TV Viewoint: Behind Her Eyes and Bloodlands

James Nesbitt does his bit to convince that it’s grim up North

I don’t know about you, but I’m always a little bit thrilled when I hear that a book I’ve read is to be made into a movie or TV series. Even better when that book has a twist of epic proportions, that at first lulls the reader into a false sense of security (bog standard love-triangle mystery) before banging them over the head with a genre-bending flourish that comes completely out of left field.

The latest thriller to get the TV treatment is Behind Her Eyes, a 2017 word-of-mouth hit by Sarah Pinborough. Like the book, the series follows Louise, a divorced single-mum who is trying to get out on the market again, while juggling her young son’s needs and her part-time job as a psychiatrist’s receptionist.

She is shocked when, on coming in to work one morning expecting to meet the new doctor she’s to work for, she discovers that very same doctor is the charming and disarming man she flirted up a storm and shared a near-kiss with on a recent night out.

Said doctor has a chic young wife in tow, and so professionalism prevails and any hope of romance is dashed, especially after the wife, Adele, befriends her, and the women discover a shared history of disturbing night terrors. As the six-part series goes on, more is uncovered about the backstories of the married couple, that elevate this classic love triangle to something much more.

Eve Hewson as Adele in Behind Her Eyes

The series, all of which is on Netflix, has the glossy and slightly sterile look of a typical ITV Sunday night drama. Simona Brown as Louise is a relatable and sympathetic protagonist, especially in contrast to Eve Hewson’s polished yet fragile Adele.

With hindsight, little clues of how things are going to go are revealed from the second or third episode, but it’s the penultimate and finale that really amp up the considerable tension, keeping your eyes glued to the screen with incredulity.

It’s the TV version of a page-turner, and as a six-parter it’s easily bingeable over a night or two. If you’re not a fan of preposterous nonsense this may not be for you, but if you’re in the market for a complete — then set aside a few hours to be well and truly entertained.

On the other end of the spectrum is Bloodlands, a new series produced by Jed Mercurio (of Line of Duty and Bodyguard fame), set in Belfast and featuring a who’s who of the Northern Irish acting pool.

Along with James Nesbitt in the lead role is Charlene McKenna as his trusty sidekick, Lola Petticrew as his med school daughter and Derry Girls favourite Kathy Kiera Clarke as the fiery wife of a kidnapped businessman.

In addition to those familiar faces is Chris Walley, better known as Young Offender Jock O’Keefe. Although not an overtly comic role, his presence as young detective Birdy is one of the few facets that provides light moments in a predominantly dark drama, focusing first on the former IRA member’s kidnap and then extending to a serial-killer cold case.

James Nesbitt in Bloodlands

James Nesbitt’s DCI Tom Brannick comes with the baggage befitting of a TV detective; a long missing, presumed dead wife, who had worked in the security sector in the run up to the Good Friday Agreement. Her disappearance, along with three others, had been covered up in order not to ruffle feathers during the Peace Process, but it seems that those responsible are back on the scene, ready to cause chaos again, over twenty years on.

In keeping with Sunday evening procedurals, Bloodlands is steeped in dour grey undertones and sour-faced supporting characters. Potentially shady boss-man DCS Jackie Twomey (Lorcan Cranitch) provides a dictionary-definition face like thunder when he gets wind that Brannick is digging up dirt (literally) against his orders, on an island that may have bodies buried between “the brothy and the tree.”

The performances are reliably solid, and a great deal of exposition was fit into the first episode to set up an action-packed remaining three. There’s bound to be red herrings and surprise reveals aplenty, making it above-average Sunday-evening viewing, with an Irish slant to boot.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 24 02 21

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