fri 19/07/2024

Marcella, ITV | reviews, news & interviews

Marcella, ITV

Marcella, ITV

Hunt for a serial killer in Scandi-on-Thames

Anna Friel as Marcella Backland, back on the case seven years later

Can't get enough Scandi Noir? Then why not make your own? With the aid of Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of The Bridge and installed here as screenwriter, ITV has.

Take one disturbed anti-heroine suffering from hallucinations and a disintegrating marriage, exhume a serial killer from the past who has apparently resumed his grisly activities, add a murky property development company happy to ride roughshod over planning regulations in pursuit of obscene profits, and season with gruesomely murdered corpses with plastic bags tied over their heads. Throw in a few shots of Blackfriars bridge and make a killing.

This first of eight episodes sprinkled the terrain with metaphorical anti-personnel mines, but by the end it was difficult to make much sense of where we were likely to end up. Full marks for the arresting opening sequence, though. As what sounded like a siren wailed scarily, the camera sneaked up behind a woman in a bath. As she sat up, she was revealed to be Anna Friel, with a bloody wound on her head. The bathroom, with its filthy stained tiles and absence of agreeable fragrances, unguents and bath oils, looked more like an abattoir. Friel's expression of abject terror was worth 30 pages of dialogue.

But then we jumped back 12 days, to before whatever it is all began. Friel's character Marcella Backland (a name which sounds as if it was converted from Swedish by Google Translate) is a former policewoman who's been out of the force for seven years, but when DI Rav Sangha (Ray Panthaki) came to ask her what she remembered about the old serial killer case, she found she remembered everything in microscopic detail. Possibly this was because she keeps boxes of old case files in a wardrobe, and (we surmise) trawls through them obsessively.

Before you could say "there's your killer, Inspector", Marcella was back in the police station, sticking her oar into the investigation of the new murders. No refresher course, aptitude tests, psychological examination or interview with the Chief Constable, just straight back into the office like she'd never been away. Odd. Needless to say, she was soon picking holes in the new investigation (the latest victim was the luckless Carol Fincher, and the one before that was an oozing puddle of putrefaction found in an upstairs room above an off-licence).

Rav and his team seemed to have missed every clue, like the fact that a likely-looking lad called Clive Bonn knew Ms Fincher when he claimed he didn't. As for the ostentatiously pervy Peter Cullen (Ian Puleston-Davies), he supposedly had the cast-iron alibi of having been in prison, but it turned out it wasn't so much a prison as a sort of leisure centre which was quite easy to wander away from. When we saw Cullen expertly pulling a plastic bag over some guy's head and leaving him half-suffocated, it looked as if the series was over before it had begun.

But we know that can't be right. For a start, we need to know what kind of "help" he's been giving the panicky-looking Maddy (Laura Carmichael, pictured left with Puleston-Davies, dangerously cut adrift from the bosom of the Crawleys). Then there's all sorts of murky business to be investigated at DTG Construction, which seems to be rebuilding most of London's South Bank. Supercilious matriarch Sylvie Gibson (Sinead Cusack, pictured at top with Nicholas Pinnock and Patrick Baladi) has no compunction about constructing a shopping mall where there's supposed to be green and leafy open space, and her daughter and chief financial officer Grace (Maeve Dermody) is catching hell for daring to suggest what they're doing is illegal. Also on the DTG staff is Marcella's husband Jason (Nicholas Pinnock), who's having an affair with the lissome Grace. This is making Marcella exceedingly bitter and vengeful, causing her to set about the bodywork of Jason's sleek 4x4 with a crowbar. I wonder how she ended up in that bath?


This first of eight episodes sprinkled the terrain with metaphorical anti-personnel mines


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article



Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters