If you were to find a decent television drama series that is set in Wales, but not set near the M4 in Cardiff, then it is a struggle (and no, Rownd a Rownd, Anglesey’s answer to EastEnders does not count). Hinterland is the rare novelty, a gritty detective drama which wears wears its inspirations from nordic noirs proudly on its sleeves. Instead of the bleak and wintery Scandinavian cities of Malmö and Copenhagen, the west Wales seaside town of Aberystwyth provides an equally as bleak and wintery setting and, above all, is an excellent location for a group of detectives to roam about in.
When Hinterland (also known in its Welsh form as Y Gwyll) appeared on the Welsh language channel S4C back in late 2013, it was a pleasant surprise for Welsh viewers as S4C isn’t exactly renowned for providing top-notch television dramas. Hinterland is, as most things are in Wales, bilingual; each feature length episode was filmed twice, once in English and once in Welsh. The Welsh version broadcast on S4C and the English version (with the occasional subtitles) both enjoyed a stint on BBC Four, and now the first season is available on Netflix.
DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) reluctantly arrives back in Aberystwyth after ten years serving at the London Met, carrying the scars of an unspeakable incident. His tortured soul is so overdone that he makes Saga Norén of The Bridge seem positively upbeat. Tom interrupts the group dynamics of DI Mared Rhys (Mali Harries), a by-the-book detective who looks as she will keel over when she finds there is a local she is not acquainted with, alongside socially awkward DC Lloyd Elis (Alex Harries) and the impulsive DS Siân Owens (Hannah Daniel).
Made up of four feature length episodes, the quality varies with the first and fourth episodes (The Devil’s Bridge and The Girl in the Water respectively) being the most memorable. What strikes me the most about The Devil’s Bridge is that it skilfully blends Welsh mythology and folklore into a contemporary plot. Some may snuff Welsh mythology and folklore as spinning a yarn but do remember that Wales is a country that prides itself with its dark and brooding tales. Devil Bridge Falls is situated in the outskirts of Aber, where legend says the Devil built the bridge in exchange for the first living soul that crossed over it. The Devil was outwitted by an old lady and her loyal dog, forcing the Devil then to be too embarrassed to ever return to Wales. Hinterland tells this tale implicitly as the detectives solve the brutal murder of a hated elderly lady discovered near Devil Bridge Falls.
Meanwhile, The Girl in the Water sees the detectives solve the murder of a young Aberystwyth university student whose body is discovered in the wetlands of Cors Fochno, situated in the neighbouring village of Borth. The visionary crew again make good use of the landscape as they successfully capture the sheer vastness and flatness of Cors Fochno compared to its mountainous neighbouring regions.
Of course, you can’t pride a television show only on its cinematography of mountains and wetlands (despite how interesting these mountains and wetlands are geologically speaking), but the first season of Hinterland is definitely one to watch.
What did you think to the first season of Hinterland?
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