Two years on from its first series, Adrian Dunbar and his brood are back, and their troubles are far from over as Sophie Petzalâs saga cranks up the intrigue once again
Late in 2018, one of the strongest dramas of recent years crept out, stripped across a single week. Blood (Channel 5) told the story of Cat Hogan, a woman returning home from Dublin to Westmeath after the sudden death of her mother. Her suspicions that her father, Jim â played by the master of the âbut is he a wrong âun?â role, Line of Dutyâs Adrian Dunbar â had something to do with what was being presented as an accident did not go down well with her siblings. By the end, it had wrapped up its story fairly cleanly, but the Hogan family appear to be the unluckiest in all of Ireland. And here we are, waiting for the mystery or mysteries to reveal themselves, again.
Anyone wondering if the showâs writer and creator, Sophie Petzal, could wring more out from the family saga need not have worried. In a neat echo of the first series, we begin with a woman driving through the night, clearly upset, only this time itâs Catâs sister Fiona at the wheel. The action flips between the dramatic journey â I donât think itâs a spoiler to say it doesnât end with a midnight McFlurry at the nearest drive-thru â and the events leading up to it, any one of which could be the reason for the late-night dash-and-crash.
It is immensely satisfying to watch a crime drama knowing youâre in a safe pair of hands. The experience is rarer than you may think. There are plenty of shows that have fun with being twisty and turny, but end up as a cheap thrill ride, falling apart when they have to bring it all together. Blood spun its plates skilfully the first time around, and looks likely to do it again. Now we know that Jim did kill his wife, but with her say-so, it finds a new mystery in his return home after a long absence. Although he isnât in prison, neither is he in possession of his medical licence, and he finds himself grafting for food and board on the farm where Fionaâs husband, Paul, works.
Iâm not sure if Dunbar should take it as a compliment that, even though we know what happened at the end of the first series, he remains a shifty presence â still suspicious, still not quite to be trusted. Fionaâs motor neurone disease is no longer a secret, but Paul is struggling with what appear to be money issues, and seems unable to support her as she needs to be supported, finding solace in a weepy stroke of a racehorseâs muzzle. Fiona meets her brother Michael in secret, and Michael isnât talking to his father, after he tried to turn him against Cat in the first series. Cat is nowhere to be seen. It is not the sort of family reunion for which a sentimental ITV special would be made.
The farm itself is an excellent backdrop for unspoken menace, as a number of recent indie films have shown: thereâs always a metaphor to be found in putting a suffering animal out of its misery. While Paul is having trouble financially, the farm, and his flashy bosses, Gillian and Tom, appear to be thriving, in no small part thanks to a successful stud, trading at â13 grand a shagâ. So much so, in fact, that they offer to pay for Paulâs and Fionaâs childrenâs private education. Itâs a testament to the outstanding quality of the writing that the tension in such an offer, and what it implies about Paul and Jim, is never bled dry, merely left to drip.
Blood is at its best when it explores how there can be many perspectives on the same situation, and the slow dread it imbues into family gatherings is masterly. But itâs hard to blow the Hogan family apart even more than they have been already, so the story manoeuvres into more familiar criminal territory. Paul and Jim happen to see something they should not have seen, as the gang of kids hanging around and causing trouble start to look as if they are involved in more than just keying cars. Even so, it comes back to family once again: Gillian and Tomâs adopted son is tangled up in the mess, and their reaction to any hint of upset throws a shade of doubt on their seemingly perfect lives.
When it loops back to the car crash, so many trails have been laid that you have to think hard to consider which may have taken the turn that led us to this point. And then, just when it starts to come into focus, thereâs an almighty, gasp-inducing, twist. Blood is a smart, gripping saga that credits its audience with intelligence, and it deserves to have viewers hooked.
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