‘Shetland’ is a Scottish crime drama television series, made by ITV Studios for BBC Scotland, and initially based upon the novels of Ann Cleeves.
The series stars Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Pérez, a detective inspector working for the Shetland police, Alison O’Donnell as Detective Sergeant Alison “Tosh” Macintosh, and Steven Robertson as Detective Constable Sandy Wilson. Douglas Henshall, playing Jimmy Pérez, won the 2016 BAFTA Scotland award for best actor and the series received the award for Best TV Drama.
A small community of people who know each other intimately. The haunting music of the ‘Introduction’ and the credit rolls. The quaint, natural cadences of native speech. The nostalgia of words like croft, didnae, cannae, spoken without self consciousness or artifice.. The peat bogs, the stone kilns, the daisies in the field, the long, lonely stretches of road, the sheer beauty of sea and sky.
And the contrast of all these with anger, hate, vengeance and murder.
Shetland does not contain sharply suited men in black rushing around yelling commands to subordinates. Neither does it contain the raucous, ear-drum piercing mandatory music that forms the backdrop of ‘action.’
‘Shetland’ is like coming home.
Behind the violence, sexual assault, use of substances, blackmail and revenge dramas playing is a backdrop of an essential belief in the goodness of human nature, and a refusal to condemn a person because of popular opinion. Jiimmy Perez is, at times cobbled by ‘higher authorities’ who think the investigation should either be faster, or a particular person needs to be condemned. But his sense of decency and fair play wins the day always.
He is a ‘decent’ man: a quality and virtue that is rapidly dying out. When a colleague gets brutally raped, his silent support and the way he gives her space to heal, is masterly. An officer and a gentleman, to boot. He is protective about his daughter, but gives her the liberty to make her own life, and learn from it. And he makes mistakes…and apologises for them.
Every character in the series is true to life. I completely flip over the dialogue, though. The accent doesn’t sound either contrived or self conscious, and reminds me of some of A J Cronin’s characters.
Watch ‘Shetland’ for the plotline and characterisation, the acting and the ambience, the photography and the background music. Watch it for the authenticity.
Above all, watch it for the sake of a value system that is rapidly eroding.
Shoutout to Sean Kernan for this hard-hitting, in-your-face look at overt and covert male toxicity: