As S4C’s popular drama Yr Amgueddfa returns to our screens for a second series, Emma Schofield sat down to find out whether the drama, penned by Fflur Dafydd and produced by Paul Jones of Boom Cymru, could keep the momentum going as the story moves to a new location.
Yr Amgueddfa quickly became one of the breakaway hits for S4C in 2021, with its first series marking a fresh offering from the channel, fast-paced and packed with twists and turns. So it was no surprise when the channel announced that it would be returning for a second series, with Nia Roberts and Steffan Cennydd reprising the lead roles as Della and Caleb.
The drama picks up ten months on from when we last saw Della and Caleb, with the new couple having made the move to a rural part of Carmarthenshire in order for Della to work on the restoration of a country museum. As with series one, all is not entirely what it seems and Della is soon drawn into a struggle over the rare “Mold Cape”, for which she has secured a museum lease. It’s a delight to see Nia Roberts back in the role of Della, a woman who knows what she wants both professionally and personally and isn’t afraid to go after it. Her confidence only really falters when confronted by her mother, Elinor (Sharon Morgan), who takes a more prominent role in this series. The interplay between Della and Elinor naturally oscillates between witty and emotionally charged, with the mother-daughter power dynamic constantly shifting and changing as the series unfolds.
Art crime featured as one of the main plot lines in the first series, with Della working in the National Museum in Cardiff at the time that a Rembrandt mysteriously disappeared from the museum. In this second series, the crime takes something of a back seat. Investigations are underway into what happened with the Rembrandt, but the focus here is closer to home, on the ripple effect which the painting’s disappearance had on Della and her family. The first series felt big and dramatic, this second series is quieter, with more of a personal focus. This is no bad thing as it allows the characters to really come to the fore. We get an entirely new perspective on the returning cast this time around, alongside captivating performances by new additions, including Saran Morgan who looks as if she’s having the time of her life playing mysterious herbalist, Greta.
That said, that balance between the wider world and the personal struggles faced by Della and her family, doesn’t always hit the mark. Unanswered questions hang in the air in several key scenes and there’s something about Caleb’s growing obsession with fertility rituals and herbal remedies which feels a little out of step with the very measured, in control Caleb we saw in series one. In fact, Caleb’s whole character has shifted quite considerably for this series and his fixation on starting a family with Della seems like a pretty big decision to have reached only ten months on after the couple decided to translate their affair into a relationship. While the storyline does allow the issue of the age gap between the couple to surface, it still feels a little worn as a plotline and a step back for Caleb, whose character could easily have been pushed further in the very capable hands of Steffan Cennydd.
Conversely, one character who really does come into their own in this series, is Mags, Della’s young daughter. In series one we saw Mags being drawn into becoming an egg donor, now we see the reality of that decision starting to hit home for Mags as she flees to West Wales in a bid to outrun her complicated emotions about the new baby which now exists as a result of her donation. Mag’s emotional wrestling with the situation is brilliantly depicted by Bethan McLean (who takes over the role from Mared Jarman) and continues to add a whole other dimension to the complex relationship between Caleb, and Della’s family.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Yr Amgueddfa makes for an engaging watch. As ever with S4C’s productions, we’re treated to glimpses of a dazzling array of Welsh scenery which, from the gloomy depths of winter, provides a welcome backdrop to the drama. The rural setting is also the ideal location for the supernatural air that this series has in spades. From eerie moments within Della and Caleb’s ramshackle house, to mysterious local myths and the on-going struggle for ownership of the Cape, there is plenty here to keep you distracted from those January blues.