâu yn ddiweddar sy’n syml i Bregus o ran arddull a thôn nes ei bod yn anodd peidio â’u cymharu i’r cynnyrch disgwyliedig. Gwelwn os yw hyn oherwydd ei fod yn cynnig rhywbeth newydd neu’n oherwydd mae’n ddiffygiol dros yr wythnosau nesaf.

 

Bregus is on S4C at 9pm on Sundays. Episodes one and two are available to stream now on S4C Clic.


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Gareth Smith writes a bilingual review of Fflam, the latest offering from S4C that marks the channel out as a force to be reckoned with in the field of original television drama.


Gareth Smith is a regular Wales Arts Review contributor.