Our latest new writer Daniel Theophanous reviews ITV cop drama Marcella.
ITV’s new crime series Marcella starts off as a rather formulaic Scandinavian cop drama but manages, through clever twists and subtle performances, to become a compelling watch. The series was created by Swedish screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt, whose previous work involves the highly acclaimed The Bridge, and indeed Marcella bears all the hallmarks of Rosenfeld’s gloomy and bloody worlds.
Anna Friel plays Marcella, an ex-police investigator who returns to work after a seven-year hiatus as an old case re-opens after a dead body is found with its head in a plastic bag in a flat on top of a newsagent. But clearly gruesome things have been going on way before the discovery of the head since the episode’s first scene features a distraught, traumatised and drenched in blood Marcella writhing around in the bath; a scene that is heavily reminiscent of Glen Close’s hyperactive wounded flashbacks in US drama Damages.
Marcella, our flawed, battered and reactionary heroine is played perfectly by Anna Friel. Friel is superb; attractive, unhinged, and her wackiness, unlike a usual crime-heroine, is not cute or quirky – its desperate, over emotional and at times threatening. And Friel’s acting is particularly compelling immediately after her black-outs: as her husband comes back to the house to pick up his things and coldly states he doesn’t love her anymore, Marcella flips out and attacks him, throws him down the stairs but she can’t remember any of this occurring leaving the viewer to wonder exactly what took place and if they can trust Marcella as their guide and heroine.
Marcella’s main strength however is its cast of beguiling parallel characters who cleverly intertwine with Marcella’s narrative and hint at gory conflicts further down the line: her cold and unemotional husband Jason; Grace Gibson, part of a rich and domineering property mogul family; Henry Gibson her weak gay-not-gay half brother; and the young bi-sexual prostitute thief played brilliantly by the stunning Florence Pugh, who is introduced to us via a web cam show in a randy teenage boy’s bedroom.
Marcella is for those who love their cop-shows bloody, dramatic and flecked through with grimy London disturbia; you are just as likely to see a panorama of Brixton Village as you are a head in a plastic bag. And this is excellent news since ITV has a sometimes habit of sanitising its crime dramas, so after a decade of Morse spin-offs, Marcella is finally here to offer some grit and bloody glamour.
Guessed the spoiler? Are modern audiences too savvy for TV show twists?
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum