Much of what I said about Hinterland in my review of season 1 remains true of season 2. Except in season 2, I desperately wanted to grab DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) by the collar and give him a good shake while shouting, “Get over your damn self!” in his face.
Obviously, I couldn’t shake sense into the man from where I was sitting, so I just had to watch and hope for his eventual enlightenment.
Season 2 includes one episode classified as a New Year’s Special. In that episode we see Tom Mathias leave his man cave and go back to work in the Aberystwyth, Wales police department. He returns in the middle of an arson case, which he takes command of from DI Mared Rhys (Mali Harries) who was already running the case quite well, thank you.
There are 4 additional episodes in season 2. As in season 1, each is a full 90 minutes, which leaves plenty of time for interesting crimes, interesting characters and suspects, and interesting interactions among all those characters. There’s also plenty of time to drive all over western Wales, from the ocean front to the mountain tops.
Mathias and Rhys do most of the investigating in the field, while DC Lloyd Ellis (Alex Harries) and DS Sian Owens (Hannah Daniel) stay in the station. There are always exceptions to this, but that’s the general way they work. The exceptions are important, however.
We get to know the characters a little better in season 2. We learn some of Mathias’s story. He tells a woman he is trying to stop from jumping off a cliff about how he feels responsible for his daughter’s death. This was news to Rhys, who listened nearby.
Mathias’s wife Meg (Anamaria Marinca) comes up from London and tells him she’s taking their surviving daughter and going to Canada. She wants a divorce. He could have asked her to stay, asked her to move to Aberystwyth with him, but he doesn’t. She probably would have said yes. They clearly care about each other, but Mathias isn’t finished punishing himself – he terms his behavior “killing himself.” He’s 100% dedicated to being a tragic figure even though he has another child he’s ignoring and a wife who loves him.
I’m struck by the fact that amidst all his tragic frowning, Tom Mathias always has time to maintain a perfect haircut and a carefully trimmed beard.
Great hair aside, Mathias’s guilt leads him to make all sorts of emotional and unprofessional decisions on the job. The crimes he investigate push his buttons – lost children and absent fathers being dominant themes.
Rhys defends Mathias, sticks her neck out for him time and again with the higher ups. But in private, she berates him for his unprofessional behavior. He lashes back and makes her cry. Rhys keeps her emotions in check while on the job; this is a revealing moment for her character. She’s the single mother of a teenager – anyone who’s been through that knows how stressful it is. Mathias strikes right in that festering wound. Sigh. (He does apologize later.)
There’s a mysterious undercurrent throughout season 2 as we wonder exactly what criminal act Chief Supt. Brian Prosser (Aneirin Hughes) is covering up. One of the cases reappears in numerous ways as an arc running through season 2 – Prosser’s secret has something to do with that.
One thing I consider an improvement over season 1 is that there is slightly more dialog between Mathias and his team. Of course, we’re talking Hinterland, so 3 sentences can amount to a significant dialog.
I didn’t remark on this regarding season 1, but the practice continued in season 2, so it’s earned a comment. The police in Wales do not carry guns. When a suspect runs, the cops can’t make them stop in their tracks by shoving a gun in their face. The bad guys must be chased down on foot. Richard Harrington has almost more scenes running full out after some fleeing suspect than he does scenes where he speaks. Okay – I’m exaggerating, but he does chase down and tackle a lot of people. There isn’t a criminal in Wales who can outrun Tom Mathias.
Season 2 ends with a blazing, head-banger of cliffhanger. We may be treated to another series of this noir thriller from Wales, based on the cliffhanger. I hope so.
There is very little music in the series. The cinematography is brilliant. Unusually framed shots characterize the photography. It’s moody and mysterious and dark. Several cinematographers worked on the series. I don’t know which episodes I’d like to single out as particularly interestingly or beautifully shot, so I’ll just give credit to all of them for a job well done.
The directors were all men, but some of the writers were women.
Watch the Trailer for the Hinterland Special
It’s hard to find trailers for season 2 in English. Here’s one for the New Years special.
The blog post by Mali Harries promoted in the trailer had a couple of quotable remarks.
I improvised the line “Why is it women do the work, men get promoted?” during a tonal meeting. I think often women crack on with the job, and aren’t always given the praise, or the pay they deserve. Mared, like myself, is a straight talker.
The sparse dialogue in Hinterland definitely gives us more freedom to play as actors. I think that silence is a wonderful thing, it means that the atmosphere is driven by people’s innermost thoughts and not just the plot.