Monday With Mildred: “Shetland”

Shetland TV show advertising image.


If you can tell me where Shetland is on a map, I will be very impressed. Before watching this show all I knew about Shetland is they make teeny tiny ponies. Now I know they have a strong Nordic background, being so close to Norway, take ferries pretty often between islands and the two closest mainlands, and speak with a Scottish accent that loses me just often enough that I have to watch the show with subtitles. That last is a little embarrassing, but since they’re murder mysteries a viewer must put aside their pride or lose some clues along the way.

Each episode is a two-parter and features many shots of the windswept green island, villages and lots of poverty marked crofts, Scottish for farmhouse. Detective Inspector Jimmy Peres (Douglas Henshall) is a big time detective who has come home to be with his teenage daughter. They need his superior skills with the unusually large number of murders on an archipelago with a population of only 23,00 people. He and his steady partner, Detective Constable Tosh MacIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) travel up and down the islands solving two murders every episode. Peres is dogged and super patient in his investigations, and he needs to be.

Every week he interviews many people. They all lie to him because they decide right up front that their information is not important to his case, or they’re guilty. He never corrects them when he finds out, which was really annoying to me at first but I finally got used to the idea that he’s just not that kind of guy. The guilty liars I totally get. There’s also at least one person every episode who tells him right out to stop asking questions. And he does! That also takes a bit of getting used to.

The novelist behind the series is Ann Cleeves, who has been enthusiastic in her support of the changes to the original material, at one point saying she wishes she had made up one of the major characters because she likes her so much. I like all the characters as well. Perez is calm, intelligent and a guy who doesn’t seem to have the first problem working with women. Tosh is the perfect foil for him and the two quickly became one of my favorite crime fighting duos. Best of all, there is no Hollywood induced sexual tension to endure. None of the officers are muscle flexing superheroes, and there are no car chases or gunfights. The coroner is an older woman with a smart mouth and ever present whiskey flash. For a series set so near the Arctic Circle, there is a wee bit of diversity (see what I did there?). One episode has an Asian woman with a heavy Scottish accent, and another has a black woman with a somewhat less distinct Scottish accent.

This is a great series for a quiet night in to watch mostly non-gruesome murder mysteries featuring actual detective work and no gratuitous explosions. Heck, they don’t even swear much. The main characters are likeable, portrayed as smart without a flood of personal drama every week, and are refreshingly normal. It’s the kind of high level cinematic quality you would expect from a British series, and I look forward to watching the rest of the seasons. With the subtitles on.


CFR: In Addition: Oh this is indeed a very good show! I’m so glad Mildred wrote about it because now I can go and watch more! I am glad to see they are still making this series. I am off to BritBox to load up some more episodes. I think I finished at season four and I do hope I can watch the rest of the seasons. Thanks Mildred!

nne Cleeves, author of the Shetland books, in front of the home used in the series of her book's hero.
Anne Cleeves, author of the Shetland books, in front of the home used in the series of her book’s hero.

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