WHEN YOU have made it to your fifth series, you might as well just go for it. Why waste any time? Your audience wants murder, so give it to them.
Here we are treated to a severed limb and head within the first ten minutes. A spicy start then. And a welcome one, as previously Shetland has suffered from being a bit tame and slow to get going.
DI Perez’s (Douglas Henshall) first instinct is to wonder if the body parts could have washed in from Norway, knowing full well that the country is to blame for many of Shetland’s ills – rollmops, Up Helly Aa, winter, etc.
But when sodium hydroxide, the stuff used by killers to dissolve corpses, is detected on the remains, things become more sinister. The victim, Daniel, is a young man from Nigeria – a setup which brings the promise of a new international scope to the series.
But what could possibly connect Lerwick to Lagos? And what was Daniel doing in Shetland?
A trail of clues uncovered by Perez’s sidekicks Tosh (Alison O’Donnell) and Sandy (Steven Robertson) point, quite literally, to something fishy going on.
Enter into the frame a slippery fish factory owner, a dodgy but cuddly fisherman and hints of a multi-million pound black fish scam. As if that wasn’t enough, drug smuggling, prostitution and human trafficking are also added into the mix.
Also present is an oddball local family, all of whom seem suspicious and stupid. One of the lads is a skinhead with Confederate flags painted on his car door – the kind of person who might not like black people. If this series delivers anything, let us pray it will be Perez knocking his teeth in after last orders are called at the Norsemans.
It all makes for a promising start, and you can only hope the writers manage to pull it all together by the end.
A thoughtful approach has been taken to the production and cinematography. There are more than a few symbolic nods and metaphorical winks to enjoy – the slicing of a tushkar before the severed head is discovered, and Charles Trenet’s La Mer playing in a bar for more than just background music.
What cannot be forgiven, however, is perhaps the worst car chase in the history of television drama. It really is awful, although it does get Perez saying the F word, so there is a chink of light.
The outrage is also partly atoned for in a few scenes where we get to spend some extended time with the DI. The dialogues between him and Daniel’s mother (Rakie Ayola), who definitely knows more than she’s letting on, allow Henshall do some fine emotional deep diving; while those with his pal, fellow dad and loveable rogue Duncan (Mark Bonnar) offer a bit of lightsome relief.
As always with Shetland the landscapes are spectacular, including those actually filmed in Shetland. Locals seem to love pointing out the inaccuracies on social media, but I quite like seeing how pine forests and the odd glen might look amid wir barren hills. Banna Minn in particular puts in a strong appearance as the site of that first grisly find.
Who knows where the rest of Daniel might be waiting to be discovered?
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