On Easter Monday, audiences settled down to watch the much anticipated feature-length special of Hinterland, the gritty Welsh detective drama which has become an international success after first airing on S4C and BBC Wales last year. True to form, the special aired first in Welsh as Y Gwyll on S4C on New Year’s Day, so there has been a substantial wait for the English Hinterland special to grace our screens.
The Ceredigion landscape provides a dramatic and perfectly bleak setting for DCI Tom Mathias’ first case back since his disciplinary (after he became romantically involved with a victim in the finale of series one). DI Mared Rees, played by Mali Harries, is suitably sharp with Mathias upon his return after picking up much of the workload during his absence. Mathias is thrown back into the deep end with a suspected arson attack which has left a woman and her son critically ill in hospital.
With difficulty, Mathias begins to find his feet again before CS Brian Prosser, played by Aneirin Hughes, makes him head of the case, much to Mared’s frustration. DI Rees has a fraught working relationship with both Mathias and Prosser, which contributes a slow burning yet compelling subplot which has not reached its full conclusion.
Part of the plot is not dissimilar to an episode in series one which dealt with disputes over land and the conflict between old Welsh families and unscrupulous businessmen, so certain scenes were a little repetitive. As the story begins to unravel, however, different themes emerge, and everything may not be as it first appears up on Hen Glyn farm. As Mathias and Rees delve deeper into the case, subplots begin to surface, making for a complex but engaging narrative. When the plot begins to dip, the writers know exactly how to pick up the pace effectively.
As a stage, Ceredigion is stark, bleak and as integral a character to the show as Mathias himself. The lonely silence of certain shots is deafening and reflects the sense of place which contributes to Hinterland’s uniqueness compared to your typical, urban crime drama.
Richard Harrington is, as ever, superb as the intense Mathias. In a dramatic climax to the episode, he reveals a small segment of information about a family tragedy often alluded to in series one. Harrington gives a particularly moving performance here, and effectively portrays the devastation of a man coming to terms with the death of a child.
The supporting cast, although small, are equally as pivotal to the show’s success. Alex Harries plays the bookish DC Lloyd Elis, an underestimated yet essential member of the team. Hannah Daniel plays eager-to-please DS Sian Owens, a young member of the team who frequently clashes with her superior, DI Rees. A host of interesting Welsh actors make up the suspects, but it is Dyfan Dwyfor as aggrieved Bedwyr Thomas who really makes an impression. His panicked and desperate performance gives a flavour of the true devastation of having your home and life ripped from under you.
As Y Gwyll the show is broadcast in Welsh, but Hinterland does have its fair share of subtitled bilingual conversations. This effortless transition from one language to another is a realistic depiction of conversation in 21st century Ceredigion; the show has found a natural and important rythmn in this sense.
Although this feature length episode was not as harrowing or macabre as parts of the first series, the episode was still completely captivating in its eighty minutes. Ultimately, the episode continued to demonstrate that Hinterland is a first-class piece of television and series two will undoubtedly be another fantastic showcase for Welsh writing, production and acting.