Confession: I’ve developed a taste for dark thrillers – with plenty on Netflix, while Channel 4 has their Walter Presents series, where they show the first episode of a series on live television and then the full series online via All 4.
Stockholm Requiem (All Four) is one that is pretty dark, starting as it does with a two-parter, Unwanted, about the kidnapping and murder of children – rather grim and unsavoury. Religion figures in that a religious anti-abortionist, wouldn’t you know, is a suspect. Sinister pro-lifers make for handy scapegoats. Yet in another way it has a pro-life message. Women regret abortions, it’s seen as an ongoing deep down pain. The explicit message is ‘love them all’, and one woman seems sad that she didn’t, as she effectively admits to having an abortion, and now is having difficulty having any more children. There are hints too of sheltered religious families not showing compassion. In another two-part story, Bloodline, a priest and his wife are killed in an apparent murder-suicide, but of course in cop shows, things are not always what they seem. At least the priest (Lutheran I think) is involved in charity work as are his daughters, though there are suspicions of dodgy dealings in the charity, and credibly the sense that the couple were so involved in their charity work that they didn’t give their own children the attention they needed. Another minister, a woman, is upset and speaks of “her wife”, ticking the diversity box and going nowhere with it. As the series went on there were many moral dilemmas, but there was also an understanding of the fragility of human nature that was endearing. A regular chat in a taxi between the two main characters served as a motif for reflection and continuity through the series.
Floodland (All Four) is another dark thriller series, this time based in Belgium and the Netherlands as police tackle human trafficking and their personal demons both sides of the border. The lead character is Tara Dessel (Jasmine Sendar), an insomniac detective with issues who has the knack of annoying just about everyone else in her dogged pursuit of the trafficking network and the murders that follow in its wake. She partners with a police psychologist Bert Dewulf (Koen de Bouw) who has his own troubles at home and in his private practice. So many police characters have damaged home lives, caused it seems by the all engrossing demands of their professions. Maybe there should be a celibacy rule for detectives? At one stage a young migrant is discovered to be pregnant and we get a touching scene where she is delighted to see her baby on an ultrasound. Tara immediately says she should have an abortion, but the girl wants to keep the baby and the psychologist seems to support her in that choice. As in so many television dramas I’ve seen the message is that there ought to be the choice, but keeping the baby is the better choice – not exactly the pro-life position, but perhaps heading in the right direction. Nevertheless it’s hard to recommend the show. There are some skewed values, and while acceptably gritty it’s occasionally grotty as well, with some unsavoury scenes.
I’ve been catching up on Hinterland (Netflix) an older drama that I missed on live television. Again child abuse figures, but not so much of the clerical kind, though one clergyman does have regrets about not speaking out about his suspicions relating to a care home, while another minister is anything but religious in his home life. It’s a strange show, sometimes classified as ‘Welsh noir’, but it has a certain hypnotic effect, especially if you binge watch. Dialogue is sparse – often characters just give each other knowing looks instead of speaking, as if they’re telepathic. There’s an inordinate amount of driving around the Welsh countryside, and as is often the case, once the new detective arrives in town the body count goes up – only once is he even suspected of contributing. It’s relatively free of ‘adult content’ or bad language, but the crimes are violent and there are way too many instances of suicide, perhaps to the point of irresponsibility. At one stage it seemed that many of the criminals cornered by the detective (DCI Matthias, played by a glum Richard Armstrong) ended up killing themselves or trying to at the end – disconcerting to say the least.
Pick of the week
New! Pilgrim – The Soldier
EWTN Sunday August 22, 7 am, also Monday August 23, 9.30 pm
Drama: A pious pilgrim helps a soldier suffering from PTSD repent for a crime he committed, and discovers the grace of God is greater than any sin.
Songs of Praise
BBC One Sunday August 22, 1.1 5pm
Claire McCollum explores stories of fossils, faith and science along the Jurassic Coast of Devon and Dorset and the first Songs of Praise congregation in more than 18 months sings favourite hymns.
BBC 4 Thursday Aug 26, 10.05 pm
Martin Scorsese explores faith under pressure among missionaries in 17th Century Japan. Challenging, violent and not at all uplifting.