Is it possible for the coveted TV series Shetland to exist without its protagonist, Jimmy Perez? That's the question/riddle that the creators of the show have to answer in the latest -eighth- outing of the top-notch British crime drama as Douglas Henshall, the actor who gave breath and unassuming credibility to the character of DI Perez, bid farewell after -almost- a decade working on set. Henshall told journalists who probed about his departure from the show that he felt like/as the character's arc had reached its conclusion. He said: He said: “After series 5 of Shetland, David Kane and I decided we wanted to do two more series to complete the story of Jimmy Perez. So series 6 and 7 were commissioned together to give us time to wrap up Perez's story to a satisfactory end." Gaynor Holmes, Executive Producer for BBC Drama said regarding the new after-Jimmy era of Shetland: "We will miss him enormously but he leaves the show in rude health and we’re extremely excited about the plans we have for bringing more of this much loved drama to audiences far and wide."
As you can imagine, the creators strived to find a proper replacement for Henshall's role, an equally engaging and plausible detective-protagonist who will lead the show. Enter Detective Inspector Ruth Calder (Ashley Jensen), a no-nonsense in her approach to the job police officer who will add intrigue and mystery to the story as, even from the first episode, we learn that despite being a newcomer in Shetland for now, she was raised there and had to abandon the place for a reason that will be revealed in the course of the season's 6 episodes. Calder is framed by the recurring -main- characters of DS Alison -"Tosh"- Mcintosh (Alison O' Donnell), DC Sandy Wilson (Steven Robertson) and Sgt. Billy McCabe (Lewis Howden). Robertson, who excels in his performance as the rather naïve, though honest and loyal, Andy, is a Shetlander as he was born and raised in the Lunnasting district on the north-east mainland of Shetland.
Since I've only watched the first episode of this season, I won't dwell on the story as I can't provide a thorough synopsis. The only thing that I can safely tell is that season 8 will be of equal stature to the previous installments in all aspects: plot intricacy, characterization, intrigue, cinematography, and all the facets that make a great television series. The central narrative thread unfolds to divulge the clash between two mafia-type families/clans, initiated by a random case of robbery, which finds the local authorities in the middle, trying to keep the peace in the islands. Even though I've become addicted to binge-watching my TV shows, Shetland is one of the rare shining exceptions that convinces you to wait for a full week to see what happens next. The open, barren landscape and the harsh weather conditions complement the -more or less- bleak stories told each season.
For those who are not familiar with the series, it is important to note that the main characters and the setting of Shetland are the creation of a prolific English author's animated imagination. Ann Cleeves is also the writer of another popular British crime show, Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn in the role of the woman sleuth, and she is considered to be one of the preeminent crime authors of her generation. If you are into crime novels, you should check her work out as soon as possible.