(Exercise for an online class)
Hinterland is a program about police investigations set in contemporary Wales. Befitting a British production, it was not a weekly “26 or 39 episode” show designed to be broadcast over one season with reruns in the summer (as American TV was for many decades), but three “series” of 8 or 9 episodes, filmed over three years. A unique feature of the show was its having been filmed twice, each episode once in Welsh, and then again in English.
The main characters are Tom, a detective sent down from London into exile because of personal flaws and failures in his past, and Mared, an “up through the hawsepipe” local police investigator who knows everything and everyone in the area. The tensions: local vs London, woman vs man: dark vs. light, etc that characterize the drama enhance viewer pleasure and draw an engaged audience.
Episodes deal with individual cases, but one main story, introduced in the first episode of the first season, carries through all 3 series to a final satisfying denouement in the 25th episode.
If you’re looking for a television program that will carry you through a few days of binge watching during lockdown, you could do worse than calling up Hinterland on Netflix. It’s set in Wales, so the scenery won’t be familiar to you from Hollywood (or anywhere else) productions. The mood is dark and rainy, but the actors are a good looking lot. The tension between them: professional, romantic?, sexual (implied but not acted on) and the ways that everyone carries secrets from each other and from viewers draws interest and attention.
One story, involving sexual abuse of residents in a youth home by otherwise respectable members of local society, is introduced in the first episode but not resolved until the 25th. Individual episodes and groups of 2 or 3 episodes take up and resolve separate crimes. The dirty underside of what otherwise appears to be bucolic rural Welsh life is plumbed and brought to light.
Anyone who believed that dastardly deeds were an urban phenomenon and perfidy did not pollute the sticks will be brought up short.
Though I was caught in the web of intrigue cast for me by the producers of Hinterland, a Welsh detective program available through Netflix, I can’t say that I was entertained. The show’s dark aspects, seen in the weather, the lighting, the brokenness of even the “good guy” main characters as well as in the criminals they chase and the heinous crimes they solve, lends itself more to introspection than delight or enjoyment.
Compare it, if you will, to the kind of church experience you might find in a Roman Catholic congregation on Good Friday sitting cheek-by-jowl with a Health and Wealth gospel contemporary Protestant church on Easter Sunday. The first aims at the darkness of human experience in anticipation of redemption, and the second ignores the existence of sadness completely. Well, Hinterland is like “always Winter and never Christmas”, or “always Lent and never Easter.”
If there’s enough Christmas in you to carry you through winter, or enough Easter in you to get you through Lent, then this just may be the program you need to provoke thought and reflection on the dark parts of human life.
David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.