This third episode of bilingual Welsh crime drama Hinterland turns its jaundiced eye away from the bustling streets of Aberystwyth – apart from occasional scenes in the now familiar police station with its seventies décor and rancid coffee machine – and looks inland to rural Wales. While the previous episode revealed middle class corruption hiding in shady property dealings we now travel to a rural working class community and find dark secrets lurking on the back roads.
As is becoming a trademark of Hinterland the episode opens with DCI Tom Mathias in his static caravan. But the composed detective is in a state of emotional distress, in fact throughout the episode Mathias seems in a fragile emotional state. This manifests with harsh words to co-workers and even aggression towards his superior officer. The cool control of the previous episodes is shown as a mask barely hiding a deep well of turmoil. This fragility and pain will be key to solving the mystery of this episode.
The police are called out when amateur divers discover a months old body hidden 10 feet underwater in a disused and fenced off quarry. The investigation narrows on a nearby farming community when it is discovered that the victim is a young teacher who had been working at a local school. The young man had not been reported missing because locals believed he had simply left, his camper van having disappeared.
The investigation slowly uncovers dark streams of jealousy, infidelity and violence running through the community. There is also a very obvious suspect, Wyn Bratton a loner with a history of violence who lives alone in a forest. Bratton has served time for burning down the home of his estranged wife with his sons inside. The boys escaped and Bratton claims he believed the house had been unoccupied. Understandably he is now denied access. Mathias sees uncomfortable parallels with this man, especially when he finds a sad faded photograph of his sons pinned beside his bed at a horizontal angle so he can gaze at them as he sleeps.
As the story plays out it is how it reflects Mathias’ mental state that is most interesting. Secondary characters take a step back in this episode. Viewers looking for major revelations would be disappointed but more shading is added to the character. At the beginning as he is seemingly on the verge of weeping Mathias mistakes the young and pretty DS Owens for someone called ‘Meg’. Previously (in episode 2) we have seen mail addressed to Meg Mathias returned to sender. This is more reason to think this is an estranged wife. Mathias connects with Bratton’s pan over his estrangement from his children and he fights the suspect’s corner when his violent past is used to cast him in a villain’s role. But what does Chief Superintendent Prosser mean when he says that the last time he trusted Mathias’ intuition someone died? There is more going on here than a messy divorce (and even that is an assumption).
Hinterland continues to intrigue, although with one more episode in this season it will be interesting to see how much is revealed in the finalé.
Director: Rhys Powys
Writers: David Joss Buckley & Ed Thomas
Cast: Richard Harrington, Mali Harries, Hannah Daniel, Alex Harries, Aneirin Hughes, Heledd Baskerville, Ifan Huw Dafydd, Richard Elis, Matthew Gravelle, Rhys Griffiths
Follow Stuart Barr @maxrenn on Twitter.
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