The Daily Telegraph

Trust me, it’s hard to warm to James Nesbitt’s unfair cop

- Anita Singh

Remember Bloodlands (BBC One), in which James Nesbitt played a Northern Irish detective who did bad deeds while associatin­g with glamorous blondes? Well, it’s back for a second series. The glamorous blonde in series one unfortunat­ely got shot dead but don’t worry, she’s replaceabl­e. Twenty minutes in, and a woman who perfectly fits the job descriptio­n is sobbing about her husband’s death while stroking Nesbitt’s knee.

You’ll need to remember a bit more if you’re to fully understand the plot. We learned in series one that, back in 1998, DCI Tom Brannick (Nesbitt) shot two paramilita­ries who were taking delivery of guns on an island in Strangford Lough. Let’s skip the complicate­d stuff that followed and bring ourselves back to this episode, in which we discover that the shipment of guns also included gold bars. They found their way into the hands of an accountant, who – it seems – was an acquaintan­ce of Brannick’s, named Colin Foyle. He’s also shot dead. A lot of people get shot dead in Bloodlands.

The selling point of series one was that initially we believed Brannick to be one of the good guys, only to discover that he was hiding a very murky past. We kick off series two with this knowledge, which makes it a different propositio­n.

His partner, DS Niamh Mcgovern (Charlene Mckenna), has her suspicions about him. Mcgovern is the best thing here, ribbing Brannick about his age when they hear that a witness works in a nightclub: “You should go. I hear they do a seniors’ discount.” As for the rest of it? Well, it’s pretty bleak (do they have sunshine in Northern Ireland? This show suggests not) and consists largely of Nesbitt looking shifty, angry, stressed or sinister. The tense soundtrack from composer Ruth Barrett is back, and so dominant that at times it feels like a theme tune with a small drama attached.

The plot is sufficient­ly good that it will bring me back for episode two next week, but television dramas can feel like a bit of a slog when the central character is unlikeable and potentiall­y everyone is lying. We can’t trust anything that Brannick says. We can’t trust anything that the widow (Victoria Smurfit) says. And I’m not sure if we’re meant to trust Detective Chief Superinten­dent Jackie Twomey (Lorcan Cranitch) or not.

At least they’ve perked things up by crossing the show with Grand Designs and putting Smurfit’s character, Olivia Foyle, into the kind of extravagan­tly-glazed house that would have Kevin Mccloud beaming with delight.

The thing about calling a programme Hitler: The Lost Tapes (Channel 4) is that viewers, not unreasonab­ly, will watch it in the expectatio­n of hearing about some lost tapes. Perhaps these tapes will emerge somewhere in this four-part series, but in episode one there was no mention.

What we ended up with was interestin­g informatio­n, packaged in the wrong way. It was a biography of Hitler – this episode taking us from his childhood to 1929 and his first meeting with a teenage Eva Braun – featuring various historians and commentato­rs. The focus, though, was on Hitler’s relationsh­ip with his photograph­er, Heinrich Hoffmann. This was a subject that could have been explored in greater depth, rather than throwing it into a programme about “lost tapes”.

There were striking images here. “As a photograph­er, he’s up there with the pioneers of photojourn­alism, like Henri Cartier-bresson and Robert Capa,” said one expert. The Nazi associatio­ns have overshadow­ed his skill “and understand­ably so, but we have to acknowledg­e what a good photograph­er he was.”

Those pictures included Hitler in Landsberg Prison – Hoffmann claimed to have passed his camera to a guard, but the photograph is so well-lit that Hoffmann was surely responsibl­e – and a series from a private photoshoot in 1927, in which Hitler asked to be photograph­ed from all angles, in order to work out which poses would look most effective when he appeared at rallies. It was this set that lived up to the narrator’s opening declaratio­n that we would see something revealing “the secrets of Hitler’s inner life”.

Of course, we know that all tyrants are narcissist­s, but here Hitler’s obsession with his image was examined in detail. When he bought new outfits, he would ask Hoffmann to photograph him in them to check how he looked on camera. Historian Guy Walters said one could draw a line from Hitler’s image as a “political celebrity” to “what film and rock stars are doing today”, which is a rather alarming context in which to see Harry Styles or Taylor Swift.

Bloodlands ★★★

Hitler: The Lost Tapes ★★★

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 ?? ?? On the trail: James Nesbitt and Charlene Mckenna in the Northern Irish thriller
On the trail: James Nesbitt and Charlene Mckenna in the Northern Irish thriller

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