Blood: an engrossing thriller for fans of Broadchurch & Unforgotten

Blood, a new Irish family thriller starring Line Of Duty’s Adrian Dunbar, starts tonight on Channel 5…

Adrian Dunbar Blood
Photo: Channel 5

Families, eh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t kill ‘em.

That’s not just an insensitive joke, it’s also inaccurate. As The Office for National (Sobering) Statistics will tell you, people kill their family members all the time. It’s practically a hobby. That’s something to remember the next time you borrow your sister’s hair straighteners without asking.

New Irish psychological thriller Blood (which starts tonight in the UK on Channel 5 following an earlier broadcast in Ireland, and will air every night this week) is a drama about family. Specifically, it’s a drama about the secrets families protect, and the lies they tell each other.

It’s good stuff, a thriller rooted in convincing characters and (almost painfully) recognisable family relationships. It’s one of the few dramas where siblings are written and performed as if they’re really related, rather than just cast for having the same hair colour, with all the hostility, resentment and unspoken history that entails. The dialogue, written by creator Sophie Petzal (The Last Kingdom, Riviera) captures well the intimacies between siblings and old friends.

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Episode one is solemn, necessarily, but studded with naturalistic humour. There’s naturalism throughout, in the style and the focus on character rather than thriller plot contrivance.

The performances have a great deal to do with that. Lead Carolina Main (Unforgotten) is excellent as Cat Hogan, a middle child from a small Irish town who returns home after years living in Dublin. (I’m not qualified to judge, but her accent, not her native English, seems pretty flawless.) Main has a naturally ethereal quality—she could easily play a tenth-century saint or Elvin queen—which plays to her advantage as the dreamer outcast of the Hogan family. It’s good casting, as well as everything else.

The town is the kind of place you recognise – a ‘the policeman knows your ma and da, and everyone goes to the local to see your brother’s band play’ kind of place. For Cat, it’s a place filled with unhappy memories and difficult relationships.

Line Of Duty’s Adrian Dunbar is great in the meaty role of Cat’s father Jim, a local GP and a complicated patriarch. Diarmuid Noyes and Grainne Kennan too, are well cast as Cat’s brother Michael and her older, married-with-kids sister Fiona.

The event that drags Cat home leads instantly to her suspicion that she’s being lied to. That suspicion sets in motion a mystery that unfurls at a satisfying pace. That’s key to Blood’s success.No sooner does the viewer make a connection than it’s expressed, and answered, and deepened. There’s no tedious drawing-out of clues or waiting around for the characters to catch up with links the audience made three steps ago. It moves apace, and is all the better for it.

The pace of Blood makes it perfect for the release strategy on Channel 5, which is currently staking out its place as a home for programmes with more substance than the shiny reality fare it’s often associated with. This drama’s revelations tumble out at speed, while its characters work their way in to your head. The blurry-trauma-flashback cliché is there, but it’s explained mercifully quickly, and not overused.

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Like Keeping Faith, the Welsh BBC family thriller that made its way to English TV through word of mouth buzz, Blood is an engrossing drama themed around secrets, with recognisable characters and a solid mystery at its centre. Broadchurch and Unforgotten fans shouldn’t miss it.

Blood starts tonight at 9pm on Channel 5