I approached MARCELLA, SEASON TWO with, as they say in the law enforcement trade, extreme prejudice. And why not? How could anything (I surmised) top that freakish first season? Indeed, I sat in front of my monitor for almost two full episodes, smirking, arms crossed, before I went as gung ho batshit crazy as the show’s outstanding lead. Once again, I was proven wrong; once again, I was hooked. You, my faithful readers, now have a chance to judge for yourselves with the Acorn/RLJ Entertainment/cineflix/Buccaneer/NETFLIX DVD release of the above. Methinks you’ll agree mit yours truly.
Of course, they’re two reasons why a series about a demented police detective (and possible murderous psychopath) would emit sympathy pains from viewers – while simultaneously disturbing them. That would be a superb lead. And one couldn’t ask for any better than the great Anna Friel (who, BTW, won a Best Actress International Emmy for her Season One turn as Marcella Backland). The other, not exactly a brain-twister either, is the writing. MARCELLA’s brilliant cocreator (with Nicola Larder), Hans Rosenfeldt (who gave us the creepy, engrossing Scandinavian smash The Bridge – my favorite Nordic TV series ever!), wrote SEASON TWO (he’s also a co-Executive Producer).
In a brief recap, DS Marcella Backland is probably the best sleuth on the force, which is why she’s likely still employed – as the woman is mentally unhinged, prone to stress-related trances that spiral downward into violence. She’s clearly a perpetrator – and worse, she may be a murderer. Marcella can’t be sure, nor can we. DS Backland’s so good at her job that she may just implicate herself; quite a dilemma, as the shamus must solve the case and potentially perpetuate a cover-up. Insult to (fatal) injury, Marcella is more involved than a mere investigating detective; a slaughtered victim was her husband’s lover.
That the detective got through the events of Season One was a feat in and of itself. Her one grounding post remains her children, whom she loves passionately and obsessively.
Which brings us to SEASON TWO. A psycho killer is targeting children thought to be offspring of broken homes. Their bodies are mutilated with the insertion of cultish wooden coins. And the corpse rate is rising.
Marcella, now trying to cope with her estranged husband and his new girlfriend, nevertheless virtually preys on them with a “What cha gonna do – call the cops?” attitude. Sane enough to realize this is bonkers stuff, the DS agrees to therapy, which uncovers a frightening clouded past, but also releases her savage side when the shrink refuses to tell her what she desires to hear. Basically, “Cure it, or STFU!”
Marcella’s one salve is that, as this case unravels, she discovers that seemingly EVERYONE out there is a nut-job, as the suspect list grows to alarming proportions. All goes to shit when the worst possible situation occurs: her son is in the maniac’s radar. When the scenario turns to psycho vs. psycho, things go beyond lunacy – its total purple craze!
If you thought Anna Friel was terrific in Series One, there’s nothing to prepare you for SEASON TWO. Hold on to your seats, folks, she makes S1 Marcella look like Pollyanna the Glad Girl. With her children at stake, the woman’s rage becomes horrifyingly (yet understandably) A-bomb ballistic. Friel better damn well win another award! And I want to see Series Three!
Other pertinent variables propelling this show toward its mammoth success rate comprise the tense direction (Charles Martin, Charles Sturridge, Jim O’Hanlon), atmospheric photography (Kate Reid, Maja Zamojda, Adam Suschitzky), spine-tingling score (Lorne Balfe; creepy title cut by Inga Copeland) and, natch, the supporting cast (For Life’s Nicholas Pinnock (as hubby Backland), plus Ray Panthaki, Jamie Bamber, Jack Doolan, Nina Sosanya, Charlie Covell, Sophie Brown, Vivienne Gibbs, Victoria Smurfit, Andrew Tieman, Yolanda Kettle and Michelle Terry). All are at the top of their game.
The Acorn DVD set, containing eight widescreen episodes on two platters, looks great and is appended by the excellent 5.1 stereo-surround audio.
I guess it says about as much about me as it does anything else when I state that my three current favorite actresses are all Brits, and are as follows: Anna Friel, Ruth Wilson, and Jodi Comer. But, hey, that’s just who I am.
MARCELLA, SEASON TWO. Color. Widescreen [2.00:1; 16 x 9 anamorphic]; 5.1 stereo-surround. Acorn/RLJ Entertainment/cineflix/Buccaneer/NETFLIX. CAT # AMP-2649. SRP: $49.99.