Seven has a serious track record of UK crime dramas, mostly through its ITV pipeline: Manhunt, Liar, Bodyguard, The Bay, Gold Digger, Cheat and somewhat lighter fare on 7TWO.
The latest is The Pembrokeshire Murders, a true crime drama which has drawn bumper ratings in Britain. And it’s not hard to see why. With just three episodes and a magnetic lead in Luke Evans, this is a compact viewing commitment which is time well spent.
Evans plays Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins who, in 2006, re-opens two unsolved 1980s murder cases.
In the wintry, windswept coastal county of Pembrokeshire the Coastal Path Murders involved the deaths of a husband and wife, but the area also was home to the murder of siblings in a remote farmhouse, Scoveston Manor. As Wilkins investigates, he finds evidence that links to a further case, involving sexual assaults at Nolton Hill Estate.
Wilkins is convinced the man responsible for all 3 is John Cooper (Keith Allen), about to be released from prison for a long list of burglaries. It’s a race against time to convince authorities to prosecute him again, before a possible serial killer is let loose.
“Men like him, they always kill again,” he warns.
On his side is DNA which was not available at the time of original investigations.
Luke Evans, who is in almost every scene in the three hour series, is on a hero’s journey here, to right a monumental injustice. Unlike some crime dramas, he does this almost single-handedly (his team are pretty non-descript by comparison), save for plucky journalist Jonathan Hill (David Fynn) who agrees to hold off a story in exchange for an exclusive (I know the feeling).
Evans never upstages the material, with due deference to the victims and the serious matters at hand.
Also featuring are Oliver Ryan as Cooper’s damaged adult son Andrew, and Steffan Cennydd as Wilkins’ own son Jack who offers an emotional sub-plot for our leading man.
But it’s the crime-busting we are here for and despite the bleak setting, Evans shines with a determined, razor-sharp performance.
The script by Nick Stevens never drags and the breakthrough moment is so unique, I’m sparing you the spoiler (there’s a lot online). Seven will also screen a separate documentary around this aspect following the final episode next week.
The Pembrokeshire Murders isn’t necessarily the most ripping of crime yarns but it is consistently executed with a dynamic leading man.
The Pembrokeshire Murders double episode screens 8:30pm Wednesday on Seven.