Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 

Categorisation: detective drama

Availability:  Series 1-4 are available on Netflix, but you may need to go to Acorn for series 5

Plot: In series 1 of Shetland we are introduced to Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and his team who keep law and order in the Scottish Shetland Islands. Perez is a widower caring for his teenage stepdaughter, Cassie, with whom he has a warm and affectionate relationship. Cassie’s biological father, Duncan Hunter, shares the parenting role. Yet it is clear from the beginning, the two fathers couldn’t be me more different. Jimmy is thoughtful, responsible and authoritative, managing the daily challenges of raising a teenage daughter. Duncan, a scheming businessman and serial womaniser, now in his shaky second marriage, is an indulgent father to Cassie having been absent for much of her early life. This odd-couple relationship between Jimmy and Duncan provides a good deal of the humour for the series, giving an interesting human backdrop as the family of three rub along together. These characters, along with Tosh, Jimmy’s plucky female police colleague, and the dogged DC Sandy Wilson, become the cornerstone of this hugely popular series. Initially based on the novels of Anne Cleeves, David Kane has been the principal script writer throughout. It is a series that has received much critical acclaim and has clearly struck a winning formula. Kane has written a tense script of high quality for series 5. It’s a tough storyline of people smuggling, something we don’t really expect to find in the beautiful Scottish archipelago. The team is back together, but there is a noticeable shift. The crimes are somehow more intense, as we start to realise that Shetland is catching up with the nastier side(s) of crime that are more often found in the bigger cities. 

Filming and setting: Most of the action is set in the beautiful Shetland Islands, a big viewer drawcard in itself. It is windswept, bleak and beautiful. There is a focus on the fisheries industry in this series, and the scenes have a solid ring of truth about them. One of the great strengths of Shetland is its use of local facilities which brings a strong authenticity to the programme. For example, viewers will be familiar with Jimmy’s waterfront home which appears in every series. It’s foundations under water, the house emerges from the sea and ends up on the kerbside of Shetland’s grey stone capital of Lerwick. Alternatively, many of the internal scenes are filmed in Glasgow, and as a backdrop to the action we get to see Sophie Cave’s visually expressive hanging heads installation at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. 

Cast: Seasoned in the role, Douglas Henshall has played Jimmy Perez since the series began in 2013, and he plays the calm, empathic, yet steely-spined detective with aplomb. Mark Bonnar, who plays the feckless Duncan brilliantly, would have to be one of the best actors on UK television right now, while Alison O’Donnell as Tosh brings a lively presence to the series overall. 

Personal Comments: Fans of Shetland will see the compelling further development of characters in this series, with both Jimmy and Duncan portraying increasingly complex characters. Jimmy, who normally applies an objectivity to his policing, is tested by a romantic interest which presents a new side to his character. While there are one or two weaknesses in the plot, it is a satisfying continuation of a successful series. If you have yet to see Shetland, then I suggest you start at series 1. It is a rewarding journey.

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