BLOG Dewi Huw OwenNWR Issue 112
Y Gwyll/Hinterland, Story 3 (Episode 5 – 6), Series 3 Writer: Jeff Murphy; Welsh adaptation: Caryl Lewis. Y Gwyll/Hinterland was co-created by Ed Thomas and Ed Talfan for Fiction Factory, and is broadcasting this autumn; credits for the episodes reviewed here include director, Gareth Bryn, co-producers Ed Talfan and Mark Andrew, and senior producer, Ed Thomas. The final episode of the current series airs on Sunday 18 December at 9pm on S4C.
For most of its three seasons the stories presented in Y Gwyll
have adhered to a familiar structure. Those tales begin with the report of a gruesome murder. Matthias and his team go to investigate the scene and meet the people who surround the event. The details of each case mirror different aspects of
the detective’s personal troubles and teach us more about his character. Often, at the culmination of the first episode in each tale, Matthias takes an ultimately innocent character into custody, and accuses them of committing the crime. This forms the mid-story cliffhanger. At the beginning of the second episode this initial suspect is swiftly proven to be innocent. Their innocence leaves the pool of likely culprits depleted enough to imply the identity of the guilty party to the viewer, but not to the show’s detectives. Their more gradual epiphany, attained through a mixture of deduction and good fortune, forms the dramatic conclusion of each tale.
The third story in the third series, however, dispenses with this format almost entirely. The identity of the murderer is made clear to the audience from the outset, in appearance if not immediately in name, as he is shown in the pre-credit sequence shaving his head in preparation for the crime before brutally committing it. It swiftly becomes clear to the detectives as well that there are no other suspects in this case. They learn the suspect’s name, Llew Morris, from the manager of a local refuse tip. They hear of the failure of Llew’s business and of the breakdown of his marriage from his estranged wife. And they encounter the totality of his rampage when they discover his mother dead and his father mortally shot in their home. As the severity of his developing crime makes itself clear to them, Matthias and Mared Rhys break into to Morris’ house only to find it, like the culprit’s fallen locks, immaculately arranged and abandoned. As they leave the house, even more bewildered than when they arrived, the dutiful Lloyd appears to inform them that Bryn, Llew’s son, has been taken from his school during the lunch hour, and that the other children have identified his abductor to be his father.
The two scenes that follow this final revelation complete the story’s breathless opening. Whilst Mared and Matthias’ words to Bryn’s mother fall flat, and are muted as though heard through water, Llew finally emerges from the shadows to the vast open vista of a dam overlooking a reservoir. There, he calmly tells his son:
Dy hen daid adeiladodd y lle ma. A sbia, dyma fo, yn dal i sefyll ymhell ar ôl iddo fynd. Be’ ti’n feddwl o hynna? (Your great-grandfather built this place. And look, here it is, still standing long after he left. What do you think of that then?)
At this moment, everything is in place for a Thirty-Nine Steps
style cat-and-mouse thriller. Llew has already bolted into the mountains like an antagonistic Richard Hannay, and his character has been clearly defined in both word and deed. In carrying out his plan and making his escape he has thwarted Matthias and Rhys’ best efforts to apprehend him, and their voices have literally been silenced as a counterpoint to his first, loaded utterance. Even the very structure of the traditional Y Gwyll
story has been altered to accommodate him and his new brand of cannier criminality. The scale of his victory is immense and devastating.
However, the weight of this opening defeat is cast aside almost immediately. A quick return to Llew’s parents’ house leads to the discovery of an easy-to-find photograph, which echoes a gigantic poster and a figurine seen earlier in the episode. These far-too-obvious clues lead directly to the cafe where Llew and Bryn are hiding. Sadly, from the perspective of the mystery, no further deduction is required, and it is only Matthias’ gung-ho attitude to policing, a too-frequent feature of the show, that allows the two to escape. Tellingly, it is only this procedural failure that troubles Matthias, not the intellectual defeat that preceded it.
O’n nhw ‘da ni, Mared,
’ (We had them, Mared,) Matthias yells, ‘o’n nhw fan hyn’ (They were right here.) This is of course true, but for the entirety of the story up to that point the key feature was that they didn’t
have them, nor did they think that they had any idea of how
to find them. Instead of dispelling this sense of being outwitted – surely the most potent of all a detective’s fears – how much better would it have been had the story explored it further? Instead of once again being frustrated by his own lack of professionalism, Matthias could have been made to rage against the audacity of his defeat by a new and determined adversary. Indeed, he could even have begun to wonder if this criminal was to be his very own Moriarty, a more quick-witted fellow than even he himself could hope to be.
Llew, in turn, deserved more time in victory than the brief interlude on the dam.
Setting aside his abrupt fatal flaw of hiding in the one place that was flagged by the otherwise minimalist décor of his house as more of a plot device than a measure of character; he had, until that point, been deliberate in his actions, and successful in evading the law. For such a calculated character – a man who meticulously arranged himself and his house in ceremonial preparation for these crimes and this escape in particular – to suddenly be cast into the role of an opportunistic fugitive is disappointing. From this point onwards, he can no longer be defeated at his own methodical game, since the means with which he played it have been taken away from him, through contrivance and misadventure. The story will be resolved, and the case will be closed, but the audience will be denied their due catharsis for those breathless opening 30 minutes of premeditated terror.
The structure of this tale is a new and commendable venture for the drama, and the first half of the first episode moves with purpose and style. The second half of the episode, and the second half of the story which will air next week, complete the tale, and continue to take Y Gwyll
into uncharted waters. However, in bringing the protagonist and antagonist too close together too quickly by means of a far too simplistic trail of clues, and in allowing the ineptitude of the protagonist, rather than the cunning of the antagonist, to ultimately dictate the state of play, the show has missed a golden opportunity to tell a much stronger story.
Dewi Huw Owen
is a PhD student at the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, writing on translation theory and the history of translation in Wales during the nineteenth century. Huw won the Urdd Eisteddfod Crown in 2008 and has published fiction and nonfiction bilingually in publications including Tu Chwith
and Y Pedair Tudalen
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