Death and Nightingales is a new three-part drama, based on a novel, but adapted by the same team who brought us The Fall… which I’ve never seen, but they’ve also given us Jamie Dornan who was in that, as well as the laughably-terrible Fifty Shades Of Grey movies.
I’ve never seen The Fall, as I missed it when it started and never have time to catch up with whole series of programmes which I won’t end up reviewing, but I heard good things.
At the start of this, we’re told: “Clonoula, the small Protestant Estate of William Winters in County Fermanagh, Ulster, July 1885, when all of Ireland was an undivided province of the British Empire” – Is that a Brexit reference?
After spending all her life where she is, Beth Winters (Ann Skelly) has had enough of it all including her wretched step-father, Billy Winters (Matthew Rhys), to whom we first see her delivering justice before time winds back a bit to show her making her plans to leave. And he was never happy about the fact his wife had an affair with another man, hence why Beth isn’t his own daughter.
On the day she’s about to leave, she meets the charismatic Liam (Dornan) and her plans change…
I don’t know whether it was the story or whether I had trouble understanding the strong Irish accents – leading to a lack of following the story, but I just didn’t find Death and Nightingales particularly accessible. In fact, since there are no subtitles on preview versions of programmes, it was sometimes difficult to understand those accents.
As an aside, there’s a brief appearance from the always-welcome Michael Smiley, and in one of the occasional flashbacks to when Beth was 12, there was a scene which was highly amusing for reasons I’ll explain: Billy is shown unlocking a door with jangly keys at approximately 12 minutes in, as well as the safe beyond that, they’re the SAME SOUND EFFECTS as you can hear in Thief II: The Metal Age, one of my all-time favourite games.
Alas, this feels like an age-old tale of young woman entranced by hunky man, to the point where she’ll rob from the evil arsehole she has to live with, and run away with said hunky man, and other examples of this include Wild At Heart and a number of others which will come to mind, soon. However, before we actually got to that point, around the end of the episode, it felt like it could’ve been done in half the time.
This is only a three-parter, so I will check out the other two and I hope it improves.
UPDATE: Episode 2: If Jamie Dornan did show up in this episode, I must’ve nodded off because I don’t recall seeing him at all, even though it all seemed to be pointing to featuring him in the main. Hence, this episode went in a completely different direction than expected and it was so disappointing. However, since there’s a third episode to come as the conclusion, I’ll stick with it. Had this been running for eight episodes like, say, Black Earth Rising (which certainly didn’t need to do so), I would jump ship now.
Edit: I flicked through the episode again on the BBC iPlayer, and, yes, Mr Dornan was in there, but not for long, so I definitely think my mind was forced to wander…
Episode 3 came and went and, while there was a twist I didn’t see coming – which obviously I won’t mention because that would rather defeat the object of watching it, and I hate spoilers, I still feel the entire three hours could’ve been told in a 75-minute drama.
Oh! But we again heard the Thief II lock-picking sound effect when something was unlocked. Which was nice.
Episode 1 Score: 4/10
Episode 2 Score: 2/10
Episode 3 Score: 3/10
Producer: Jonathan Cavendish
Adaptation: Allan Cubitt
Novel: Eugene McCabe
Music: David Holmes and Gerry Diver
Billy Winters: Matthew Rhys
Beth Winters: Ann Skelly
Liam Ward: Jamie Dornan
Catherine Winters: Valene Kane
Mercy Boyle: Charlene McKenna
Mickey Dolphin: Francis Magee
Bishop Donnelly: Sean McGinley
Frank Blessing: Martin McCann
Dummy McGonnell: Michael Smiley
Jim Rutledge: Des McAleer
Gerry Boyle: Ciaran Flynn
Young Beth: Aoibheann Mullan
CI Joseph Quinn: Paul Kennedy
Constable Shanley: Eugene O’Hare
Maurice Fairbrother: Pip Torrens
Gary Pringle: Conor MacNeill
Tommy Martin: Frankie McCafferty
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.