Review by C.J. Bunce
The best British police procedural series of the past decade is back for what was long believed to be its final season. It’s the seventh season of Shetland, and the cast and writers seem to have breathed some new life into the show, as BBC One shared that stars Douglas Henshall and Mark Bonnar will not be returning for an eighth season (which begins filming in 2023). So fans of the much-awarded series have six episodes to get their fix of Henshall’s Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez over the next five weeks. Perez and his small police unit in the close-knit Scottish island hit the ground running with its first episode, now available on BritBox via Prime Video.
When we last left Perez, he was about to get removed from the police force and his best pal Duncan (Mark Bonnar) was going to jail, all resulting from a frame job courtesy of the suicide of twisted murderer Donna Killick, played by Fiona Bell. (Some spoilers from episode one follow).
Unfortunately it looks like Duncan is in jail for the long haul. But Perez is cleared by a tribunal, and he gets right back to the job with little fanfare. Last year Perez’s life was steeped in dying and death, so it’s great to see the series back as the first and best of the new Scotland Noir. Perez’s trusty right arm Alison “Tosh” MacIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) filled in for him as Acting DI during the investigation of his role in Killick’s death, and she seems primed to lead the series next year–which is a departure from Ann Cleeves’ novels (see my review of the last Shetland novel here). Viewers who have watched the show over its decade on TV have been treated to a unique mix of crime, including human trafficking, murders, blackmail, dead bodies in the ocean, family skeletons in the closet, and cheating hearts. It looks like this season is about a missing person–a young artist named Danny Cairns played by Andrew Whipp–but you never can be too sure. And what’s in the suitcase?
After solving one or more crimes, the goal of the season is no doubt to get Perez to move forward on a personal level, now that he really is home alone in that darkly lit house in the starkly desolate and windy Shetland. Will it be Meg Pattison (Lucianne McEvoy), Killick’s nurse from Season Six, who shared a spark or two with Perez last season as she became caretaker for his father?
As with last year, U.S. viewers are getting the series right after its UK release. When it’s over we’ll sure miss seeing the variety of Shetland wool sweaters, scarves, and hats in all their handmade designs.
What is behind the success of the series? It seems to be twofold: a setting that is so remote and desolate without feeling “rural,” and the show’s ability to find unusual circumstances, interesting cultural events, and quirky but real characters we haven’t seen anywhere before in the police procedural genre.
David Kane and Paul Logue retake the lead writing again for this season, with season six directors Max Myers and Siri Rødnes returning with a better grasp of the characters and setting. With Season 6 a bit of a downer, let’s hope this new season gives fans more of the Perez & Co. sleuthing from the first seasons. The series is already off to a thrilling start full of new characters and red herrings no doubt around each corner.
The first episode of Season Seven of Shetland is on BritBox now, with the next five episodes arriving each Tuesday. And you can catch the first seasons of Shetland now, exclusively on BritBox in the U.S.