Midwinter of the Spirit, ITV, Anna Maxwell Martin, David Threlfall

From ITV Studios Midwinter Of The Spirit on ITV Pictured: Lol Robinson [Ben Bailey Smith], Rev. Merrily Watkins [Anna Maxwell Martin] and Rev. Huw Owens [David Threlfall]. Merrily is deeply human in her doubts and scepticism, but her knowledge of the paranormal underworld brings her to the notice of local police who need her advice in the investigation of a grisly murder. This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com

Chill factor: Lol Robinson (Ben Bailey Smith), the Rev Merrily Watkins (Anna Maxwell Martin) and the Rev Huw Owens (David Threlfall)

A crime series with a supernatural twist

★★★½ ITV, starts Wednesday, 23 September, 9pm

GENRE-CROSSING crime series look set to be come a bit of a trend. We’ve recently seen Fox’s Wayward Pines with Matt Dillon, a sci-fi tale with crime elements. ITV Encore’s The Frankenstein Chronicles, starring Sean Bean, ‘reimagines’ the story from the standpoint of a police investigator.

Meanwhile, James Nesbitt has been filming Sky1’s high-concept series Lucky Man, based on comic-book legend Stan Lee’s idea about a detective who finds a magic bracelet that brings him good luck.

And here we have Midwinter of the Spirit, a three-parter that mixes supernatural themes with crime ingredients. It would appear that the cop-drama clogged TV schedules have bled the genre dry, and writers are now juicing the formula up with sci-fi/horror twists.

Anna Maxwell Martin as Merrily

Anyway, the first thing to say about Midwinter is that it does what it says on the tin. It is definitely creepy, helped by the fact that it’s based on Phil Rickman‘s chilling novels and a terrific performance by Anna Maxwell Martin.

She plays the Rev Merrily Watkins, a single mum with a teenage daughter who’s taken on a new role in her small-town parish – that of exorcist.

The trouble is that not only is she a novice but that there is pretty active band of satanists in her area. Merrily is sceptical about the job but is warned by her mentor in ‘deliverance ministry’, the Rev Huw Owens (David Threlfall), that the job is potentially dangerous.

It is detectives Annie Howe and Frank Bliss who initially involve Merrily in some unpleasant goings-on in the forest, where a history tutor has been crucified.

Emotional punch

She is then asked to tend to a dying man in hospital, who turns out to be particularly evil. Where the forest scene is horrific, the hospital encounter is very creepy.

From ITV Studios  Midwinter Of The Spirit: Ep1 on ITV  Pictured: Rev. Merrily Watkins [Anna Maxwell Martin] and Denzil Joy [Oengus Mac Namara].  Merrily is deeply human in her doubts and scepticism, but her knowledge of the paranormal underworld brings her to the notice of local police who need her advice in the investigation of a grisly murder.  This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk.  This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com

Bed reckoning: Merrily (Anna Maxwell Martin) and the creepy Denzil Joy (Oengus MacNamara)

Now the not-so-sceptical Merrily seeks help from the canon, but discovers that he is cracking up. He tells her: ‘My faith isn’t strong enough, neither is yours.’

This type of drama could be filled with cliches and come across as plain silly, but Midwinter is lifted by a very good cast. Anna Maxwell-Martin gives her character real emotional punch and convincingly makes us believe there is something seriously unpleasant behind the closed door. The photography and low-key soundtrack add to a believable atmosphere of menace.

The spooky-crime genre mash-up looks hellbent on sticking around for a while.

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