"No..." Judge Alice Nelson said to the lady in the supermarket, "Welch's Grape Jelly is not made in Wales."
Hinterland [ hínt'r lànd ]—a remote country region that lies next to a coastline or a river.
Hinterland: Series 1 is shot in the historic Welsh coastal town of Aberystwyth. Yes, the name does look like the eye exam at your optometrist's office, but phonetically it is pronounced, Aber-rist-with (not too hard once you break it down). To the locals it is simply known as 'Aber,' and in spite of the thick dialect (where's Rosetta Stone when you need it), this is a fabulous show from the Country that birthed my mom's favorite singer of all time: Mr. Tom Jones.
Facts of the Case
Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) is a former London police detective, currently working in a small country town on the West Coast of Wales. As he battles his own demons, Mathias and his team must try and solve a series of brutal murders that have plagued the quaint little seaside town.
Now you may be thinking, "Do we really need another police procedural?" Uh, yes, especially when it is as good as Hinterland: Series 1. This is not a typical cops and robbers show with flashy hot shot detectives and non-stop action. Oh no, things move at a relatively slow pace in comparison to most programs of this type, but this deliberate pace, along with exceptional acting and rich stories, gives it a depth that most procedurals do not possess.
Hinterland: Series 1, is a four disc DVD set that contains four movie length episodes, each one approximately 100 minutes long. The show was shot in both English and Welsh, and in the special features you get a taste of the complexity of filming a series in two completely different languages—and an appreciation for the actors who pull off this amazing feat. Starring Richard Harrington as the disheveled and troubled detective Tom Mathias, a bright man who can solve most any crime but is struggling in his own personal life. Mathias has a 'go it alone' attitude that alienates the team he is supposed to lead, and his aloof personality only serves to keep his colleagues at arm's length. Mathias is all business, and because of it he appears to have no interest in the needs of the victims' family, instead it seems that catching the person or persons who committed the crime is all that matters to him. But this couldn't be further from the truth, Mathias feels deeply, but has a hard time showing this due to something from his past that has left him a broken and sad man.
Mathias' boss is Chief Superintendent Bran Prosser (Isn't that a perfect name for a slimy boss?), a shady character with a few secrets of his own. Played wonderfully by Aneirin Hughes, Prosser is a control freak who tries to reign in the loose cannon that is Mathias. So much so that at times he seems to stand in the way of Mathias' attempts to solve cases. Prosser is a bloated bureaucrat only out for himself, and not necessarily someone that Mathias can trust.
Mathias is paired alongside DI Mared Rhys (Mali Harries, Leap Year), a local girl who knows the ins and outs of Aberwyswyth and uses that knowledge to her advantage. She works closely with Mathias, but is constantly befuddled by the disorganized way in which he works. Rhys is methodical when she works a case, and at one point is so angry at Mathias that she says to him, "You are the most frustrating senior officer I've ever worked with." But the more they collaborate, Rhys sees that Mathias' unorthodox style does get results. This single working mother spends more time at the job than at home, and because of it has a strained relationship with her teenaged daughter.
The rest of the crew consists of Hanna Daniel as DS Sian Owens and Alex Harries as DC Lloyd Ellis. Although their roles are minimal in Hinterland: Series 1, they still are a critical part of the team that supports Ryhs and Mathias.
All of the performances are fantastic, and the wonderful way in which the stories are unveiled gives us an intimate look at the lives of each of the characters. The chemistry between the actors works on all levels, particularly Harrington (Mathias) and Harries (Rhys) who have a grudging respect for one another. The tensions between Prosser and Mathias adds to the heaviness each episode brings. Even so, watching Hinterland: Series 1 never feels depressing, and considering the subject matter of each episode, that is an amazing accomplishment.
Aberystwyth is a gorgeous area, and the standard def 1.78:1 widescreen presentation highlights its rich beauty, as well as the historical buildings that make up this picturesque little town. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track is relatively clear, but I had to use the easy to read subtitles because of some of the thick accents. Extras include: behind the scenes clips, a Welsh show reel (the same scenes in both English and Welsh), and a photo gallery.
Police procedurals can often be predictable and bland, but Hinterland: Series 1 is neither. It is a surprisingly beautiful experience, even with the sometimes disturbing subject matter. Go figure.
The evidence says…Not Guilty.
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