• On an island, even as one as stunning as El Hierro, there’s nowhere to run. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
When a rugged island becomes a murder scene, the local judge faces the wrath of the locals when she sets free the one man everyone is convinced did it.
Anthony Morris

13 Nov 2019 - 5:13 PM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2019 - 9:05 AM

For most of us, being sent to a tropical island would be a dream come true. But for Spanish judge Candela Montes (Candela Pena), it’s a punishment. Inflexible and by-the-book even for a judge, Candela has managed to annoy all the right people. For her sins, she’s been exiled to El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands, and about as far from Spain as you can get and still be on Spanish territory. It’s hardly a surprise that her straight-laced approach doesn’t exactly win over the islanders either, but she’s a judge; making friends isn’t part of the job description.

Then one of the islanders is found dead, floating in the sea. Fran was a young man due to be married that very day, and all signs point to one man as his killer – local businessman Diaz (Darío Grandinetti). Not only is he Fran’s boss, but he’s also the father of the bride, and his current line of work is shady at best (can you say “narco kingpin”?). Throw in a conviction for murder back when he was a young man, and it seems like and open and shut case to just about everyone.

Then Candela sets him free on bail. She might be sticking to the letter of the law, but it’s a decision that literally nobody else approves of, pitting her against both her own team and the islander community. The Spanish legal system is one where the Judge presiding over a case is also in charge of the investigation, so Candela starts her own search for the killer (if she’s anything, she’s by-the-book). But with her own team ready to lock Diaz up for good, she further alienates them by bringing in someone she can trust in the form of local cop Reyes (Mónica López).

Meanwhile, Diaz isn’t the kind of guy to just sit back and let the legal system take care of things either, and he’s determined to find the real killer. But his search is going to upset just as many people as Candela’s decision to set him free, as it turns out that El Hierro has many more secrets than just who killed Fran....

The Canary Islands might seem like an unusual location for a noir-style thriller, but the pounding waves and rocky outcrops featured in the opening credits make it clear that the island paradise has a lot more going on than just sunny beaches and shady bars. It can be a windy, isolated place, and while the obvious reason for setting a murder mystery here – contrasting the dark side of human nature against the beauty of the natural landscape – definitely plays a part, what makes this so interesting visually is the way that it makes it clear that nature itself, even in such a seemingly idyllic location, has a dark side all its own.

The mystery of who killed Fran and why is a gripping one, but while this has elements of the police procedural to it, it’s just as interested in the characters of its two very different leads. On the surface they couldn’t seem further apart: one a woman of the law, the other a man who’s spent his whole life breaking it.

As the series develops though it becomes clear they have more in common that either would like to admit. They’re both be mavericks in their own way – when it comes to the law they’re both extremes that the easy-going islanders reject – and they’re both committed to finding out the truth. While their reasons for their search might be very different, it’s the search that comes to unite them.

But being on different sides of the law means that search takes on very different forms. For Candela, this is a procedural investigation, and even when things hit close to home she’s still an officer of the law doing her duty. But for Diaz it couldn’t get more personal, and as his search becomes increasingly desperate the walls start to close in on him.

After all, this is all taking place on an island – and on an island, even as one as stunning as El Hierro, there’s nowhere to run. 

Follow the author here: @morrbeat

Watch Hierro at SBS On Demand now.