I’d be inclined to watch James Nesbitt in just about anything he did, so it doesn’t take much to lure me to Bloodlands when I see Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty, Bodyguard) is a producer.
In truth this 4 part Irish police drama is written by actor-writer Chris Brandon (Red Rock, Clash of Futures) and takes place in Belfast.
Nesbitt plays Detective Tom Brannick, a single dad whose wife was killed two decades ago by the IRA. Daughter Izzy ( Lola Petticrew) is a university, a student of attractive lecturer Tori (Lisa Dwan), who takes an interest in her father’s case.
But it’s the case that is of most interest here to Tom and his partner Detective Niamh (Charlene McKenna). When an abandoned car is hauled from the local river it triggers a hunt for owner and ex-IRA man Pat Keenan (Peter Ballance), who has long links to organised crime…. it isn’t long before they realise he has been kidnapped.
It may be 2021, but wrinkly blokes like Tom have long memories to the worst of Irish terrorism. He doesn’t subscribe to the theory of Chief Superintendent Jackie Twomey (Lorcan Cranitch) that the past should stay buried.
“Don’t go down any other roads, you don’t know where they lead,” he is told.
Tom is convinced whoever is behind the kidnapping is linked to a mysterious crime figure code-named Goliath, and may have answers about the death of his wife.
It’s hard to avoid that the series festers old wounds and Tom imparts considerable backstory about the days of the IRA before peace was reached in 1998. There’s also no avoiding the grey, glum setting of the story, with characters rugging up and sometimes battling the elements.
But thankfully James Nesbitt is here to drive the story, amply matched by Charlene McKenna who brings a more contemporary perspective to this very cold case. The supporting cast is full of character actors with gnarly, windswept faces.
While it doesn’t match Mercurio’s famed scripts, Chris Brandon nevertheless writes to some sexy cliffhangers. I’d have preferred a little more focus on the present than the past, but not having lived through any of this first-hand it is dramatically and politically interesting to equate old and new values in Ireland.
Bloodlands premieres 9:40pm Wednesday May 26 on SBS.