Tuesday 12 November 2019

Dublin Murders finale: Scott and Greene were outstanding but series plot was ridiculously far-fetched

3 stars

Killian Scott and Sarah Greene in Dublin Murders. BBC/RTE
Killian Scott and Sarah Greene in Dublin Murders. BBC/RTE

Pat Stacey

In this age of binge-watching, when you can eat through an entire season of a drama series in the time it takes to complete an average working day, expecting fickle viewers to wait a whole week between hour-long instalments is becoming an increasingly big ask.

**WARNING: Spoilers for finale of Dublin Murders (yet to air on RTE One)**

Even at that, though, BBC1’s decision to show two episodes of Dublin Murders per week on Mondays and Tuesdays (RTE One shows the same two back to back on Wednesdays) was a strange one.

Did the Beeb expect the audience to be so gripped by this psychological thriller, taken from Tana French’s novels, that they desperately needed a twice-weekly fix to keep them satisfied?

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Dublin Murders - Rob (Killian Scott), Cassie (Sarah Greene) - (C) Euston Films
Dublin Murders - Rob (Killian Scott), Cassie (Sarah Greene) - (C) Euston Films

Or was it a case of the broadcaster worrying that viewers might start to lose interest if the drama was stretched out over eight weeks rather than four?

If I had to put money on it, I’d go with that theory. Because, let’s face it, Dublin Murders was something of a mess. Not a total disastrous mess, by any means.

Killian Scott and Sarah Green in Dublin Murders
Killian Scott and Sarah Green in Dublin Murders

There are plenty of very good things in here, not least the well-rendered sense of Celtic Tiger-era Dublin growing fat and complacent on its new-found affluence, yet still haunted by the ghosts of its past.

The lead performances by Killian Scott — an excellent actor who must be sick and tired by now of the Irish media describing him as “Tommy from Love/Hate” — and Sarah Greene as detective partners Rob Reilly and Cassie Maddox, were outstanding.

As two severely damaged souls harbouring dark and painful secrets which they can share only with one another, they were immensely appealing.

All the failings of Dublin Murders stemmed from the same source: the plot — or rather, the plots.

As is well-known by now, Sarah Phelps’s script combined two of French’s novels, one about Reilly’s battle with his personal demons during an investigation into the murder of a teenage girl, the other about Maddox’s involvement in a bizarre undercover operation.

I haven’t read any of French’s books, but apparently the formula is that a secondary detective in one novel becomes the lead in the next, and so on.

Welding together two stories which, apart from shared characters, have absolutely nothing to do with one another simply didn’t work. The two narratives never properly cohered.

Around the halfway point of the series, we were yanked away from Reilly’s attempts to find Katie Devlin’s killer, while also trying to find out what happened to his missing childhood friends all those years ago, and dropped into Maddox’s undercover investigation into who had murdered her lookalike — a job that involved posing as the dead woman, in the hope her killer(s) would believe she’d survived being stabbed.

It felt like we’d been plonked into a completely different series that was already halfway over and didn’t make a lot of sense anyway.

I’m still not quite sure how or why the dead woman, Lexie, took on the fake identity Maddox had once used.

And then there were the inbuilt credibility issues. Why did nobody recognise Reilly as the grown-up Adam until near the very end? Would an undercover detective really be sent in to impersonate a dead lookalike she’d never met and expect not to be twigged inside five minutes by her friends?

Maybe this stuff worked better on the page, but on screen it came across as ridiculously far-fetched and unbelievable. Suspending disbelief is one thing, dangling it by its feet from a window is another.

The really frustrating thing is that Dublin Murders came good in the finale, which revealed Katie’s unloved eldest sister Rosalind (a persuasively chilling performance by Leah McNamara) and manipulative eldest sister. It’s just a pity it didn’t get there sooner.

At the end, we circled back to the beginning, with Maddox telling Reilly: “We won’t see each other again.”

I suspect many exasperated viewers might say the same about Dublin Murders if there’s a second season.

The final two episodes air on RTE One on Wednesday night.

Herald

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