NOTE: This is an account of my first impressions on the seventh season of "Shetland", based on my watching just the two first episodes. The story concludes in 6 parts, so this is only a fragmentary look on this latest cycle of the beloved series.
The seventh season of the highly cherished British crime drama Shetland, based on the characters created by the nimble literary mind of Ann Cleeves who has authored 8 installments in the titular novel series, is finally released and the steadfast fans of the complex police procedural TV show have the chance, at last, to relish another thickly plotted storyline featuring truthful humanlike characters. Cleeves is also the creator of the Vera Stanhope book series, which has been adapted into television series starring Brenda Blethyn in the role of the protagonist in a production that counts 11 seasons so far. The creators of Shetland appropriated the protagonists of her novels, most notably DI Jimmy Perez, the head of the Shetland police force and leader of a group of trusted colleagues who slowly and methodically always get to the bottom of the cases that they are appointed to investigate. This cycle marks the end of an era as it is the last for Douglas Henshall who plays Perez and there is a kind of extra-mystery as the loyal fans are keen to know the way in which the screenwriters will handle their protagonist's exit from the stage. Will they choose to "kill" him or is there another sort of fate awaiting the revered character who won the audiences through Henshall's calm, low-key rendition of his role as a quiet, inward-looking middle-aged man who is adept to his work as a professional criminal hunter, often taking a moment to reflect of the consequences of the various plot's events on the other characters, always treating them as human beings despite their transgressions. Perez is a type of detective more akin to his Nordic fictitious colleagues as his solitary nature that complicates his interpersonal relationships and interactions, especially when intimacy is involved, combined with his capacity for rational reasoning and single-minded persistence on pursuing his goals, render him a character closer to the Scandinavian model of detective-protagonist.
The latest season of the show begins a few months after the ending of the previous one, with the fallout of the Donna Killick case still haunting both Jimmy and Duncan who is currently incarcerated and in the first scene of the first episode, we watch as Perez visits him in prison and has a brief chat with him. Next, Jimmy has to answer to his superiors for his actions at the end of the sixth season and during the process, he insists that everything is a set-up orchestrated by the now deceased Donna Killick. Eventually, the ruling is delivered, exonerating Perez from any wrongdoing, thus restoring his place in Shetland's police force. His return coincides with the strange disappearance of a young man, Connor Cairns, a sensitive graphic novelist who takes a special interest in the history and mythology of Shetland Islands and is well-respected by the locals. His vanishing act leaves his family reeling, both parents seeking answers to the mounting questions that arise during the police inquiry. Connor's father, Danny Cairns, is a former cop who got involved in a nasty case that led to him stealing of a stash of heroin belonging to a small-time dealer, Pepper Waldron, in order to force him to become an informer. The case went south and resulted in the death of the dealer, a reality that prompted Danny and his family to leave the city and find solace in the reclusiveness of Shetland. Danny's subplot is explored in detail during the course of the first two episodes and there are some interesting twists adding flavor to his story. At the same time, we are introduced to the set of new characters, and the pool of potential suspects, that include a socially inept librarian who was infatuated with Connor, the Waldron family that wants revenge for the loss of Pepper, a weird lodger at the Cairns B&B and others who will certainly play a role in the story's development.
Shetland has to be one of the most resilient to the passage of time crime dramas of the last few decades as there is not a single season that can be considered as less compelling than the others. The creators adhere to reliable, inalienable standards regarding every aspect of the production, from the capturing photography that takes fully advantage of the serene beauty of the landscape to the top-notch performances by all members of the cast. Moreover, the exceptional screenplay that effectively narrates a labyrinthine, sophisticated story, superbly plotted and leaving space for plausible character development, is one of the most well-crafted samples in the TV productions of the genre, only comparable with that of the -also British- Line of Duty. In my opinion, the stories of the show's seven seasons are even more fascinating than those featured in Cleeve's novels, and I say that while being a major fan of the English author's body of work. What remains the same though, is the great sense of place that the show and the books share, transporting the reader/audience far north in the islands that have become a place of self-imposed exile for people who ruined their chances for a good life in the city and now pursue their luck by living within the confines of a small community. The minute size of the setting adds a cozy mystery element to the narrative as the story's agents all know each other very well, thus the dramatic tension level raises even higher when the secrets of each character are revealed and the, until then, solid relationships and bonds are challenged. A prime example taken from the previous six seasons is Jimmy's relationship with Duncan, a liaison which is set in shaky foundation from the beginning as Jimmy is raising Duncan's biological child, Cassie, as a sort of stepfather.
Unfortunately, Erin Armstrong who played Cassie is not included in the cast, of the first two episodes at least, and we miss the chance to admire her dazzling looks, a feature that has been one of my personal favorites in the whole series. The latest cycle of Shetland looks solid and promises an intriguing set of remainder episodes. The mystery revolving around Connor's true nature and personality is engaging and the sub-plots, that always provide the added flavor in the narrative, seem to be, once more, equally well-refined. Watch Shetland's seventh season at all costs and bid a farewell to Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez, a role that became inextricably linked with his name and marked his acting career so far. The show's history guarantees six hours of first-rate, high-quality entertainment.