I’m a little behind, but Hinterland started on Saturday. I watched it last night on the iPlayer and I enjoyed it initially. I mean it’s Aberystwyth. It’s Borth. It’s my home.
I realised that’s why I enjoyed it. Nothing happens here. There have been two murders in the county in the past three years (I looked it up), and the crime for the town is pretty low. Nothing happens. I means, nothing happens that isn’t misadventure or weather related. It’s like when you see your home town on the main news and you know where that happened and stood on that street. It was that kind of enjoyment, because when my wife and I started to discuss it last night we started to pick it apart. Quite a bit in fact.
Now don’t get me wrong. I want it to be good, it’s important that it’s good for the area and Welsh language and Welsh language television. We can’t coast on Doctor Who (it’s made in Cardiff in case you were unaware), forever.
I do have a few niggles that if you live out of the area you wouldn’t have noticed or wouldn’t care about. Like the murder took place in Borth. Borth is not Aberystwyth. Ynyslas is not Aberystwyth. Some of the roads they drove on went in or out of the mountains and were definitely there for visual effect and not because they actually needed to go that way. Everyone was wearing two coats. Look at the picture above – why he wearing two coats. I’ve lived here on and off since I was ten years old, I’ve never worn two coats. Even during winters where I couldn’t feel my feet I’ve not worn two coats.
Everyone was really, really Welsh. Not necessarily Welsh sounded (though, many were), but just really Welsh. The husband of the murderer was so Welsh I was pretty sure he was part leek.
These however, are not the big problems with Hinterland.
Fixing the information on the S4C website.
The main problem is that it was a show with a plot but no story. A long and slightly over-complicated scenario but not story behind it. It was two hours long, and while it was paced well, we don’t actually learn anything about anyone. The murder victim was abusive head of a children’s home, then there was some torture too, then there was a rape, then a baby, then the baby was murdered, and the brunette was in love with the blonde girl, it seemed like we were just waiting for the next thing to happen, oh and then they found the baby buried in the one place the main character had been seriously staring at all two hours. All that happened.
For all that happened and in those two hours, we didn’t learn much about the detectives. I can’t remember anyone’s name except Mathias, because his name was said a few times. And the murderers and the victims names but they won’t be there next week, everyone else will be, whoever they may be. Seems like a bit of an oversight given it was two hours long. There are shorter films that pack more characterisation in. Shorter episodes of detective drama’s too.
No one talks to each other.
Actually, they barely talk to each other even in course of the job. It’s “go here,” “he said this,” “do a dance.” Okay, I made that last one up, but you get my point. The brunette asks him why he came to Aberystwyth and the conversation is never finished, which does offer up a little mystery, but then there’s nothing else offered up. He has a kid or does he? He’s a loner, we get it, and he does all the work himself mostly. Which is unrealistic, and I can suspend my disbelief as well as the next television viewer but the idea that no one talks about anything except the case was a little too much. Not in two hours.
My other issue was that this is a Welsh drama, set in a Welsh town where we seem to have to bring in a detective from outside to solve the case or do the work. Is he English? Is he returning to the area? Who knows, cause they didn’t tell us. The outsider and loner tropes are pretty common, okay, that’s fine, but why do we need this outside person? This Englishman (according to the S4C website he’s come from London) to come into Wales are solve the crime. Why aren’t the Welsh detectives able to do this themselves? I understand that nothing happens here and we don’t have much actual murders, but still, Mathias did everything himself. It was annoying.
To top it off, at the very end, the focus was on the wrong person. We get this shot of the brunette who had killed the baby, sitting in the jail cell. The blonde woman who had killed two people was no where to be found, why wasn’t she in a jail cell, or seen being assessed by a doctor. Both women were clearly suffering from serious mental health problems from when they were kids onwards and only one was seen to be punished.
It was over done.
There is an important rule or theory when it comes to writing (both screen-writing and novel) – if your story can do without the scene then you don’t need it. There were plenty of scenes like that in Hinterland. Some driving scenes looked pretty but were pointless. There was one where he simply turned around. Unnecessary. Take out some of these scenes and we can have scenes about why Mathias was sent to Aberystwyth. Why they all seem to dislike the blonde woman from Cardiff? We could have learnt anything at all about the brunette.
It left me frustrated when I thought back on it. Over done, over gritty, over filmed. Over hyped and over loved because of it.
People will disagree with me, or at least tell me to give it a chance, and I will, I’ll watch next week and hope for a little more development. I would say also, that you stop and think about why you love it so much.
And why the hell the detectives were all wearing two coats….