Writer Chris Brandon clearly thinks the Troubles need a bit of contextualising for any millennials watching this series. Not in the sense of providing any deep historical background to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998. It’s just that when Pat Keenan disappears — the boss of a haulage firm with a paramilitary past — police chief Jackie Twomey spells it out as though his colleague might be suffering from memory loss. If people find out that an ex-IRA man has gone missing, Twomey opines, “all hell could break loose”.
“God help us if it’s Goliath!” With their only clue a postcard left in Keenan’s car showing a pair of Harland & Wolff cranes, DCS Twomey and DCI Tom Brannick (James Nesbitt) fret that the abduction signals the return, after more than two decades, of an admirably even-handed assassin. Goliath rubbed out anyone, Protestant or Catholic, who might have disrupted the peace process. The shadowy figure’s possible re-emergence is bad news for the force, since Goliath’s seemingly ready access to police intelligence made it likely it was an inside job.
For Brannick, the issue’s personal: one of Goliath’s four victims, whose bodies were never recovered, was his wife. Boom! Just when he’d steeled himself to give his medical student daughter Izzy a treasured piece of jewellery connected with her dead mother. Under the circumstances it is tactless of Twomey to state: “It’s in the past.” “Not for me!”
Adding to the sensitivity of the investigation is the way Catholic rage against the police is always ready to flare up: Keenan’s wife Claire (Kathy Kiera Clarke) takes offence at every word Brannick utters, even “the” or “and”. Fortunately he has a soothing sidekick in the form of Niamh McGovern (Charlene McKenna), who couldn’t be more appealing if she used a permanent kitten filter. The action is set in the fictional small town of Dunfolan, meaning exciting car chases through sweeping Irish countryside, and scenes of Nesbitt looking broodingly out to sea.
A tip-off about suspicious digging activity “between a bothy and a tree” leads Brannick and McGovern to an island containing not much more than a bothy and a tree, but nothing’s ever that simple. Nesbitt is such a natural comic actor it’s hard not to expect a quip or two along the way but here he’s impressively stony until, that is, he goes full Heathcliff as Brannick’s long-buried emotions finally erupt. Such a backdrop of ancient griefs and beefs can’t help but provide great atmosphere for a police procedural, but the accent is occasionally tricky for those unfamiliar with it. Goliath got the nickname from the crane, notes Brannick. I really thought he said “crayon”.
On BBC1 from February 21 at 9pm
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