Marcella opens with a shot of the lead character, played by Anna Friel, in the bath, bruised and bloodied, the bathroom looking slightly cleaner than that in The Young Ones. However, this is no dream sequence, it’s real and we then flash back to 12 days earlier…
She took a career break several years ago to look after her family, but her marriage to Jason (Nicholas Pinnock) is on the rocks after fifteen years, and with her colleagues getting in touch about a serial killer from eleven years ago, who is now returning to the fore and carrying out murders in the same way, her boss, DI Rav Sangha (Ray Panthaki) asks for her help which leads to her calling time on her break and she wants to ‘get the band back together’, so to speak… Well, she wants to go back to work, anyway. And since she mixes a complex personal life while trying to sort things out in her professional life, you know in a drama like this that there’s a chance you’ll make a hash of both from time to time.
So who’s in the frame? Suspects include Clive Bonn (Andrew Lancel) and Peter Cullen (Ian Puleston-Davies), but one has specious ties to one of the victims while the other’s currently in jail for offing his missus. Hence, there’s no easy answers for the cops. However, despite attracting the ire of her demanding boss, who’s unappreciative of her maverick ways, Marcella’s talent is that she spots things that other police miss, but that’s what maverick cops do. And it makes you love them all the more. But then this is Anna Friel. It’s been over 20 years since she played Beth Jordache in Brookside and she still hasn’t aged a day!
Similar to Carrie in Homeland, she sets up her own ‘evidence wall’ at home, linking one victim and suspect to another and all the cross-matches inbetween… as if police would be able to take all such evidence back to hers in such a willy-nilly fashion, so there’s an element of artistic licence in there.
Marcella is the series that Hans Rosenfeldt was writing after The Bridge, cue lots of dark and mysterious happenings, moody background music and some slight humour brought in from time to time to levitate the situation. I’d love a fourth series of The Bridge, but realistically, how many intense murder cases can involve the Øresund Bridge and the requirement of police teams from two countries? Hence, it’s great to have this instead… although, please still give us more of Saga and, now, Henrik, who certainly held his own in the Series 3.
When interviewed on The Jonathan Ross Show last Saturday, Ms Friel stated that the difference with this drama from most of them out there is that everyone could be a victim, suspect or a witness.
To replicate Nordic Noir is a very tough ask, but to even attempt that you need to have a very strong cast. And they do. Anna Friel is outstanding in the lead role, while everyone else gives the same confident air you’d expect in a worthy drama. This also includes everyone at Jason’s workplace, DTG Construction – responsible for all the major building projects – and surrounding its CEO and competitive businesswoman Sylvie Gibson (Sinéad Cusack), including her daughter, Grace (Maeve Dermody).
It’s difficult to assess on how this compares based on just one episode, but it’s a strong and engaging start with a lot of unclear avenues worth exploring. And, thankfully, this is a far cry from BBC1’s From Darkness, or anything like the corporations attempt on J-Horror with the overblown Remember Me, with Michael Palin looking more confused about the script than in his character.
Hence, I am very much looking forward to the rest of the series, and the good news for anyone reading this outside of the UK is that Marcella will air worldwide on Netflix.
Update at end of series: I did enjoy this, but while all the bizarre stuff from the creator’s The Bridge works great in that show – especially when you’re ‘bingeing’ it, it just didn’t always quite sit right in this, and also because Marcella is released in weekly installments, so I kept forgetting what was happening from one week to the next.
Marcella starts tonight at 9pm and airs every Monday on ITV at 9pm. It’s avaailable to pre-order on DVD and Amazon Prime, but if you miss the episode, you can catch it later on the ITV Hub. And, in fact, it’s also one of their dramas where the first episode is being previewed online, so you don’t even have to wait until then. Also, click on the top-right image of Anna Friel for the full-size version.
Episode 1 Score: 9/10
Director: Charles Martin
Producer: Andrew Woodhead
Writer: Hans Rosenfeldt
Music: Lorne Balfe
DS Marcella Backland: Anna Friel
Jason Backland: Nicholas Pinnock
DI Rav Sangha: Ray Panthaki
Peter Cullen: Ian Puleston-Davies
Clive Bonn: Andrew Lancel
Sylvie Gibson: Sinéad Cusack
Grace Gibson: Maeve Dermody
DCI Laura Porter: Nina Sosanya
DC Alex Dier: Charlie Covell
DC Mark Travis: Jack Doolan
Maddy Stevenson: Laura Carmichael
Henry Gibson: Harry Lloyd
Stephen Holmes: Patrick Baladi
Guy Roberts: Robert Whitelock
Yann Hall: Tobias Santelmann
Greg Brady: David Fahm
Shop Owner: Ajay Chabra
Shop Owner’s Wife: Siddiqua Akhtar
New Inmate: Josef Altin
Lea Coombes: Jasmine Breinburg
Joanna Dogan: Priyanga Burford
Emma: Imogen Faires
Evan Jones: Otto Farrant
Don Parkin: Rob Jarvis
Rugby Player: Jackson Kai
Phil Maxwell: David Kennedy
Karen Jones: Beverly Longhurst
Cara Thomas: Florence Pugh
Benjamin Williams: Joseph Wicks
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.