Meaningful Glances and Tortured Detectives: Musings on 'Hinterland'

Right now, the Missus and I are working our way through Hinterland on Netflix and we're just heading into the third and final season and some things have stood out (some from both of us, some for just me and my nerdy-ass brain) that I think are worth talking about. For those that don't know, Hinterland debuted on S4C, the Welsh language channel back in 2013 before moving to the BBC in 2014. It was the first BBC television drama with dialogue in both English and Welsh. 

How you might ask, did they manage that? Well, this is the crazy thing- each scene was apparently filmed twice- once in English, then in Welsh-- and there are a few scenes (but none so far in the Netflix version) where Welsh with subtitles is used. This begs the next obvious question: what the hell does Welsh actually sound like- behold:

Having watched two seasons and getting into the third the language aspect of this is crazy to me. I don't know why Netflix didn't give you the option to watch it in Welsh with English subtitles or why they didn't mix the languages a bit more. (Welsh at home, more English at work, etc.) Welsh is not a language I know a lot about- but the accent grows on you and it's fascinating to listen to it being spoken because you can pick out the cognates as you go.

Wales itself plays a major role in the series- I've never been to Wales and the show was filmed in and around Aberstywyth and it's absolutely gorgeous. Mountains, the sea, farms, fields, fog, winter- I never thought of Wales as a rugged or wild country, but it's absolutely gorgeous and the show wisely makes the landscape an integral part of creating the atmosphere for the show.

This is also a show where you could do a supercut of all the meaningful glances the characters give each other. There's a lot of:

"Dialogue from Character A."

"Reply from Character B,"

[Meaningful Glance Between Characters]

Sometimes it's just:

[Character walking out of the room]

[Meaningful glance between other characters]

Plus, the boss likes to watch them leave the police station to do police things from his window and it's a little creepy. [Creepy Boss glances]

This means I suppose we've got to talk about DCI Mathias and the tired old trope of tortured Detectives. Look, the man is deeply traumatized and then either run away to or moves back to Wales from London to hide from his trauma. There's a real question of, "Hey, should he be like in counseling or something?" and "Should he be doing this job?" Everyone seems to be all about, "hey let him work. It's what he's good at" and in the first series, he retires back to his murder-y trailer in the wilderness and just goes running.

Again, I don't want to belittle the tragedy and trauma of this character. But this is 2013 and no one says, "Hey, wait a minute man." I'd also like to see a television show.noir/police procedural with a tortured cop who lives somewhere sensible. Like a townhouse. With furniture. And who cooks his own food and at least pretends to take care of himself. No more murder-y trailers!

True story: I was so genuinely curious about the rules on search and seizure of evidence that I whatsapp'd my cousin to see what's what, because the fact the DCI Mathias just seems to walk into random places and poke around in them bugged the shit out of me. But police in the UK have wider latitude it seems on that score. It's also weird watching it from an American point of view because there is a part of me that's always like, "Man, this show would have been about two episodes long over here because his ass would have done got shot by now." But of course, while there are guns in the show- they're not nearly as ubiquitous as they are over here and it's kind of refreshing.

Despite some grumbling though- this is a genuinely good show and I am actually kind of sad that we're in its final season. I don't know where it ranks in terms of other noir police procedurals, but it certainly stands out in ways that I find interesting. If you're looking for an interesting show to binge on Netflix, I recommend Hinterland.


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