thu 01/12/2022

Shetland, Series 7, BBC One review - Douglas Henshall is back for the last time as Jimmy Perez | reviews, news & interviews

Shetland, Series 7, BBC One review - Douglas Henshall is back for the last time as Jimmy Perez

Shetland, Series 7, BBC One review - Douglas Henshall is back for the last time as Jimmy Perez

Can new series recapture the show's former glories?

Rachel Cairns (Shauna Macdonald) with DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall)

The last couple of series of Shetland (BBC One) brought the previously much-loved series alarmingly close to shark-jumping territory, converting the remote and thinly-populated Shetland archipelago into a war zone teeming with people-trafficking gangs, murderers and drug dealers. Can Series 7 restore some sanity?

This opening episode slithered down the ramp for a promising start. Series 6 left the career of DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall, here making his last appearance in the role) hanging in the balance, in the aftermath of the death of Donna Killick and her attempt to implicate him in a cover-up, but this didn’t detain us long. To, presumably, no viewer’s surprise, a police tribunal in Aberdeen did a bit of stern legalistic posturing before giving Jimmy the all-clear, whereupon he was back on the Shetland beat in the twinkling of an edit.

The story this time looks (so far) quite intriguing, centring on a talented young author and illustrator, Connor Cairns (Nicholas Nunn, pictured below). He has just launched a graphic novel called The Wulver (a Wulver would appear to be the Shetland equivalent of a werewolf), which he did at a cosy little gathering at the Harbour Bar in beautiful downtown Lerwick. This was shortly after he’d heroically saved a drowning woman at a meeting of the local Wild Swim Club… might this assume greater significance later on? Anyway, the rosy glow of his auspicious book launch was almost immediately dimmed by Connor’s baffling disappearance.

Most of the episode was taken up with laying out possible clues mixed with teasing red herrings. For instance, an incident where a camper van recklessly drove two girls on bicycles tumbling into the verge led us to its occupants Nicole and Cameron Waldron (Dawn Sievewright and the infelicitously-named Gordon Brown), who seemed likely candidates for Connor’s abduction and/or death until we discovered that they weren’t. Even though they did cruelly dump a fake body in the front yard of Connor’s parents, causing hysterical distress to Connor’s distraught dad Danny (Andrew Whipp).

Ominous vibes emanated from the local students hall of residence, where a gothicky-looking girl told Perez that Connor was obviously dead (she knew this thanks to some woo-woo spiritual intuition). But the big reveal was the fact that Connor’s dad is an ex-cop from Ayrshire, who was involved with the death of drug dealer Pepper Waldron (see Waldrons op. cit. above) and was jailed for two years for corruption. And now he and his wife Rachel (Shauna Macdonald) are trying to put it all behind them by running the local Moss View B&B, where their veneer of tight-knit family bonding is already tattered around the edges.

But we don’t just watch Shetland for the plot. We watch it for Henshall’s always involving portrayal of the increasingly grizzled and greying Perez, with its repertoire of little twitches and tells which speak volumes about his intelligence and determination but also his shyness and insecurity. The death of his wife continues to cast a shadow over his tentative efforts at dating, and this time around his late father’s carer Meg (Lucianne McEvoy) gets the short straw as the woman continually at the mercy of Jimmy’s workaholic schedule. This ensures that anything resembling a date is doomed to be cut short by an urgent phone call summoning him to a morgue or a crime scene. It remains to be seen whether the future absence of Henshall will kill Shetland stone dead.

And as ever, the Shetlands look exquisite, shot here in beautifully composed tableaux hauntingly lit in blues, greens and greys as the camera’s eye roves slowly overhead. The landscapes seem to have been purpose-built for wide screen photography, as eager camera-toting tourists will be keen to exploit. Though they do seem to be having a bit of a ferry crisis up in the Highlands and Islands right now…

Comments

Excellent review (unless it’s because it echoes my own feelings about Shetland) with stellar acting from Henshall. His microscopic changes of expression pulls us into the action far more effectively than the full on gurning of stage performances which become tiresome on the small screen. One or two of the cast might benefit from watching his mastery of letting the camera do the heavy lifting when expressing his emotions. The use of music to mood the sets is also restrained. Which is all a bit mean of me seeing as I am loving the series, The stunning scenery and beautiful photography provide the icing on the cake.

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