mon 30/03/2020

Deadwater Fell, Channel 4 review - dark murder mystery in a Scottish village | reviews, news & interviews

Deadwater Fell, Channel 4 review - dark murder mystery in a Scottish village

Deadwater Fell, Channel 4 review - dark murder mystery in a Scottish village

Just what the doctor ordered? David Tennant as a GP under suspicion in a gripping first episode

Fun at the beach: Anna Madeley as Kate with David Tennant as Tom

An idyllic Scottish classroom full of happy children making sponge paintings of flowers with two enthusiastic young teachers – clearly, doom is in the air. Here comes that sense of dread again a little later at a ceilidh in a village hall, with everyone trying a little too hard to look happy.

An idyllic Scottish classroom full of happy children making sponge paintings of flowers with two enthusiastic young teachers – clearly, doom is in the air. Here comes that sense of dread again a little later at a ceilidh in a village hall, with everyone trying a little too hard to look happy. And it’s soon confirmed in a flash-forward to a pathologist wiping down an autopsy table.

The first of the four episodes of C4's Deadwater Fell, written and created by Daisy Coulam (Humans, Grantchester) and directed by Lynsey Miller, is gripping and disturbing, with a strong cast, though some of the dialogue is a bit ponderous. It features two families, apparently best friends, in a close-knit community (too close-knit, perhaps) not far from Glasgow (we know the city is near by because the pathologist warns that “it might be time to give the Glasgow boys a call”).

Kate (Anna Madeley) and Jess (Cush Jumbo, pictured below, who, in floppy T-shirts and cardies, is less soignée here than as the fabulous Lucca Quinn in The Good Wife and The Good Fight) are the primary-school teachers in question, married, respectively, to GP Tom Kendrick (David Tennant, with a well shaped beard) and policeman Steve (Matthew McNulty). Steve is divorced and finds it hard to deal with his ex-wife Sandra (Lisa McGrillis, who played the dim girlfriend Kelly in Mum) over custody arrangements for their two sons. Jess, who’s having IVF (her relaxed attitude to self-injecting is impressive – though could there be a plot twist in there?) is much more accommodating to Sandra and takes everything in her stride.deadwaterUntil, that is, the night of the fire. Jess looks out of the window after she’s put one of the boys back to bed – he thought he heard a burglar and the dog won’t stop barking - and sees Tom and Kate’s house ablaze. Tom is the only survivor. There are terrible scenes of small bodies in bags beside scattered soft toys. Tom lies unconscious in hospital with smoke inhalation. This fire was no accident. Now the question of murder hangs over the village.

Was it an insider – Tom’s the main suspect – or a crazed stranger? Secrets are, as usual, everywhere. At Tom’s bedside, Jess remembers a birthday picnic at the beach when it was obvious that Kate was severely depressed, unable to cope with her three daughters and the in-laws. Her despair when she’s supposed to be enjoying herself is marvellously real. “Can we not have a nice time just for one day?” Tom asks her before she furiously gulps back a glass of white and storms off with the kids, accompanied by Jess, for an ill-advised drive home through rolling hills covered with pinewoods. Were Tom and Jess having an affair? What is the significance of the bicycle race at the beginning? And why was Kate buying a padlock in the hardware store?

All remains a mystery until the next installment. Coulam has said that she was inspired by the ambiguity of the Netflix true-crime show The Staircase, about the trial of Michael Peterson, who was accused of killing his wife. Whether Deadwater Fell will come up with something less loose-ended is unclear, but the first episode leaves you needing to find out.

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