The Binge: How Low Can British Detectives Go?

Marcella: Season One

Oh, that you’d seen the things we’ve seen…

Is your problem with shows like The KillingLuther, Happy Valley, and The Bridge that they are not bleak enough, and feature a lead character who’s too unflawed? Well, Hans Rosenfeldt – creator of Broen, the Danish/Swedish show that last one was based on – has your back with Marcella, a labyrinthine little show whose star just may have killed someone in cold blood. You see, retired detective Marcella Backland suffers from a condition that sends her reeling into violent fugue states.

Marcella opens on our “heroine” (played with wonderful understatement by Anna Friel) confused in a bathtub, covered in an all-too-familiar red gooey substance. Smash cut to a phone argument with a soon-to-be-ex-husband which scrolls past a conveniently placed framed photo of him, her, and their two kids in better times. We are quickly introduced to said husband, Jason (Nicholas Pinnock), in the flesh as he and boss Sylvie Gibson (a slyly sinister Sinead Cusack) menace a fellow employee of DTG Construction, our requisite eviler-than-evil corporation. Oh, did I mention Marcella took a tire iron to Jason’s car in the interceding scene? Yeah, Marcella’s not doing great. Marcella charts a completely new level of TV detective hot mess.

Meanwhile, it’s Stock Photo Day at DTG Construction

No one’s particularly what anyone would call “together” on Marcella, but other than Jason, whose spiraling leads to him hiring a gang to go all Fight Club on him, we don’t hang around too many characters for any length of time – and are spared much of their deeper inner pain. Marcella echoes another moody British drama starring Pinnock, Fortitude, in its seemingly endless parade of newly introduced players lurking in the shadows; practically every third scene brings in someone or something unfamiliar which may or may not be tied to the central mystery by the time our eight hours are up.

That’s not to say that it’s not thrilling, even as you suspect that there are going to be more loose ends than Marcella’s eventual straightjacket’s likely to boast. There’s a certain dizziness to trying to piece together all the different threads – from a violent immigrant handyman’s outbursts of rage to the layers of psychological abuse within the affluent Gibson family – even as you know you’re missing vital parts of the puzzle thanks to Marcella’s faulty memory. Rarely has the unreliable narrator translated so well to the screen.

Bingeability: 9 (if you can handle the fits of depression)

Total Binge Time: 8 hours

Binge Sittings: 2

RIYL: The KillingThe Bridge, Clinical Depression, Therapy

Best Episodes: “Episode One” “Episode Four”

You can watch the first season of Marcella on Netflix



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