Still catching up on Dublin Murders episode 1? Take a first look at Dublin Murders here.
Ask any chef and they’ll tell you that to make a great meal, you need great ingredients. Of course, Raymond Blanc could probably rustle up something tasty from even the saddest and most bereft of fridges, but give him free reign of Borough Market and you can fully expect a delicious culinary feast heading your way. It’s the same with TV.
It’s all well and good assembling a crack team of writers, directors, producers and editors for a series, but if the source material is no good, it’s unlikely to satisfy the hungry audience at home. Luckily here, the basic components – novelist Tana French’s In The Woods and The Likeness – are fresh, hearty and tasty.
The eight-part crime drama Dublin Murders comes to us thanks to Sarah Phelps, one of the television industry’s most talented screenwriters. Phelps is the scribe behind some of the BBC’s most outstanding dramas over recent years, bringing Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution, Ordeal by Innocence and The ABC Murders to our screens, as well as an adaptation of J K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy back in 2015. She’s a TV chef that knows the value of high quality ingredients – which explains her involvement here in adapting Tana French’s tremendous Dublin Murder Squad books.
This first course – episode 1 – begins with an amuse-bouche which is hardly light on the palette. Sat across from each other are our two lead characters. They’re in a dingy police evidence room looking tired, stressed and more than a little traumatised. Detective Rob Reilly (Killian Scott – Ripper Street, Strike, ‘71) poses his partner Detective Cassie Maddox (Sarah Greene – Ransom, Penny Dreadful) a rather disturbing question after a deep, dark monologue: ‘What if the killed are really the lucky ones…?’
It’s a heavy-going opener, but then we are dealing with a series that’s focused on that most cheery staple of modern television drama, child murder.
Set in the Irish capital some 13 years ago, we open with a fairly cut n’ dry murder case which establishes our two leads as a tight unit that not only work well together, but get results. It’s their next body that we’re to be more concerned with though – that of a 13-year-old girl who has been left on a stone altar deep in the woods. So far, so True Detective.
It wouldn’t be a child murder in a TV crime drama without an eerily similar case some years before to confuse and beguile investigators. Here, there’s the shocking tale of three children that went missing some 21 years previously from the very same wooded area. Is there a connection between the two crimes? It’s something that locals, the media and Reilly and Maddox’s amusingly un-PC boss Superintendent O’Kelly – played with some panache by Game of Thrones’ very own Lord Varys, Conleth Hill – are curious to find out.
Hill’s almost cartoon-ish performance provides a little comic relief to an otherwise quite gloomy affair, allowing us the odd guilty chuckle at his dinosaur attitudes and smutty one-liners. Outside of that though, there’s very little to smirk at here.
This opening episode was extremely promising. True, we’ve broken very little new ground as yet; we’ve mostly walked a familiar path – dead kids killed ritualistically in woodland, shifty peripheral characters, whiskey-drinking and nightmare-plagued detectives with dark secrets, unnecessarily creepy pathologists, smart Alec colleagues, clapped-out old police chiefs on the verge of a heart attack… Yet there’s a real quality to all of it. Dublin Murders features the tropes of the genre, but it deftly avoids clichés as it does so.
This opening hour certainly whet our appetite and tickled our taste buds. Bring on the next course, we say.
Did you catch Dublin Murders episode 1? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Dublin Murders series 1 consists of eight episodes and is being shown on BBC One on Mondays and Tuesdays at 9pm. Read Steve’s review of episode 2 here.