Shetland, Season Four, Episode One Recap: "I'm going to take a stab at strangulation"
So, at the end of series three we left Tosh on the point of departing Shetland, and now…we know she's back, but how will it be handled? What’s the explanation? Anyway, first we have an extremely bearded man behind bars - looking very Shetlandic in the mode of a young Lord Norman Lamont or possibly a hipster barista. He’s in a jail with very high ceilings, and evidently he’s about to be released.
Cut to Jimmy back at the Lodberrie in Lerwick. He’s still wearing that pea jacket - I can vouch for the fact that such garments are neither waterproof nor warm enough for Shetland. Get some Gore-tex, pal. But hey, it’s summer. Though we do have that four-seasons-in-one-day thing going on.
Beardie man gets out of prison and is embraced by blonde woman: “It’s over Thomas. Fancy a pint?" But no. He wants to go home. And that’s not Kirkintilloch or Barrhead.
They’re agitated in Lerwick. Seems Thomas (Beardie) Malone was convicted of murdering one Lizzie Kilmuir in 1994, her body having been found inside an old lime kiln on the island of Unst. He confessed. Apparently.
But (technical detail alert!) It has now emerged that “secondary DNA pointed to a second suspect” and it wasn’t tested at the time. It’s being alleged that police withheld the evidence deliberately. Embarrassing. Malone has landed at Sumburgh, and Jimmy demands that all efforts are now put into finding “closure for the family”. Complicated law enforcement chat ensues: something fiduciary...neds down the nick...something...ticking timebomb... “evidential and non-evidential statements.” Bottom line: “There’s a second suspect out there, somewhere.”
Now, Sandy, slightly glaikit detective (always odd for me because Steven Robertson is very good at playing threatening psychopaths, as in He Kills Coppers, but hey, that’s acting) is pals with Lizzie Kilmuir’s twin sister who is very much still here and played by Neve McIntosh from Dr Who, with a Hebridean accent. It’s got to be time for an open air folk festival, shot at Gardie House on the island of Bressay, but we’re meant to think it’s on the (Shetland) Mainland. Which is what we call the biggest Shetland island. I know, I know.
“It’s not exactly Glastonbury, is it?” says someone. That’s Fullsceilidh Spellemenslag on stage, and everyone looks somewhat chilly. Certainly compared to Shetland’s last open air festival - Glusstonberry - which was boiling hot and had real toilets that flushed, not the chemical ones Tosh is averse to. We do festivals properly in the non-fictional Shetland.
Quick bit of back story - Sandy’s single, having split from his previous paramour, who had loads of kids and, I recall, a dodgy brother. “It’s for the best.” Indeed. We meet Lizzie’s sister and Sally MacColl, who argues with her clearly horrible boyfriend Alan, gets drunk, and then seems to wander off with a mysterious hooded figure. That doesn’t bode well.
So, Drew MacColl (Sally’s dad) makes his appearance, the cop who put Malone away in the first place. He’s old, bitter, carefully coiffed and completely certain of Malone’s guilt. He explains that Malone was fixated with Lizzie, that a witness came forward who saw him on the ferry and - clincher - Edmonston’s Chickweed was found on his shoes, and it only grows in Unst! Only in one quite inaccessible part of Unst, actually, and you wouldn’t necessarily tread on it accidentally, AND it’s a protected species, difficult to see. I used to look out on the Keen of Hamar and see tourists crawling along with magnifying glasses. But let that pass for the moment. Drew swears on his wife’s grave that Malone’s guilty. So he probably isn’t.
Malone bleakly wanders around what looks like most of Shetland's bleak bits before stumbling on the folk festival and then making himself scarce, even though he has a beard. Meanwhile, Jimmy is listening to the original police interview tapes and there is a Mysterious Gap before Malone’s admission of guilt. Hmm...
The next morning: Sally MacColl has gone missing. Thomas Malone is drinking beer for breakfast and smoking suspiciously. There's swearing, which is new for Shetland, I think. Nobody ever swears here. Gail Callaghan, a sort of social worker, gives Jimmy and Tosh a tongue lashing in fluent Glaswegian and also provides Thomas with an alibi - she was on the phone to him all night when Sally disappeared. Later it transpires that she was actually speaking to him for only three minutes. Might have appeared longer, though, as Thomas’s variable accent is difficult to understand, except when he too lurches into Glaswegian. Probably picked that up in prison.
Oh no! Sally’s body is discovered at Fladdabister inside an old lime kiln, like Lizzie’s was back in 1994. Killings in kilns! Nobody makes this joke, understandably. Another pun then pops up from the doctor-cum-pathologist (in real life, all post-mortems are carried out in Aberdeen). “My first stab at cause of death is strangulation,” she says. “I remember giving that girl her measles jab.” Stab, jab...I’m suspicious.
Malone goes for a local radio interview and it appears that BBC Radio Shetland has been spectacularly upgraded. I recognise those studios! Pacific Quay in Glasgow, BBC Scotland HQ. There's posh.
“I didnae do it,” says Thomas. Wow, contravening every broadcasting guideline ever known, there’s suddenly a phone-in and on the line is Kate Kilmuir, twin sister of alleged victim
What would you like to say, Kate? Here’s a turn up for the radio regulator, who breathes a sigh of relief: “I’m sorry. Thomas Malone is as much a victim of this crime as my sister was.” Jings. That’s not very Jerry Springer.
Sally’s abandoned car is found - a Kia Picanto in a horrid shade of lilac - and a clue is discovered - “a used boarding pass for a flight to Bergen” (in Norway, which you most definitely can’t see from Lerwick) "dated last week".
There’s a whole lot of emotional angsty stuff with Jimmy and his daughter and her Other Dad. She’s back from Glasgow or somewhere, a loser in love, and she doesn’t fancy a pizza. Could she be pregnant? Call the midwife! Only not yet, obviously. Jimmy quotes WB Yeats to her. The Circus Animals’ Desertion. The foul rag and bone shop of the heart. He’s got hidden depths, that copper.
To the local newspaper, where Sally worked as a journalist. It’s called The Shetland Chronicle (the real one is The Shetland Times), and now the plot is inexorably moving along and heading towards Norway. Turns out Sally wrote the Norway News column and is investigating a Norwegian company called Forst Energy, over the death of a local man on an offshore oil rig.
Aha, Hillswick! Turns out Alan, Sally’s boyfriend, lives at the (Hillswick) Wildlife Centre, which I suspect we’ll be seeing more of in the next five episodes. He’s got an alibi from (I presume) his mum but we’ll later find out that Lerwick CCTV shows this to be, well, rubbish, as he was in town for a takeaway. Suspicious? Oh yeah. He was suspicious, too - that Sally was having an affair with a mysterious Norwegian. Sally’s ex-cop dad meanwhile bursts into the police station and demands that Malone is arrested, as it’s obvious (two kilns, two killings) he is a double murderer.
We’re back chez Malone, where he unearths some dodgy nude paintings of (presumably Lizzie, but remember she has an IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER STILL ALIVE) and a shotgun which, mysteriously, the police have failed to either find or confiscate.
A wee aside from the hefty comedy uniformed polisman: Tosh withdrew her transfer request weeks ago! Hooray!
And boo! Bereaved dad MacColl is in the pub with bereaved dodgy takeaway-munching no-alibi boyfriend Alan, when they spy Malone. A chase and fight ensues. Well, Malone gets a kicking, mostly from Alan, but is rescued by Kate Kilmuir (TWIN SISTER ALERT!)
Tosh confirms that she “isn’t ready” to leave Shetland and stares solemnly and agonisingly into a toilet mirror for some time. The dreadful events of series three loom large. I must admit I preferred her when she was a noisy, perpetually hungover wee drunk and far and away the best thing in series one. Anyway.
Back at Malone’s, there are suddenly LOADS of dodgy nude drawings of Lizzie (OR KATE) Kilmuir adorning the walls. Sinister or what? And Kate seems oddly sympathetic to him, despite her daughter’s misgivings.
Headlights. Shouts. Black-clad balaclava-masked figures burst into the isolated house, looking for all the world like SAS operatives or a whole heap of Milk Tray Men. Malone gets his gun but too late, he’s knocked on the head and kidnapped. They are local vigilantes (is that Alan’s voice?) and they demand Malone admits his guilt (for Sally? Lizzie? Both?). Or else. I rack my brains, but I'm pretty sure this isn't based on Real Shetlandic Events. Kale casting (throwing of root vegetables in a noisy manner) is as far as anyone takes vengeance in our neck of the bog.
“It wisnae me!” he proclaims, several times. But they’ve dug him a grave and with a mini-excavator too. In he goes, and buckets of black peat come showering down. That’s all for this week, folks.
So here’s what we have:
Malone has been released from prison and denies killing Lizzie Kilmuir. Now that the daughter of the cop who put him away has been found dead, he denies killing her too. But he was obviously obsessed with her (OR HER TWIN SISTER) and he’s got a nasty beard. Is he dead and buried? Surely not.
Sally, the cop’s deceased daughter,was investigating a Norwegian company about dodgy offshore goings on. Who is Andreas? Who is Jan? When are we off to Bergen? Can you see Lerwick from there?
And is Cassie pregnant? Is Tosh really all right? Why does Jimmy never wear proper diamonds-and-snowflakes Fair Isle jumpers? Are they too cheerful? What’s Drew MacColl hiding? I think we should be told. And we almost certainly will be.
Best of all, Tosh is staying! No more nasty threats to her welfare, please.
Shetland is broadcast on BBC 1 on Tuesday nights at 9.00pm, and is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer