Dark and intricate thriller from the writer of The Bridge
★★★★ ITV, Monday, 4 April, 9pm
HEROINES are often called ‘feisty’. Marcella Backland is not feisty, she is out of control.
She shoves her unfaithful husband down the stairs, she’s volatile, has blackouts, and when we first meet her she is in a bath and caked in mud and blood. How did she get there? That’s what this brooding eight-parter is going to tell us.
Writer Hans Rosenfeldt, who gave us the superb The Bridge, has here conjured up a heroine who is the opposite of Saga Noren in that Swedish-Danish production. The emotionless rule-following blonde has been replaced by a heartbroken, rule-breaking brunette.
Anna Friel as Marcella
Marcella, played wonderfully by Anna Friel, is a woman on a tightrope. It’s hard to even tell if she is a goodie or baddie.
Rosenfeldt has been brought in by ITV to inject some Nordic noir in between the fluff of Midsomer and Lewis. So Marcella is a forbidding heroine and many of the scenes are filmed on rainy London nightscapes. She’s not an anti-hero in the league of Walter White or Dexter, but she’s not cuddly either.
It also has in common with The Bridge multi-strands of stories woven together. This is how Rosenfeldt describes the drama he and his team wanted to make: ‘A thriller, yes. But there are many ways to tell a story. We settled for multi-plot. A lot of characters, not all of them immediately connected to the main story or main characters, but eventually ending up there; that’s what I like to do. That’s what I’m good at. Creating and solving a mystery with as many hooks, twists and red herrings as possible. So that’s what we did.’
Sinead Cusack and Laura Carmichael
The threads involve Marcella’s marriage breakdown after 15 years, her return to work as a detective when the Grove Park Killer seems to have reappeared after an 11-year break, a sex worker with a sideline in mugging, and a property firm run by a nasty CEO, Sylvie Gibson (played by Sinead Cusack in Cruella De Vil mode).
Nicholas Pinnock is Jason, Marcella’s now ex-husband, and Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith in Downton Abbey) is Maddy, a student researching domestic abuse who is on the radar of a potential suspect for the Grove Park murders. Maeve Dermody is Grace, Sylvie’s high-flying businesswoman daughter.
Marcella is elevated above just being a compelling whodunit by also having an intriguing set of characters and terrific atmosphere.