Two boys walking a horse through a marsh discover a dead woman. The body shows little signs of violence and has been carefully placed in a striking red dress that serves to emphasise the bloodless pallor of her skin. As DCI Tom Mathias investigates he and his team uncover the sad story of a family broken long before this murder.
As the police build the narrative of the victim’s final hours from CCTV footage, the case comes down to several blank hours between her last known sighting on the platform at Borth rail station and her time of death. Suspects include: the girl’s father, who has a history of violence; an attractive older University lecturer who may have be rather too fond of attractive students; a dubious drug dealing on-off boyfriend who works as a cashier in a penny arcade; a helpful station attendant with a model train hobby.
Mathias finds uncomfortable personal parallels with the dead girl’s family. Her father is an alcoholic and former policeman whose life spiralled out of control due to his obsession with a case – is this the same situation that made Mathias’ return to Wales. At the same time he forms a strange, sad bond with the victim’s mother based on common loss and pain. The relationship becomes physical but their connection is never verbalised – it is also beautifully played by the actors.
The true central character of this excellent series has been the landscape of Ceredigion region of Wales. This episode was one of the most visually striking to date, making great use of the Borth marshes and Welsh shoreline as locations. Previous stories have moved from autumn through winter, this fourth episode moved out of the dark into the light of spring, but this only served to cast deeper shadows. In this case the darkness is a killer’s obsession, and dark undercurrents of conspiracy and corruption from the past.
The opening broke with the series tradition of starting with Mathias and his morning run across coastal moors to foreground the crime and set up a battle of wits with a killer. The detectives are running to catch up throughout, but are often two steps behind their quarry, out-manoeuvred by a cunning and callous intelligence. Hinterland signatures were still much in evidence: Mathias’ caravan, Inspector Mard Rhys’ stylish yet practical outerwear, and much more horrible wallpaper.
Played out at a pace as deliberate but also as devastating as the glaciers that once carved out this ancient landscape this was a melancholy conclusion to the series. Fans hoping for grand revelations about Mathias himself will have been disappointed. Throughout the four episodes hints of the detective’s past have been dropped like breadcrumbs baiting a trap. It was a bold move to deny viewers the dramatic revelations they craved, opting instead to serve up a few crumbs of fresh information before closing in a haunting and ambiguous style.
The gamble has paid off, and a second season is to be shot later this year – hopefully picking up the story threads left hanging.
Director: Ed Thomas
Writer: Jeff Murphy
Cast: Richard Harrington, Mali Harries, Hannah Daniel, Alex Harries, Aneirin Hughes
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