Review: Marcella, season 3

Anna Friel in Marcella

Marcella went undercover in season 3, which takes place 18 months after the end of season 2. Everyone in her life – her family and her former coworkers – think she’s dead.

Marcella (Anna Friel) was dead, in a way. During the 18 month gap between seasons, we learn that her handler, Frank (Hugo Speer) reprogrammed her. She’s now Keira from Belfast. Frank’s training was so good that Keira referred to Marcella in the 3rd person.

Marcella as Keira still had issues – blackouts and fugue states. But she’d learned coping strategies and could handle them better and talk herself down when she went off. Some of these moments when she was mentally out of control were used to tie back to Marcella’s life and her infant who died.

Kelly Gough, Aaron McCusker and Amanda Burton in Marcella, season 3
Stacy, Finn, and Katherine Maguire. Rory was upstairs in his germ free room.

Undercover, Keira infiltrated the Maguire family. This included the matriarch Katherine Maguire (Amanda Burton), the emotionally driven Finn (Aaron McCusker), pregnant Stacey (Kelly Gough), and the germophobic Rory (Michael Colgan).

The Maguire family ran drugs, did human trafficking, sold guns, and everything else that made a profit. Being around this crowd and their various spouses, lovers, and underlings made for a lot of murdered people. When the series was over, I felt like that kid who announced, “I see dead people.”

Marcella was created by Hans Rosenfeldt and Nicola Larder. The season had all male directors. To a man, the directors loved to focus in on a sleeper’s eyeballs at just the moment they woke up.

Did the creatives behind the writing listen to the viewers complaints about confusing storylines? Because season 3 was more straightforward and clear than previous seasons. It was so simplified, the ending was obvious the more we got into the situation with Keira.

Marcella’s secret identity was discovered, of course. DI Rav Sangha (Ray Panthaki) was investigating something else and found Keira in the Maguire’s house. He kept her secret, but it enabled the return of a few folks from previous seasons. It added a sense of continuity to the story.

Anna Friel is really good in this part. She does the moments of madness so well, she’s tough in a fight, and she’s sexy when seducing some mobster or other. Her character is a survivor, I like that about her. It’s not contradictory to say that in a character whose mind played nasty tricks on her, Marcella survived because she was strong minded.

I really loved Amanda Burton as the steely-eyed head of her crime family. #EldersRock, you know it.

poster for Marcella

Here’s a look at the trailer.

Are you a fan of this series? What did you think of season 3? It felt like the end to me, like they knew they were through. Did you get that feeling, too?

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Author: Virginia DeBolt

After many years as an educator and writer, Virginia finally retired from working life. She's always loved a good movie or TV show and wants to use her free time to talk about them with you now. She's Old Ain't Dead!

18 thoughts on “Review: Marcella, season 3”

  1. SPOILERS

    i didnt enjoy this season as much as i did the first two. i dont understand why Marcella hasnt sought help for what seems to be mental illness. i wish we had at some point during the series seen what she was like prior to having accidentally killed her daughter. i find it hard to believe that a person we are supposed to see as very strong doesnt ever fight to regain her sanity so she can reclaim her family. and i dont understand how none of her coworkers reported her unstable behavior. this season did indeed seem more straightforward, which means it ditched the complexity that was one of the series strengths. and by having so little interaction with Rav, the season doesnt really tie into the previous two. i did like the Shakespearean feel of the Maguire family story – i agree that the end was expected from almost the start of the series. i’m thinking they have set up a 4th series – the fact we dont see a certain body at the end and the phone call for Marcella before she gets on the plane suggest to me someone survived.

    i guess i’ve been wanting to see Marcella right her ship. i love a strong female lead, and Anna Friel is that in spades, but i find little to like about her character. i’m probably too simplistic, but i want the “hero,” male or female, to have some redeeming qualities. in the whole series, the only character of note who seems at all to be a decent person is Rav. i hope series 4 sees a more healthy Marcella.

    1. She did get some therapy in season 2, and it felt like she put it to good use in season 3. But I think she was manipulated by her handler, who wanted her for his own purposes and didn’t care that she needed help. I don’t think she feels she deserves her family. Her agreement to do the undercover assignment is another way to punish herself. In the long arc of the story from season 1 to the end of season 3, it’s like she now has a second chance. If she uses it well, does it right, perhaps a 4th season could show that growth.

    2. Marcella’s flavour of Identity Disorder (multiple personalities), her fugue states, and even the depravity of the serial killers and gangsters are all based on research. And her dissociation rings true to the trauma stories of undercover cops, who frequently turn to drugs. I’ll admit that I skipped her third breakdown montage, with all the overlapping voices. But there are many real people with serious trauma and mental illness, that take years to seek treatment, if ever. Trying to cope alone, living in denial. compensating with drugs, abandoning therapy, and trying to cling to the things you’re good at (policing); those are all pretty common reactions. So while it doesn’t make for satisfying, conventional tv character development, I actually found it to be realistic in it’s own way. If anything, season 2 felt more fantastical. There are some notable stretches and plot gaps (e.g. *2* corrupt murderous cops in the same precinct?!). But I don’t think she deserves the level of anger I’ve seen in other threads, for “always making the wrong decisions”. It’s more that every time she shows a glimmer of lucid sanity, and makes sensible decisions in S3, e.g. trying to save Danny from getting killed, or twice trying to help Stacey escape, it blew up in her face. A writing decision intended to frustrate us?
      The biggest departure from reality: What police handler could EVER think it’s a good idea to put a suicidal fugitive as an under cover cop? Going along with that stretch was mandatory, to make for entertaining television.

    3. @Christopher Swaby — I know what you mean about there being little to like about Marcella. Also agree that the only decent person left standing is Rav, who — SPOILER ALERT–

      Isn’t really left standing. I could have gotten behind everything Marcella did except for the callous way she just left Rav to die, especially as he was killed attempting to rescue her.

      1. I so agree with you !
        I thought the ending after hours of watching ( in California ) to be ridiculous. Why would she walk away from Raj ? So cruel .
        Ya know, I bet he’s the one that survived and called her before she got on the plane ??

    4. Also spoilers…

      I reckon the phone call in the last scene is related in some way to the crooked female cop. Assuming that pan around the bodies at the end of the last ep is reliable – ie they’re all dead – the only loose ends are Kathryn, the dodgy cop and the guy who was guarding Stacey. My bet is that Kathryn recovered from her stroke – though if she’s somehow kept tabs on Marcella, why isn’t Marcella dead? Surely getting the baby back would be Kathryn’s driving force, having lost everything else?

  2. speaking with the therapist to help recover the repressed memory didnt feel like therapy to me. i think she only went two or three times and then stopped after the memory was recovered. and it was after that that she appeared to want to commit suicide and then scarred her own face. her handler certainly didnt help her heal but i think that getting help is on her not him. i agree that she seems as if she wanted to punish herself and that her decisions at the end give the impression that she wants a new start and redemption.

    i enjoy Marcella and would most definitely watch series 4, i just find her frustrating. but if characters in movies, tv, books and plays didnt make choices different than you and i, we wouldnt watch or read their stories.

    1. So true, and it wouldn’t have any drama. I’m seeing a lot of talk about another season but I felt like they were saying goodbye. That phone call where she said, “at least I got one more year out of it,” seemed like acknowledging an end.

    2. What happened to the Mayor. It looked like he was thrown off a balcony, but there was no mention of it. Did I fall asleep? What an evil family. This season seemed like sick black comedy, with every one killing each other in the end. Definitely will be Season 4. I don’t think Rav is dead, hope not as he is the only good guy. The baby was adorable.

  3. Absolute rubbish. Endless bouts of mental trauma not needed just to fill time (we got the message years ago) & a very very weak story line. Unexplained behaviours and lamps that disappeared during scenes added to the amateur feel. Such a shame.

  4. Like Willie Mays, this series played too long. The arc from season 2 to 3 wasn’t revealed until midway in 3. Creative, maybe, but confusing. Anna Friel’s character morphed from an on-the-edge emotional state to full-blown (and repetitive) delirium.

    The Maguire family performances threatened to rescue it, but alas, the last episode blew everything apart, literally. Gotta have Marcella get the baby. So just do a character wipeout. There were enough dead bodies on the set to make Hamlet look like a sitcom.

  5. So disappointed with season 3! The story was so slow and boring i felt like it could have been done in 2 episodes. I really feel like that is the end of this show because the plot has died a death!!

  6. Inauthentic character, embarrassing attacks of whining and howling personality disoirder paired with emotionless and cold behaviour where it definitiely does not fit, seamlessly combined with conventional sexyness. The plot is as boring as could be. Characters are shallow, mere caricatures. Anna Friel possibly the worst of them all.

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