Blood: newest show from our newest TV station is one of the oldest stories in the book
TV Review: The excellent Carolina Main is just one of several reasons to watch ‘Blood’
Carolina Main is admirably understated, Adrian Dunbar as thick-set and comforting as an oak tree
Good news. Blood (Virgin Media One, Monday, 9pm), the newest show from our newest television station, is, at root, one of the oldest stories in the book.
A parent in a respected family has died in suspicious circumstances. One child suspects foul play and begins digging for clues. The filial avenger is doubted and discredited. The ensuing chaos threatens to tear everyone and everything apart.
This kind of revenge tragedy has occupied moody princes from Hamlet to Simba, and now the role falls to Cat Hogan, a woman with delicate features and a ferocious temper, and in Carolina Main’s excellent, admirably understated performance, it fits well.
If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it, the show’s creator and writer Sophie Petzal recognises with this confident display of high-stakes family drama. In a pleasingly fluid opening sequence, full of juddering tension and neat exposition, Cat is discovered by a guard in the dead of night, retching next to her car on a country road.
She is, it is plain to see, over the limit. But the cop recognises her family name and waves her on. (Besides, what harm can a falsified breath test do?)
Destined for her family home, where her chronically ill mother has suddenly died – apparently by an accidental fall – this is not the only cover-up Cat will encounter tonight.
Petzal and director Lisa Mulcahy are not too hung up on suspense. Adrian Dunbar’s paterfamilias Jim Hogan, as thick set and comforting as an oak tree, already seems guilty as sin; slow to grieve and tripping over every conceivable question.
What’s mam’s brooch doing here? Where is the missing pond ornament that (most likely) matches the dent in her skull? How did you get that suspicious cut on your hand? Did he learn nothing from The Staircase on Netflix?
More arresting, though, is how the drama presents Cat: a flawed, impromptu detective nursing a childhood grievance, demonstrating a remarkably blasé attitude to considerate parking, and in the clear throes of alcoholism. One marvellous, disquieting shot, taken from above, sees her waking up in the recovery position on the bathroom floor.
Like her drinking, Cat’s mental health is frequently invoked: “They always said you were mad,” says one woman, exposed for having an affair with her father. Some characters find that reason enough to make Cat’s convictions seem doubtful, and while the drama could do with a little more ambiguity, it is told from her perspective. Is there reason to doubt her?
Right now, there are plenty of reasons to watch Blood, from its fine casting of unfamiliar faces to its supple command of plot and pace. But one discreet appeal may be its refreshing approach to filming Ireland, not as postcard quaint or try-hard urban, but something more fascinating: a place old and new, gothic and green.
My favourite sequence in this absorbing opening episode is a car journey in silence (over Ray Harman’s sombre, evocative score) between a saturnine father and his anxious, accusing daughter. One is a picture of stone; the other as unsettled as a rippling pond.
If blood is thicker than water, what kind of splash will they soon make?