Shetland: Not quite up to standard.

by | Mar 10, 2013 | All, Reviews

Having watched the first part of BBC1 crime drama Shetland, I expected to write a review full of interesting theories about whodunit, whydunit and so on. To be honest with you, I haven’t a clue. I don’t really care either. Certainly, I can’t remember most of the suspects’ names.

Billed as the Scottish version of The Killing, the plot actually borrowed heavily from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Except without any of the excitement, tension or, crucially, kick ass female lead. In fact, the women of Shetland are all a bit drippy, or geeky, or spoilt. The men aren’t much better. It’s like everyone is sleep-walking. For the first twenty minutes the grandson of the murder victim has to help out with the investigation, even sitting in on interviews with his father and cousin. He is a police officer but I got the distinct impression he’d have been corralled into helping had he been the local farmer. The actor also had the worst Scottish accent I had ever heard, at times so bad I needed subtitles. Not so with less than charismatic lead Douglas Henshall, who at one point actually spouted the line ‘ah dinnae quite catch thahrt’, I presume the screenwriter’s hackneyed attempt at writing in dialect.

Henshall is trying to solve the shooting of little old lady Mima. She is related to most of the village and friends with the girls on the archaeological dig in her back garden. The dig turns up a skull fragment shortly before her murder. The skull possibly belongs to a Nazi double agent who was possibly murdered in World War Two and was possibly having an affair with Mima, whose husband was definitely (hallelujah!) helping Norwegians to escape the Nazis. It was at this point that Lisbeth Salander was notable by her absence. Instead we had pretty little lovelorn archaeologist Hattie, inconveniently committing suicide (but probably murdered) after discovering something very important after spending 10 minutes staring at a drawing. That’s real detective work that is.

I will watch the second part tomorrow to find out whodunit but I’d be surprised if a second series is commissioned. There were far too many characters for a two hour drama which meant their back stories were reduced to one line exposition. Real care could have been lavished on this programme to build tension and intrigue but instead the whole thing seems squeezed.

With ITV very publically raising their game on drama output and so called ‘Scandi crime’ so popular, I wonder if the BBC is feeling the pressure and overdosing its audience on its’ ‘Original British Drama’. Perhaps a few years ago Shetland would have felt more gripping but the bar has now been raised too high. Telly addicts like myself have become much more savvy, we know when the music cue means that something bad will happen. A more intellectual audience means twists must be far less signposted to keep us satisfied. The beautiful landscape of Shetland was metaphorically covered in neon signs, and part two has a lot of work to do to make this drama worth watching.

Contributed by Victoria Prior.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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