Red Rock TV review: McGonigle’s killer is finally revealed

TV3’s hit series returns, with episode one clearly signalling a move away from soapland and into crime-thriller territory

Liam Reid (Anthony Brophy) and Brian McGonigle (Sean Mahon) in TV3’s Red Rock

Liam Reid (Anthony Brophy) and Brian McGonigle (Sean Mahon) in TV3’s Red Rock

 

Okay, we’ve got seven suspects for the murder of Brian McGonigle. All of them had the motive and the means to kill telly’s most corrupt copper. But who actually dunit? Will everyone be so kind as to assemble in the drawing-room – Monsieur Poirot is about to reveal the murderer’s name.

A new season of Red Rock (TV3, Monday) has kicked off, and viewers who have waited all summer to find out who killed Brian finally got their answer. But don’t expect a straightforward detective-drama denouement. What made this opening episode so gripping was the way the killer’s identity was revealed. And it certainly wasn’t a Belgian detective flamboyantly twirling his moustache and pointing a gloved finger.

What gives Red Rock the edge over other soaps is that it’s not just a bunch of people wandering around a tiny little square giving out to each other. There are serious conflicts and serious crimes going on here. And the fact that it revolves around a Garda station rather than a pub or a bistro gives it a bit of dramatic heft. And the acting is indeed top-notch – no surprise that both BBC and Amazon Prime have snapped it up.

TV3 have ramped things up for this new season, clearly out to make the most of the series’ huge success. It’s now been streamlined to one hour-long episode a week, and moved to later, post-watershed time of 9.30pm, which will leave a lot of leeway for grittier, more violent and more mature storylines – not that it wasn’t gritty, violent and mature to begin with. In fact, I’m not sure if we can even call it a soap anymore.

Red Rock has grown into a full-badged police drama, and this season opener brings it further away from the Fair Cities and closer to the Love/Hates of this world. It’s going to be a tough act for the rest of the series to follow.

The last series ended with a cliffhanger, as Detective Inspector Nikki Grogan looked up from her computer, having finally pulled all the forensic evidence together and worked out who the murderer was.

“Who is it?” asked Paudge Brennan, as the rest of the gardai leaned expectantly forward. The pregnant pause lasted all summer, but when we return to the investigation room to pick up the story, the teasing doesn’t stop. We get lots of head-shaking, staring incredulously at the computer screen, lots of “no way” and “we should have known”.

Even the killer’s gender is coyly held back. “When are we going to bring them in?” asks Rory Walsh. It all seems a bit contrived – what next, a jet passing overhead just as someone says the killer’s name?

What follows is an extended flashback that takes us through the final, frenetic hours of Brian’s life, and makes all the waiting worth it. Jules has just kicked him out of the house after finding out about his affair with teenager Rachel, and Rachel’s dad Liam is just one of several vengeful people gunning for him.

There’s also Rachel’s junkie ex-boyfriend Conor, gangster Mick Moran and Garda Sharon Cleere, but I’m not going to tell you whodunit, because you’ve probably recorded it to watch later, or you’ll be watching it on BBC or Amazon Prime some time in the future – and we don’t want to pre-spoil it for you. Even when we witness the murder itself, the teasing doesn’t stop – we then start to wonder if the gardai have got it right.

Whatever happens next, one thing is certain: we’re not in soapland anymore.

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