This time of year often brings with it a plethora of new drama series’, and Dublin Murders has certainly set the bar incredibly high. The new eight-part drama from the brilliant Sarah Phelps wastes little time in establishing both its bleak tone and its narrative. The story straddles two timelines one in 2006 and one in 1985. When the body of a young girl is discovered in the Knocknaree woods in Dublin, detectives Rob Reilly (Killian Scott) and Cassie Maddox (Sarah Greene) are forced to investigate.
Sarah Phelps has a tricky task here. She’s adapting two of Tana French’s bestselling Dublin Murder Squad novels. Each book is led by a different detective from the same team and their signature is an intense emotional connection between cop and crime. Here Phelps is blending the first two novels, In the Woods and The Likeness and as a result, the episodes feel dense with plot.
I was hooked from the off. The opening scene sees Rob and Cassie discussing something that’s happened, before Cassie leaves, informing her partner that they can’t see each other again. I mean, what a great way to start. Phelps did so much with so little in this scene — and so much of the dynamic between Rob and Cassie was established right here.
While there’s a familiarity in the police duo, both characters are extremely well developed — so much so that neither feels like the one-dimensional tropes cop that can often be the case where crime dramas are concerned. As it does in all of her dramas, Phelps’ dialogue played a huge role in making them feel real.
Rob and Cassie’s reaction upon discovering the location of the body made it clear that they know more than they’re letting on. Their reluctance to investigate appear to surround a similar case in the same woodland. The second big strand of the story takes to 1985, where three children are running through the woods. Only one of the three came back home, the other two vanished. Could this new murder, in the same location be connected to the crime that has haunted the area for over 20 years?
Everyone we meet is shrouded in secrecy and appears haunted by their past. The Devlin family, whose young daughter Katy is the one found dead in the woods is hiding something. Their home feels soulless and eirie.
While the murder is a huge factor, it’s rather the secrets that it unearths that provides for much of the story, as — in a final ‘twist’ — it’s revealed that Rob is, in fact, Adam — the young boy who was found in the woods when his friends went missing 21 years earlier.
A twist of this magnitude can make or break a series, but given all of the superb work Phelps put into the script, this twist not only worked, it paid off tremendously well, and will no doubt continue to do so in the coming episodes.
The cinematography and direction were also top-notch and proved instrumental in establishing the show’s signature bleak tone.
The TV landscape is awash with crime dramas from all across the world, but Dublin Murders is much more than your average crime drama. With multi-dimensional protagonists that share a great dynamic, an engaging narrative that leaves us yearning for more, and a grisly setting to boot, there really is a lot to love about Dublin Murders. A contender for the best series of the year, for sure.
By Stephen Patterson
Dublin Murders continues on Tuesday at 9pm on BBC One.