New Welsh Review
Hidden, Series 2
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Murder’s afoot, and it’s the second time around in the new series of Craith, or Hidden as the English version titles it. Featuring themes of wasted childhood potential, domestic abuse, social conditioning and suicide, two young teens, Mia and Lee, are both troubled at home by unstable families. Their reluctant tagalong friend, Connor, help them as they hide their crimes from the police: the murder of a man accused of being a sexual predator.
The opening of the show is captivating: a hooded figure, that remains unidentifiable during the scene, uses a telephone box late on a rainy night and urgently directs the police to a house. They refrain from giving personal details over the phone, and from mentioning the fact that there has been a murder. The police then search the dark estate for some sort of clue connecting to the call. They shout the name of the person living at the given address – a Mr Elis – but receive no reply. Eventually, the police end up in the bathroom and find a man, lying dead in a bathtub behind a closed shower curtain, who appears to have been dead a while. The episode then cuts to the opening sequence.
I thought this was an incredibly effective opening, since the viewer doesn’t know what kind of crime awaits the police. The dark and tense atmosphere made me initially wonder whether someone was about to ambush. Meanwhile, from the urgency of the unknown caller’s voice, I thought that if a murder was to take place, it would be during the police visit. It leaves the viewer to imagine the possibilities before revealing the surface of the truth in the series.
This is the quality in which Craith excels: creating and maintaining tension, even at those moments when we know what a character is about to find. The music increases intensity or stops, the cameras angles change, and the characters engage in gripping, and at times unnerving, dialogue. Returning to the opening scene, when the police are investigating the house, their torches do not find the staircase until the latest moment possible, leaving it dark as they explore the surrounding areas. When the light finally hits the staircase, showing the blood on the handrail, the viewer knows something ominous awaits upstairs.
The series also shows troubled family relationships. Craith explores the relationship with and influence on crime (particularly murder). DCI Cadi is in mourning for her father, and, throughout the episodes, is recovering from having learnt about his involvement with someone’s false imprisonment. Her investigatory partner, Vaughan, is temporarily left with his new-born child during the middle of an investigation, forcing him to put it on hold. Mia lives with her mother and an abusive step-father who tries to passionately kiss Mia while drunk, only for her to bite him in return. Lee is a young carer who, in the absence of his mother, must live with a violent elder brother and a father who is dependent on him to breathe. Lee copies his brother’s aggression (starting fights with a character called Sion in the garage) but rarely means to be malicious. Connor is the only main character to escape his troubled domestic life, moving away from his abusive father. Despite his escape, damage still resonates within him, just as it does with all the other characters, making him, open to Mia’s manipulation.
I particularly like Connor’s character: the impressionable teenager who is new in town. Eager to become a part of anything, he is quick to become friends with Mia, who ends up dragging him into the initial murder. This causes him to emotionally snowball downhill throughout the series, and his interactions and relationships with friends and family become increasingly hostile. You can see the effects the murder has on him through his behaviour and body language, for example his poor posture (putting his hood up to avoid social interaction) and ceasing to eat and sleep. There is an intense scene where Connor’s mother asks him what the matter is, and he responds by violently pushing her against the wall, holding her by the throat. You can see the aggression erupt (along with fear of the consequences of his actions): as he sees that his younger brother has witnessed the whole scene, he realises he has become just like his father.
The frequent reference to the Christina Rosetti poem, ‘Remember’, throughout the series, serves two main purposes. The first is to help flesh out Mia’s character as antagonist. We learn that she has a knack for English and is able to interpret the poem in a way that no-one else in her class can. While everyone believes the poem is about being remembered, she asks if the poem is about wanting to be forgotten. Her teacher tells her that she could go on to do great things, putting her abilities to the good. The deeper implications of ‘Remember’ allude to Mia’s manipulative nature; her use and abuse of the written word’s power, which comes into light later on when DCI John finds the poem in an open book on Mia’s desk. We discover that, after allowing her late friend, Gwilym Scott, to open up to her, she was anonymously cyber-bullying him, leading him to take his own life. While the intention was never to kill her friend, her written words were destructive enough to end a life, as well as contributing to the suicidal state Connor ends up in. Mia’s last line in the series, ‘It doesn’t matter where I go; I always make new friends,’ insinuates that her behaviour will continue and that more impressionable people will fall victim to her written words.
The protagonist of the show, DCI Cadi John, finds answers through the spoken word, symbolically pitting her against antagonist Mia. During her interviews, she chooses her words carefully, in efforts to provoke emotional responses from her suspects. Despite this, her concern for the people she works with is genuine, as opposed to most detective archetypal characters that are cold and uncaring. Having lost her father not long ago, she is able to relate to those affected by Mr Elis’ death, most apparently when interviewing his daughter in her own home. I have to credit DCI Cadi’s actor, Sian Reese-Williams: every facial expression, gesture and tone of voice builds to create a sense of true empathy for those having lost a loved one.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed the second series of Craith. Its three-dimensional characters are dealing in an everyday way with heavy yet believably developed and utterly topical themes. This made-up world felt very real and immersive. If you’re searching for a tense nail-biter with eerie yet sad vibes, Craith’s new series might be just the show for you. You can find the series here.
Lee Tisdale is one of this season’s Digital Cultural Correspondent in a new partnership with Aberystwyth University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.