A love like Blood

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Tv and Radio - by Barry Didcock

Blood, Chan­nel 5, 9pm

Faced with an on­slaught of high-qual­ity Au­tumn dra­mas on the ter­res­trial and satel­lite chan­nels – sci-fi se­ries, spy thrillers, po­lice pro­ce­du­rals, cos­tume dra­mas and what­ever cat­e­gory you’d drop Killing Eve into – it’s easy for view­ers to for­get about Chan­nel 5. Very easy. The home of overblown Aussie soaps, ev­ery CSI vari­ant un­der the sun and, un­til this month, the study in vacu­ity that was Big Brother and its celebrity spin-off, Chan­nel 5 isn’t known for cut­ting-edge drama.

That may have changed with Blood. Run­ning across five nights last week it sig­nalled a de­lib­er­ate change of di­rec­tion for the chan­nel, now owned by US film and TV gi­ant Vi­a­com af­ter years in pub­lisher Richard Des­mond’s port­fo­lio of low-brow de­lights.

Al­ready a hit in the Repub­lic of Ire­land, where it’s set and where it screened last month, Blood took a hand­ful of fa­mil­iar plot de­vices – a fam­ily with se­crets, a sus­pi­cious death, a sham­bolic and trou­bled cen­tral char­ac­ter, hazy flash­backs to some hal­fre­mem­bered child­hood trauma, a very par­tic­u­lar ru­ral set­ting and a sup­port­ing cast of sleaze­balls and odd­balls – and turned it into some­thing fresh, nu­anced, dark and com­pelling, and with more than a whiff of the po­lit­i­cal about it. This was, in part, a story about the im­po­si­tion of male au­thor­ity and what hap­pens when women try to chal­lenge that au­thor­ity.

The script and the di­rec­tion take much of the credit. Bri­tish screen­writer So­phie Pet­zal pro­vided the first, Lisa Mulc­ahy and Han­nah Quinn took charge of the se­cond. But the cast­ing was cru­cial too. Line Of Duty’s Adrian Dun­bar as ru­ral GP Jim Ho­gan and Un­for­got­ten’s Carolina Main as his semi-es­tranged daugh­ter Cat be­came the com­pet­ing forces in an in­creas­ingly bit­ter fam­ily feud and it was the in­ten­sity of their spar­ring that made Blood so com­pelling a watch.

Cat had re­turned to the ram­shackle fam­ily home in County Meath from her life in Dublin af­ter her mother Mary, ill with mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease, had died from a fall. She re­con­nected with child­hood friend Barry (Cil­lian O’Gairbhi), tried to re­con­nect with sib­lings Michael and Fiona (Diar­muid Noyes and Grainne Keenan) and pretty quickly gave up try­ing to re­con­nect with her fa­ther. In fact, she all but ac­cused him of hav­ing some­thing to do with her mother’s death, a lin­ger­ing sus­pi­cion fu­elled by her vague mem­o­ries of other vi­o­lent events in her past.

Pet­zal loaded the script with ques­tions – was Jim re­ally as aw­ful as Cat imag­ined? Was the lo­cal cop wellmean­ing or well iffy? Can mem­o­ries and in­stincts al­ways be trusted? – and let her char­ac­ters loose to try to find their way through the re­sult­ing thicket of mis­truths and mis­di­rec­tions. Se­crets and lies are com­mon cur­rency in psy­cho­log­i­cal thrillers, but in this slice of Ir­ish Noir, Pet­zal and Co. minted some­thing of real value.

Carolina Main as Cat and Adrian Dun­bar as Jim in Blood

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