This review contains spoilers.
Two refreshingly unexpected things happened in this week’s Marcella, and neither related to its tortuous plot. The first was the two-and-a-half-minute period of silence in which Rav’s team explored the farmhouse, wordlessly absorbing the scope of the horror they’d uncovered. The second was Rav’s distressed response to it all. Both exhibited a sense of decorum and recognisable humanity that’s generally absent from this thriller.
As a rule, Marcella characters don’t behave like you or me, and I don’t just mean the serial killers. To keep the show’s tension levels on a rolling boil and the ad breaks stuffed with cliff-hanger intrigue, everyone treats everyone else with anger and suspicion. There’s no warmth or humour. They’re all blackmailing each other. They’re all—colleagues, parents, children, partners—keeping secrets. Bearing witness to that much animosity in one lump without any hope of relief is exhausting, and why I avoid IKEA at weekends.
Until now, Techy Mark, with his nerdy seventies rock fandom and comic inability to be concise, has been a spark of light in the gloom. Series two though, perhaps sensing an outlier in its midst, has chosen to give him the official Marcella ‘secrets and blackmail’ makeover. Now he’s sadly just like the rest of them.
All of which goes to explain why seeing Rav struggle with the enormity of that farmhouse discovery stood out. Finally, the behaviour of a recognisable human! Seventeen children have been murdered, Rav, cry away! Later on, when Ray Panthaki’s character was kind to an increasingly spiralling Marcella, his offer of a drink and support was hallelujah-worthy.
Recognisable human behaviour though, doesn’t get you anywhere in this show. It earned Rav a callous and tone-deaf instruction to “man up” or face dismissal from Tim, whose inbox is presumably overflowing with notifications about missed sensitivity training sessions.
Tim’s stone age attitude to masculinity and mental health may be the least of his worries. In order to dangle a flashing question mark over each of the main characters’ heads before Marcella begins its descent into the finale, episode five presented the possibility that Discman could be none other than Maya Whitman, aka Tim’s other woman. What terrible luck that would be. Not only is Tim dating someone who, five months ago was a murder suspect in his last case, he’s currently cheating on her with a woman who may have killed seventeen kids.
The evidence against Maya isn’t what a prosecutor would call compelling at this point, essentially amounting to 1) her scoping out an abandoned house like the one wot the murders was done in and 2) there just having been something a bit serial killer-y about her this week. Possibly her hair?
Digging deeper, Maya runs Kids Call, so we know she wants to help children. Does she, however, want to help children in the same way a toddler wants to help a goldfish enjoy some time out of its bowl and in the front pocket of a Dora the Explorer rucksack? Time will tell.
The evidence against Maya’s husband Vince is more robust. He was the boxing sponsor to two boys who disappeared, one of whom ended up in that gruesome portrait gallery. He also lied to the police about driving the now-missing Karim home, and spends his free time drinking and watching videos of dead Billy on his computer. When Angry Eric tried to blackmail him though (et tu, Angry Eric?) Vince shrugged it off, possibly in disgust that the blackmail footage had been filmed in portrait mode, and rightly so.
Also in the frame is vet Jojo, whose childlessness is causing her anguish. The sad story of her deleting the pregnancy video-diaries she starts when each IVF attempt fails was another rare moment of pathos for this show. A sure way to screw that up would be for her to be revealed as the killer and therefore to draw a link between the ritualistic death photography and her repeated false start videos. We know now that all seventeen of the children were killed in the last nine years, after farmhouse owner Patrick Hannigan’s quadruple murder-suicide (more fun!), so she could probably have fitted it in between desexing cats and euthanising Labradors.
What are we to make though, of Norway? Gail’s charge Joel was paralysed in what he says was a deliberate car crash there. Did Reg and Alan’s band ever tour the fjords? Perhaps a clue in that haunted house video will lead the way.
Reg and Alan’s big secret, we learned, was two big secrets – one relating to the disappearance of a teenage girl, the other relating to their having had a love affair. The revelation was an odd one. We saw Alan go in for a kiss, then the camera suddenly leapt back twenty metres as if it had seen a mouse. Perhaps Nigel Planer and Keith Allen didn’t manage to inject that goodbye snog with the required passion, perhaps the producers just wimped out of actually showing it. Either way, it ended things on a strangely unresolved note. Presumably Alan pushed Reg into the water? Whatever it was that was off, the scene lacked first romance, then suspense, then coherence.
Reg going in the canal strikes him off our list of suspects, to which we must now add Cagey Nigel the farmhouse neighbour, seen patting a fresh grave in his own garden (euthanised Labrador?) and clearly knowing more than he’s letting on. Alan, Vince, Jojo, Maya… it’s a veritable sharing platter of potential suspects. Which one of them did it? Who knows. Right now, my money’s on the maggoty fox.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.