Earlier this week, I noticed that Netflix had added Marcella, a show featuring Anna Friel (who I LOVED as Chuck in the all-too-short-lived series Pushing Daisies) and that Friel was the show’s title character AND that she was playing a detective searching for a murderer… Well, obviously I knew I’d have to watch this show. I’m always on the lookout for shows with badass female characters — and there’s a bonus if those shows involve crime-solving, because I love a mystery.
And if there’s one thing that this show has, it’s mystery. Marcella is a British crime procedural, written and directed by Hans Rosenfeldt (The Bridge). The 8-episode first season was added to Netflix shortly after it finished in mid-May, with audiences able to stream the show beginning July 1.
The show follows Marcella Backland (Friel), a retired detective who has spent the past decade at home raising a family. Marcella’s husband Jason (Nicholas Pinnock) has just left her, and in many ways her personal life is crumbling. Meanwhile, the signature of a serial killer who has been inactive for many years resurfaces. And so Marcella decides to return to work as a homicide detective and to search for the killer as she also deals with her personal life.
I have to admit that I think the show’s plot is a bit too formulaic at times, but there is enough complexity in the show’s subplots and enough strong acting that I didn’t find it distracting. Friel is a wonder to watch, giving a nuanced performance as Marcella’s obsessions spiral. She is often unlikable — volatile and obsessive, disregarding all sorts of not just rules and regulations but ethical and moral quandaries. She has a penchant for ruthlessly pursuing suspects, and she neglects to share pertinent information about the case with her fellow officers and superiors (like that she has started having blackout moments caused by extreme stress, and that one of those blackouts involved a fight with her husband’s mistress, who turned up dead).
The show also excels in its structural oddities, forcing us to do our own work to suss out the murderer by introducing us to a fairly large-sized cast of characters all at once rather than suspect by suspect. Marcella’s blackouts also add a layer of complication–we don’t see what she does, but we know that she is sometimes violent. The relationship between Marcella and Jason vacillates, both of them confused and confusing one another, both of them suspects.
And that’s really the other thing I like about the show: Everyone is a suspect, and everyone is guilty. The question is really not whether they’re guilty, but to what extent and of what, exactly.
Internet gossip suggests that the show will get a second season, but that has not yet been confirmed. Here’s hoping, because as Friel has gone on record as saying in regards to her character: “the world is changing, rightly so, and we’re maybe having the attention and the spotlight is being put on to women. It’s about time, isn’t it?”