New Welsh noir! Hinterland Series 2

Series 2 of the acclaimed Welsh crime drama Hinterland kicks off on BBC One Wales with four 90-minute episodes from Wednesday, 23rd December at 9.30pm. Viewers outside Wales will be able to watch live on satellite (Sky channel 952 or Freesat 964) and cable (Virgin Media 864).

UPDATE: BBC4 will begin showing Hinterland on Saturday 23 April at 9pm. The 2015 special will be shown first (which is well worth watching), followed by Series 2 (5 programmes in total). Further information is available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0791w11

See below for an overview of Series 2 and some great insights from Hinterland’s producers/writers and Richard Harrington, who plays DCI Tom Mathias.

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Here’s the BBC overview of Series 2, Episode 1: ‘In this new series, Mathias is under pressure. Meg, his wife, has turned up in Aberystwyth, and he’s under investigation by the IPCC. When a bus driver’s body is found shot on an isolated mountainside, the investigation provides a welcome escape. In his current state of mind, Mathias is fascinated by the lifestyle choices of suspect and ex-soldier John Bell. He also knows that he cannot avoid Meg for much longer.’

And rejoice! Here’s an absolutely wonderful two-minute sneak preview from Series 2, Episode 1… Just click on the image below.

Season 2 Episode 1 clip

Now for an (almost exclusive) extra:

I had the good fortune to attend a TOP-SECRET Hinterland press briefing in Cardiff, at which Richard Harrington (Tom Mathias) spoke about the making of series 2, along with its Fiction Factory co-creators, producers and writers Ed Thomas, Ed Talfan and Gethyn Scourfield. They had some very interesting things to say about DCI Mathias, the series’ Welshness and international success, and the musical adventures of Hinterband… 

Richard Harrington told us about the challenges of playing the troubled Mathias in series 2, as more of his backstory is revealed. He was aware that some viewers felt frustrated at not knowing more about Mathias by the end of the first series, but didn’t feel it was a bad thing to keep the audience waiting a little. Series 2 was all the more exciting due to Mathias’ character development – a ‘seismic shift that changes everything’.

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Mathias in his caravan. They don’t make Harrington live there for the whole shoot…

The producers discussed the Welshness of the series from a number of intriguing angles. The brooding Ceredigion landscapes provide a ‘big space for big stories’. Hinterland is ‘a love letter to a disappearing Wales’ and a ‘distillation’ of a particular regional Welshness, but also a ‘made-up Wales’ that deliberately avoids contemporary political references to remain timeless. Harrington described the famously hostile Welsh weather as having a biblical feel and being an apt metaphor for Mathias’ mind.

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Close to the edge…

The producers are very proud of the drama’s Welshness. They talked of a Welsh ‘hunger’ for creating and consuming television dramas in both Welsh and English. These provide an opportunity to ‘reflect the Welsh back to themselves’ and to promote Wales to the world, which is a way of ‘helping people to get us better’. When the producers went to France, armed with images of amazing Ceredigion landscapes, they encountered a number of people who knew nothing about Wales, but loved what they saw. The series is shot completely on location in and around Aberystwth, and the producers feel this is key – they can’t imagine filming it in any other way.

Harrington spoke about the challenges of filming in two languages. The series is filmed twice over – once in Welsh for S4C and once in English (with some subtitled Welsh) for the BBC. This is hard work for the actors, who tend to feel more comfortable in one of the languages, and requires flexibility on the part of the writers – for example, they have to find ways around procedural police language that doesn’t work as well in Welsh. But working bilingually is also rewarding, and Harrington says he ‘finds certain emotions in Welsh’ that he doesn’t find in the same way when speaking English.

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Mathias’ colleague DI Mared Rhys, played by Mali Harris

Hinterland/Y Gwyll has been a huge international success. It’s sold to over 30 countries and has been picked up by Netflix. The producers hope this will lead to further success stories for Welsh-made drama, but stressed that understanding the ‘physics of distribution’ is vital. Hinterland is made with investment from S4C, BBC One Wales and other partners, and feel this kind of approach is the way forward. They clearly know what they’re doing, as series 3 has already been commissioned and begins filming in early 2016.

So how do cast and crew relax when they’re not filming? By playing in their very own HinterBAND, with Hannah Daniel (DS Sian Owens) on vocals and Harrington on drums. They’re so good that they headlined the Aberystwyth Carnival in the summer 🙂

There’s a great piece about Hinterband by Kathryn Williams – with photos – on Wales Online here. And here’s the band in action:

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas – Nadolig Llawen from Wales!

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Welsh delights: Series 2 of Y Gwyll (Hinterland) and Graffeg’s The Starlings & Other Stories

UPDATE: Hinterland series 2 airs on BBC One Wales on 23rd December 2015. For further details, see here.

*****

Last weekend was a bumper weekend for TV crime drama in the UK. Swedish crime drama Beck aired on BBC4 on Saturday, and the second series of Welsh crime drama Y Gywll / Hinterland began on Sunday on S4C.

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I hugely enjoyed the first series of Y Gwyll/Hinterland, which followed brooding DCI Tom Mathias and his team through a series of investigations in and around Aberystwyth in Wales. Well written and beautifully shot, with a brooding Cymru Noir feel, it’s polished crime drama that’s well worth viewing (see my earlier post here).

The second series kicked off in style, with Mathias (Richard Harrington) dealing with the dramatic fall-out from his previous case and investigating the murder of a bus driver. We also begin to find out more about Mathias’ troubled past, when his wife arrives from London out of the blue. I was pleased to see this aspect of the narrative getting more attention, as it was the only thing I felt was under-developed in series 1, and will help to add definition to Mathias’ character  – and to that of his partner DI Mari Rhys (Mali Harris), who’s also dealing with family problems.

Those of you who saw series 1 will remember that two different versions were aired – one in Welsh and one in English. The series now on S4C at 9.00pm on Sunday nights is in Welsh with English subtitles – and I do recommend watching this one if you can to get a real flavour of the language. If you’d like to catch up, you can do so via Clic, S4C’s online version of BBC iPlayer (the subtitle button is on the bottom right of the screen next to the volume). You can see the subtitled trailer for episode 1 below.

English version Hinterland (which still has some subtitled Welsh bits) will be broadcast on BBC Cymru Wales and BBC Four at a later date, yet to be confirmed.

Starlings

Welsh publisher Graffeg has dipped its toe into fiction with an intriguing collaboration. In The Starling & Other Stories, edited by Ann Cleeves, twelve crime authors have contributed stories inspired by David Wilson’s bleakly beautiful photographs of Pembrokeshire, and the result is an aesthetic delight: a high-quality softback that features twelve black and white photos ahead of the resulting tales. It’s very lovely and would make a pleasing gift (check out the online sample here).

The authors are ‘The Murder Squad’ – Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Margaret Murphy and Kate Ellis – and six ‘accomplices’ – Christine Poulson, Helena Edwards, Valerie Laws, Jim Kelly, Mary Sharratt and Toby Forward. So far, I’ve dipped into ‘Homecoming’ by Cath Staincliffe and ‘The Starlings’ by Ann Cleeves (the latter featuring one of my favourite police investigators, Vera Stanhope) – both of which were great. Having the photographs as a starting point is also very effective: I found myself looking at the relevant photo in a fair bit of detail before reading the story, and was then watching out to see which visual or thematic elements the author picked up and how she wove them in. Great fun, and a feast for the eye and criminal imagination.

Further details about The Starlings can be found over at the Graffeg website.

True Detective 1, Top of the Lake 2, Y Gwyll/Hinterland 2

The title of this post may look a bit like a line of football scores, but as you’ve probably guessed, the numbers denote the seasons of the crime series being discussed…

So…I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve *finally* managed to watch the box set of True Detective 1 (HBO 2014) that’s been sitting on my shelf for over a year. And what a treat it turned out to be – grown-up, complex crime drama at its absolute best.

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There was so much to like: the complex characterisation of Louisiana state police detectives Marty Hart and Rust Cohle, the absorbing interview/flashback structure, the stunning cinematography, the Deep South gothic-noir mood, and of course, that iconic title sequence featuring The Handsome Family’s ‘Far From Any Road’.

I watched the series with my son, and we were both impressed with the consistently high standard of the eight episodes. We ended up rationing them to one an evening, because each was such a rich viewing experience that we wanted to dissect them afterwards. While the investigation – into the ritualistic murder of a woman and the earlier disappearance of a child – was extremely compelling, what lingered in my mind was the story of Marty and Rust’s own development and the evolution of their relationship over a period of twenty years. Their characters were very different, with individual complexities and flaws, and were brilliantly brought to life by actors Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

I particularly loved Rust’s tenacity (bordering on worrying obsessiveness) in refusing to let the case die. Here he is scouting a site for clues with his ‘taxman’ notebook.

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I hear that True Detective 2 hasn’t (ahem) quite lived up to expectations, so if you haven’t yet seen True Detective 1, now could be the moment to check it out. It will stand the test of time as a standalone series, I’m sure.

Some very good news: a second series of Top of the Lake has been commissioned by BBC2, with Elizabeth Moss reprising her role as Detective Robin Griffin.

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There’s a major change of location, though: season 2 will be shot and set in Sydney, Australia and Hong Kong rather than New Zealand. I admit to having slightly mixed feelings about this, as the New Zealand setting was one of the big strengths of the first series for me. On the other hand, Jane Campion and Gerard Lee are once again co-writing, with Jane also set to co-direct, so I’ll be watching come what may. Production begins in December.

There’s further information about season 2 at indiewire and if.com.au. My earlier post on the first series of Top of the Lake (2013) and its wonderful female protagonists is available here.

And finally… The second series of Welsh crime drama Y Gwyll/Hinterland will air on British screens in mid-September:

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WalesOnline reports: >>The ground-breaking crime drama, starring Richard Harrington as DCI Tom Mathias, will premiere in Welsh, with optional English subtitles, on S4C in the prime drama slot of 9pm on Sunday nights. The first episode of the eight-part series starts on September 13 and Mathias’ wife Meg turns up, hopefully revealing some of the moody detective’s shady past <<.

And here’s a nice little article by Kathryn Williams on ‘5 Things to Expect from Y Gwyll / Hinterland Series 2′. It looks like we’ll be finding out a lot more about both Mathias and Mared Rhys, which is a welcome development. While series 1 was great, a few people (myself included) thought a bit more backstory on the key investigators would have been good (see my earlier post here).

The English-language version will be shown on BBC Cymru Wales and BBC4 at a later date. Riches galore.

January 2015: some crime drama treats

Here we all are in a shiny new year. Wishing you and yours a very happy 2015!

There are a number of wonderful crime dramas heading our way in January. Here’s a quick round up of four goodies…

Y Gwyll / Hinterland, S4C, 9pm on Thursday 1 January 

Today sees a special, one-off episode for fans of this bilingual, Welsh-English crime drama. Here’s the S4C description >> Troubled hero DCI Mathias returns to the front-line in this brand new episode. Faced with a suspected arson attack, Mathias is drawn into a community riven by old feuds and bitter jealousies. A story of heartbreak and loss, but for Tom Mathias, will it offer a new beginning? <<

Head over to the S4C website for further information (in English), a trailer and details of how to activate subtitles. If you don’t have access to S4C, don’t worry – you’ll be able to access it later via S4C Clic online (the Welsh equivalent of iPlayer). The episode will no doubt also appear on BBC1 in due course. An earlier Mrs. Peabody post on Y Gwyll is available here, and a new series follows later in 2015.

Fortitude, Sky Atlantic, 9pm on Thursday 29 January

There’s an increasing amount of buzz about this series in the press. Drawing on Scandi Noir traditions, it features a stellar international cast (Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon, Sofie Gråbøl, Christopher Eccleston), is set in a mining community in the Arctic Circle and was filmed in Iceland. From where I’m standing, that’s an impossible combination to resist.

Sky’s description is as follows: >> Fortitude is a place like nowhere else. Although surrounded by the savage beauty of the Arctic landscape, it is one of the safest towns on earth. There has never been a violent crime here. Until now. In such a close-knit community a murder touches everyone and the unsettling, mysterious horror of this crime threatens the future of the town itself.

The local Chief of Police, Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Dormer), has to investigate alongside DCI Morton (Tucci), the detective who has flown into Fortitude so fast that questions are being asked about how much he knew, and when. As these two cops try to make sense of the killing, each finds compelling reasons to mistrust and suspect the other. <<

Further details are available here and there’s a preview clip too…

Broadchurch, ITV, Monday 5 January

Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) return for the second series of this crime drama set on the Dorset coast. I absolutely loved the first series and am intrigued to see where the storyline goes after the explosive revelations of the final episode.

Spiral, BBC4, 9pm on Saturday 10 January (12 episodes)

The fifth season of this gritty French crime drama will be a welcome addition to BBC4’s international crime slot on Saturday evenings. I’ll resist providing a description of the first episode in case there are some who’ve not yet seen the end of season 4 (that includes me), but if you’re interested in knowing more, you can head over to the BBC4 website.

Crime Time Preview has a useful round up of further crime dramas (British and international) that are scheduled for 2015. It looks to be a promising year.

Wishing you all a fabulous start to 2015. My January’s going to be a bonkers one, trying to juggle a number of different publishing and academic commitments, so I may be posting a little less than usual this month. It’s all good though – and I look forward to reporting on a completed project soon 🙂

Reminder: The Bridge 2 and Hinterland air this Saturday 4 January

A quick reminder that this Saturday is a bumper one for crime fans, with the start of not just one but two cracking crime series on the BBC.

On BBC Four from 21.00 to 23.00, we have the first two episodes of The Bridge 2, the Danish-Swedish co-production that attracted considerable praise in the UK when the first series aired in 2012. You’ll find further details about Bron/Broen 2 over at The Radio Times website – and here’s a bit of what they have to say about it:

>> In a thrilling opening sequence, a cargo vessel wanders from a shipping lane to head directly for the gigantic Øresund Bridge linking Denmark and Sweden. Despite frantic radio pleas from the coastguard, there is no word from the ship as it crashes into the structure that spans a mass of chilly, lonely water. Yes, The Bridge is back. After nearly two years in “real time” and precisely 13 months in fictional time, the cult Scandi thriller’s brilliant cop partnership of Saga Noren and Martin Rohde returns. <<

An amusing clip of Saga and Martin’s reunion is available on the BBC4 website here – isn’t it great to see them together again?

And lest you’ve forgotten, here’s the wonderful title sequence, featuring the song ‘Hollow Talk’, by The Choir of Young Believers. Marvellous stuff.

Meanwhile, over on BBC One Wales from 21.30 to 23.05, we see the start of the gripping Welsh crime drama Hinterland, which aired a little while back in a Welsh-language version and will now be shown again in a bilingual version. I am SO pleased that both English and Welsh feature (the latter with subtitles), as this accurately reflects life in Wales, where you hear speakers hopping from one language to the other all the time.

This is what the BBC has to say on the decision to film in both languages (full press release available here):

>> The special adaptation of the drama for BBC One Wales will feature dialogue in both English and Welsh – the first time both languages have played a prominent role in a drama series broadcast by the BBC. The Welsh-language elements of the programme will have on-screen subtitles.

Starring Richard Harrington, Hinterland has already attracted critical acclaim for its brooding portrayal of police life in west Wales. The Guardian said “fans of washed-out noir are going to love this for its slow, confident pacing, attention to detail and Harrington’s engrossing performance.”

The new series follows a commitment made by BBC Cymru Wales Director, Rhodri Talfan Davies, at the Celtic Media Festival in April to better reflect Welsh language life and culture on BBC One Wales. At the time, he said: “I think we have to spend more time finding bridges that can connect different audiences to cultures, view-points and experiences they might not normally encounter. On BBC One Wales I want us to think creatively about how we allow Welsh language voices and experiences to be heard and experienced a little more.” <<

For my take on the Scandi-influenced, Welsh-language original Y Gwyll, including a spoiler-free review of the first episode, see here. Further details are available in The Radio Times.

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that these two programmes clash… Set those recorders now – neither should be missed!