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Published June 21st 2016
The world of Celtic noir crime series Hinterland is both bleak and beautiful - all crumbling cottages set atop remote hillsides; jagged, salt-sprayed cliffs; isolated, windswept beaches; and mournful seagulls wheeling through steely grey skies. Filmed in Aberystwyth and the surrounding Ceredigion region on the west coast of Wales, Hinterland provides a refreshingly unique take on a genre awash with US offerings, and the inscrutable landscape at its heart assumes the role of a character in its own right.
Originally titled Y Gwyll, each episode in the first series of Hinterland was filmed twice - once in Welsh, once in English - and in conditions so cold the actors were reportedly almost too numb to speak. This, in combination with the dark subject matter, perhaps explains why the main character, DCI Tom Mathias, played by Richard Harrington, looks so tired. But this painstaking approach was important from a cultural perspective, for when Hinterland first aired on the BBC in 2014, it was the first such TV drama featuring dialogue in both languages.
In the first series, Mathias barely has his feet under the desk in a new job before he is called out to investigate the suspicious disappearance of the owner of a seaside bungalow. His inquiries lead him to the cascading waters of an ancient ravine at Devil's Bridge, and the cruel history of a long-closed children's home. That's just for starters. Aberystwyth has many more horrors in store, as subsequent cases see Mathias and his team traversing lonely marshes, sprawling lakes and out-of-the-way fields.
In the opening to the just-released second series, Mathias is found hunkered down with his personal demons in the decrepit caravan he occupies, and is summoned back to work by Chief Supt Brian Prosser (Aneirin Hughes). His reappearance ruffles the feathers of other team members, including DC Lloyd Ellis (Alex Harries) and DS Sian Owens (Hannah Daniel). He assumes control of a case of suspected arson, which has left a woman and her young son fighting for their lives in hospital. Looking more haunted than ever, Mathias and his sidelined partner DI Mared Rhys (played by Mali Harries) find themselves drawn into a tight-knit clan riven with broken hearts and lingering jealousies.
As in the best crime dramas, the stakes are high for the key characters on both personal and professional fronts. For example, towards the end of the first Series 2 episode, atop windy, barren Welsh clifftops, Mathias is forced to confront some of the painful memories of his own past, as well as the equally anguishing realisation that some wounds never heal.
Though Hinterland in part grapples with the dramatic fallout from first series' events, viewers new to the show will find it mostly self-contained. There are enough breadcrumbs scattered to surmise why Mathias responds so viscerally to cases involving lost children. Which is not to say the first series is superfluous. If, like me, you fall in love with this second series, you'll be scrambling to track down the first series too. And the best bit? Filming on a third series commenced in January 2016.
To celebrate the Australian release of HINTERLAND: SEASON 2 on DVD, WeekendNotes subscribers have the chance to win 1 of 5 DVD copies. Click here to find out how to enter!