Marcella, episode one, review: Anna Friel and her parka pulled off Nordic noir

The first episode of ITV’s crime drama proved to be gripping, if not verging on implausible in parts

Sally Newall
Tuesday 05 April 2016 12:23 BST
Anna Friel in ITV's "Marcella"
Anna Friel in ITV's "Marcella" (ITV)

My mum always told me never to trust a man in black leather gloves. That theory was vindicated from watching Marcella, a new eight-part drama by The Bridge writer Hans Rosenfeldt. Anyone who might be responsible for the grisly bag-over-the-head murders in ITV’s new stab at Nordic noir donned a pair during the opener. There were Scandinavian influences, but from the home-grown cast – Brookside star Anna Friel is in the titular role as a detective lured back to work by the bag case re-opening – to the London setting, this is a British show, and a gripping one at that.

It is reminiscent of others in the genre. For example, we get a bleached, mostly dark city, a creepy soundtrack and complex central characters with Issues. In Marcella’s case, her husband has left her and she is apparently prone to violent rages. There’s the obligatory trademark clothing, too. In The Killing, it was Sarah Lund’s Faroese knitted jumpers. In The Fall, Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson became known for her silk blouses. For Marcella, pronounced "Mar-chella", it’s a parka with a voluminous, fur-lined hood to go with her messy hair and bare face. Friel does vulnerable-with-an-edge very well and she was compelling to watch here.

Like any good Scandi-inspired detective, Marcella is job-obsessed. In this first episode, she quickly turned her newly empty house into an investigation unit (handily, the kids were at boarding school). I'm not sure it's strictly legit to keep old case files filled with pictures of murder victims in the spare room, but since when did crime thrillers let legal procedure get in the way of an intense protagonist?

We were also introduced to the rest of the cast, including Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael and Marcella’s policing sidekicks DI Rav Sangha (Ray Panthaki) and DCI Laura Porter (Nina Sosanya). Some of the action, particularly at the definitely dodgy construction company, veered on soapy and/or implausible, but that's part of the enjoyment, I think. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing more of Mar-chella and her parka.

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