Review of the crime series Bloodlands

“Ghosts of the Past” / Bloodlands

Genre detective, thriller
Creator Chris Brandon
Cast: James Nesbitt (Detective Chief Inspector Tom Brannik), Lorcan Cranich (Detective Chief Superintendent Jackie Toomey), Charlene McKenna (Detective Sergeant Niamh McGovern), Ian McElhinney (Adam Corrie), Peter Ballance (Patrick Keenan), Lisa Doane (Tory Matthews) ), Lola Petticrew (Izzy Brannik), etc.
Channel BBC One
Release year 2021
Series 4
Site IMDb

In the advertising of the British TV series Bloodlands / “Ghosts of the Past” there are several points at once that mislead viewers. First, this is not a series from the creators of Bodyguard. Bodyguard’s Jed Mercurio was only a producer on Bloodlands, but Chris Brandon is a different writer and showrunner. Secondly, this is not a police procedural, as many sites and the same Wikipedia write, there are no separate investigations connected by the main characters in each of the series, and the work of the police station is generally shown conditionally, and even with rude and, it seems, intentional mistakes. And thirdly, this is not quite a British series. Bloodlands takes place in Northern Ireland, and the spirit of the show is closer to Scandinavian crime dramas, like Bron / Broen / The Bridge, for example.

So, south of Belfast, in the waters of Strangford Lough, a flooded car was found belonging to a former member of the IRA, and now a respected businessman and an important member of the Catholic community, allegedly associated with criminals. There are no traces of the owner and / or his kidnappers, but the detective in charge of the investigation finds a postcard in the car referring to closed cases twenty years ago. Then, on the eve of the signing of the truce, someone allegedly connected to the police killed members of groups on opposite sides of the barricades, which could potentially interfere with the peace process. The killer, responsible for the disappearance of four people, received the code name “Goliath”, but in order not to disturb the public on the eve of the signing of the agreement, they decided to hush up the case. The problem is that one of the victims of Goliath was the wife of Detective Tom Brannik, who is investigating a new disappearance and found his connection to an old case.


Bloodlands can be roughly divided into two parts. The first two episodes are actually a crime drama, a police investigation that touches on both modern events and the history of twenty years ago. But the second two series are more of a thriller and a personal drama. You already know who Goliath is, now the main thing is to understand his motivation and find out what really happened in 1998. The authors seem to be trying to maintain tension and intrigue until the very end, and the very unexpected ending of the fourth series may even surprise, but there is one very big “BUT” that spoils the whole impression.


The fact is that all three people who can be Goliath work in the same police station and … are engaged in the Goliath case. It seems that the authors of the series are not familiar with or deliberately ignore the basic rules for conducting a police investigation. Conflict of interest? Internal Affairs? No, you haven’t! It seems that there is no one else in Northern Ireland to deal with a case in which three fairly high-ranking police officers are suspects. Well, or such involvement of the suspects themselves in a case of critical importance for the local community and, possibly, for all Anglo-Irish relations, does not bother anyone. Considering how reverently and pompously everyone in the series refers to the observance of the letter and spirit of the Belfast Agreement, it all looks extremely stupid. Well, we’d better keep silent about a few pianos in the bushes.


And this is a shame, because otherwise there are no special complaints about Bloodlands. There is a very thick, tense atmosphere; a certain feeling of being lost and doomed, typical of Scandinavian films; there is a link to real historical events, important and sensitive topics for Great Britain and Ireland; there is great music and a good ensemble of performers. Of particular note is the performance of James Nesbitt, whose role undergoes several interesting transformations throughout the series. Also doing a good job were Lorcan Cranich, who plays Superintendent Jackie Toomey, Charlene McKenna (Sergeant Niamh McGovern) and Ian McElhinney, who plays the role of Adam Corry, the brother of one of the Goliath victims, who has been conducting independent investigation for twenty years.


“Ghosts of the Past” / Bloodlands, like many British detective series, is very short – there are only four episodes of 50 minutes each, but the BBC has already managed to extend the show for a second season. And in vain. In principle, the finale of the fourth series draws a line under this story. Yes, it is very unusual, uncomfortable and quite cruel, but that is what makes it interesting. To extend the hunt for Goliath for a second season, despite the fact that the audience already knows exactly who it is, and does not even sympathize with it at all (in Bloodlands, everything is generally very bad with characters who want to empathize), a little strange. It is interesting that everyone else in the police station also knows very well (and would have known earlier if they were conscientious about their duties) who the killer is, so it is not at all clear what tricks the authors plan to extend the investigation for another season.

Pros: Dark and oppressive atmosphere; binding to real historical events and painful topics for Great Britain and Ireland; good acting by James Nesbitt; rather unexpected denouement Cons: Gross errors in the investigation procedure, destroying the authenticity of the story; none of the series’ main characters are sympathetic; the decision to renew the series for a second season looks strange. Conclusion:

“Ghosts of the Past” / Bloodlands could be another example of a quality British crime series, if not for a few stupid and gross errors in the logic of the police investigation

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