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Thursday, 15 November 2018

REVIEW: Dark Heart ends on a high note.

Dark Heart, the gritty new(ish) crime drama from Chris Lang, has been keeping us on the edge of our seats for the past few weeks, but all good things must come to an end, and this logic, unfortunately, applies here, as the ITV series reaches its jaw-dropping conclusion — but not before DI Will Wagstaffe (Tom Riley) investigates one more unusual murder.


The body of a young woman named Suzy Moyland is discovered by Father Connolly — played by Charles Lawson aka Jim McDonald from Coronation Street —  in a church. What’s interesting, however, is that the body has been posed in a praying position, clearly suggesting foul play, which is something our dashing detective detects immediately. Following a post-mortem, Wagstaffe and DC Josie Chancellor (Anjli Mohindra) pay a visit to Suzy’s place of work, where they discover that she was a porn star.

Wagstaffe struggles to comprehend Suzy’s decision to enter into such an industry, which will likely be a similar viewpoint on the matter for many viewers of the show. But that’s what Lang does best. As with all of his work, the Unforgotten writer poses some interesting questions for the viewing audience. Here, he uses his protagonist to ask these questions, which are particularly in regards to how pornography has become commonplace in society, and how the depiction of sex in these sorts of films and internet videos can result in a tainted view of the world, much like it does for young Ed Denslow (Jacob Avery).


As for the murder, Wagstaffe and Chancellor are told that, hours before her death, Suzy took part in a violence-ridden porn livestream. The detectives track down the two men who had sex with Suzy in the video — Sean Deyes (Bradley Taylor) and Leon Williams (Leon Lopez) — and via them, they uncover that Suzy owed money to gangster Jim Duggan (Paul Kaye).

Like Lang’s best work, the story of this two-parter isn’t as straightforward as you’re likely expecting it to be, as it turns out that Duggan — as unpleasant as he is — was in love with Suzy, and therefore wouldn’t have killed her. Many elements of this case hit home for Wagstaffe, especially in regards to his non-relationship with Sylvie (Miranda Raison), which is a sore spot for him after his sister Juliet (Charlotte Riley) had previously accused him of not knowing how to love someone.
The final twist reveals the killer to be Theresa Clarke (Karen Henthorne), the pleasant religious lady who aids Father Connolly at the church. But that’s not all. Theresa was Suzy’s alcoholic mother that ran out on her kids when they were younger. As Wagstaffe and Chancellor attempt to talk Theresa off the ledge from which she’s threatening to jump, Wagstaffe becomes emotional, drawing on his own parents’ death in a final bid to get Theresa to safety. A bid that ultimately falls on deaf ears.


As I’ve mentioned before, most of Dark Heart’s charm lies in its complex protagonist. Wagstaffe is a troubled individual, which might be a bit cliché, but the strong characterisation on both Lang and Riley’s part makes him so much more than that. He’s an incredibly multi-layered character, and even by the end of the final episode, there’s so much left untouched with him, which makes Dark Heart feel like the sort of drama that should be revived every couple of years, in a similar manner to that of Prime Suspect. Riley is thoroughly captivating as Wagstaffe, and it would be a travesty if he — and Lang — aren’t given further opportunity to develop the character’s story. Juliet’s sectioning will undoubtedly have ramifications for both him and Harry (Joseph Teague) and the shocking revelation on Juliet’s part that Will didn’t truly know his parents is a pretty shocking way to end the series.

Dark Heart wasn’t easy viewing for those of us with faint hearts, but the gritty crime drama has been a compelling thrill-ride from start to finish. The concise two-part stories are something television rarely does these days, and the narrative of the show fits such a formulaic structure incredibly well. I’m going to be bold and say that Dark Heart is the best new crime drama of the year.  Here’s hoping we’ll get to see another outing for the broody Will Wagstaffe and his trusted sidekick Josie because there's definitely more story here to tell.

Contributed by Stephen Patterson

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