Reviews / What exactly lies beneath the waves, we wonder as Shetland returns to our screens

In Shetland series seven DI Perez investigates the disappearance of a vulnerable young man. Photo: BBC/Silverprint Pictures/Mark Mainz

SHETLAND is back with a new cast of weirdos to keep us guessing, writes Jordan Ogg.

A review of Shetland cannot start without addressing the news that Douglas Henshall is bowing out. The actor has sprinkled lead character DI Jimmy Perez with a hushed shaking of stardust since the show hit our screens in 2013. But now it seems he has had enough.

That this announcement can carry the front cover of the Radio Times is testament to the gravity of the news. How can the show possibly go on?

Online chatter suggests Shetland will continue with a new actor in the role, or a new lead character altogether.

Tosh (Alison O’Donnell) could carry it. She has years of experience, and her character has gained real depth. She is a mother now, juggling a busy job with bringing up a baby. Perez himself alludes to her being more than capable and heaven knows she deserves the promotion.


Her sidekick Sandy (Steven Robertson) could fill her boots as second-in-line, and in doing so finally be given a more meaty role to fill. For too long has he been unnecessarily cast as homespun and naive. Here is a chance for the producers to change things up.

What sets Shetland apart from other TV crime dramas is, of course, its location. The landscape has become a character in itself, arguably more important than any human individual. Perhaps this special quality can ensure its survival without Henshall.

Will Tosh (Alison O’Donnell) success Douglas Henshall succeed in becoming the series lead character? Photo: BBC/Silverprint Pictures/Mark Mainz

Epic views abound in this opening episode, with gripping coastal shots setting up the action to come. Much of the action unfolds on a gloomy day we later learn is the winter equinox – a time of transition. Meanwhile, watery metaphors bubble along under the script.

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But what exactly lies beneath the waves?

This question hangs in the mizzle when an outdoor swimming group gets into trouble. And it is echoed later when a deliciously grim find is dredged up by a peerie boat.

Our star, DI Perez, is also exploring new depths. He is a changed man: his father has died, his daughter has moved out, his best pal is in jail, and he has just got his job back after being suspended for months.

He might even manage to get a girlfriend, at last. Hurrah! But only if, as he says himself, he can stop being such a dick.

The DI is wearing his emotions without fear or shame, as we see to great effect in the opening scene when he lets rip in front of his tribunal committee. Usually, it would take a couple of episodes for the DI to start seething. Not so here, and all the better for it.


One familiar thing we find is lots of ‘local’ folk who actually come from the west of Scotland. And, as we have come to expect, they are all complete weirdos.

This new episode delivers here in spades. We encounter a teenage witch, an incestuous camper van driver with terrible hair from the 1980s, and a library worker clearly so guilty of an as yet unknown misdeed, he should just get himself on a ferry to Barlinnie now and save us a lot of bother.

More fun comes in the form of the most un-Shetland-like pub ever to have been imagined. A comfortable and convivial bar, with art deco fittings and nice wooden furniture, in Lerwick, without at least one absolute horror show of a drunk shouting about the football or demanding a lighter. Hilarious.


Young Connor, a lad obsessed with werewolves who remains missing as the credits roll, is a worry. He’ll turn up though.

More of a concern is Connor’s crap dad, but he seems a safe bet to meet a grim end in the coming weeks. My bet is on his wife doing him in. We can but hope.

Episode two will be broadcast next Wednesday at 9pm on BBC One. The crime drama is also available on iPlayer.

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