Since its debut on ITV back in April, Marcella had gripped the nation as many were deeply invested on Marcella Backland, a former Metropolitan Police officer with personal issues. LOTS of personal issues. She has just discovered that her husband had been having an affair with one of his co-workers at DTG construction, Grace Gibson (whose family runs the company and have a lot of familial problems), trying to keep the truth from her children and suffers repeated mental blackout episodes. She tries her best to put her troubled past behind her, but when a serial killer starts killing people in the city of London, she’s called back out of retirement and the past comes back to haunt her since the modus operandi is similar to a case she had worked on eleven years before. Before long, Grace disappears, only for her body to turn up shortly after, making events more complicated than normal. By all accounts, this was a very ambitious series; a crime-noir that enters a world of online dating, prostitution, and dubious dealings of the Gibson family. However, as the series progresses and more and more suspects and storylines get introduced, the more convoluted the story becomes.
This is what Marcella suffers from the most; because there are so many characters and sub-plots, you have a hard time trying to keep up with it, and once you try to do that, things become more and more convoluted because of it;not just the multitude of characters and character-arcs it has to tackle, but also its fast pacing, jumping from one plotline or location to another. One minute we are dealing with Marcella’s investigation, next minute it’s back to her marital/family problems, and then it’s the Gibsons’ troubled family issues. If all that wasn’t too much to handle, Marcella’s estranged husband gets involved in some shady dealings of his own, which then leads to a murder, then the murder of a witness and various other subplots surrounding that. The problem is that the story is simply a little too convoluted at times and some of the plot threads don’t go anywhere, but perhaps this is because the creators are trying to get a second series commissioned and use that as a means to answer some of the major unresolved questions that baffled many by the end.
Having said that, there are still a lot of high points to be found here. Anna Friel is simply amazing as the titular anti-heroine, giving a performance that is so incredibly multi-faceted it has you mesmerised every time she appears on screen, going to show how much of a mercurial screen-talent Friel is. The rest of the performances are perfectly solid, with Nicholas Pinnock, Sinéad Cusack and Harry Lloyd standing out in particular. The crime-procedural element is handled incredibly well, and the series does a great job at being incredibly tense and gripping when it needs to be. This is a series that will have you gripping the edge of your seat, and it isn’t afraid of shying away from violence in its disturbing, underlying themes. If you are someone who isn’t a fan of realistic violence and being shown the dark underlying aspects of humanity, then this series is going to mortify you. The series is also well shot by Ula Pontikos, who perfectly captures the dark and gritty underbelly of London, and Lorne Balfe’s score perfectly reflects the tense and stark nature of the series and manages to get under your skin.
After excelling with Nordic-nor series The Bridge, writer Hans Rosenfeldt had a lot to live up, and what we got was an intriguing, gripping, multi-layered, extremely ambitious, yet deeply flawed show. Despite having fascinating concepts, powerful performances (particularly Anna Friel), tense moments and a dark, unsettling tone, this suffers from having just too many characters, too many subplots and too many unanswered questions for future seasons to answer. Plus, the killer’s true motive for committing the awful crimes is so contrived, it’ll leave you scratching your head in bewilderment. Overall, despite the fundamental flaws, this remains a solid first season that’ll hopefully be improved upon in the future.
Dir: Charles Martin, Jonathan Teplitzky, Henrik Georgsson
Scr: Hans Rosenfeldt, Marston Bloom, Ben Harris, Martin Grieg
Starring: Anna Friel, Nicholas Pinnock, Sinéad Cusack, Nina Sosanya, Harry Lloyd, Jamie Bamber, Ray Panthaki, Charlie Covell, Jack Doolan
Music: Lorne Balfe
DOP: Ula Pontikos
Number of Episodes: 8
Episode Runtime: 45 mins
Marcella will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on June 20th courtesy of Universal Pictures (UK).