From the opening moments of Daisy Coulum’s British crime drama Deadwater Fell, the fictional Scottish village of Kirkdarroch appears to be the perfect place to raise a young family. Surrounded by rolling hills and picturesque coastline, and filled with buckets of small-town charm, it’s nothing short of idyllic. It is hard to get completely swept up in the beauty of the setting, however, as it quickly becomes apparent that the peaceful scenery is hiding a dark truth. Scattered throughout the opening montage, sinister glimpses of a fire-ravaged house and overturned car are the first clues that there are cracks beneath the surface of this close-knit community.
Local GP Tom Kendrick (David Tennant) and his wife, primary school teacher Kate (Anna Madeley), along with their three girls, are a seemingly perfect family, surrounded by a tight circle of friends including local policeman Steve Campbell (Matthew McNulty) and his partner Jess (Cush Jumbo). In true village fashion, everyone knows everyone, secrets seem unlikely, and jobs and relationships are intertwined. After a fun-filled day at the village fete, everything looks to be as wholesome as can be, and as Tom and Kate head home with their girls, they’re enviably content. “That was lovely,” says Kate. “Perfect.” Tom replies. In that moment, you’d nearly believe them. There’s no reason not to. Then, with the episode having barely begun, everything changes, and the brief yet haunting interruptions that have so far barely permeated otherwise blissful scenes take over.
Fans of Broadchurch (which you can stream at SBS On Demand) will relish the chance to see Tennant at the helm of another small-town British drama, but rather than the stern, troubled persona that became synonymous with DI Hardy, his roles of father and village doctor place him on the other side of the story. It’s this that serves to add to the emotion of the events that unfold as everyone settles in after the excitement of the day. Jess and Steve are woken by Steve’s young son at their bedroom door, scared by a nightmare. Jess offers to take him back to bed, but when he finally falls asleep and she stands up and looks out the window, a real-life nightmare begins. Jumbo (The Good Wife, The Good Fight) brings a relatability and warmth to the character of Jess, an anchor for the series who provides a perspective through which the audience is able to experience each tense moment in the process of uncovering the truth.
When tragedy strikes, relationships are guaranteed to be put to the test, but in this case, the illusion of perfect village life is tested along with them. As the dust settles, it’s clear that these are circumstances almost too dreadful to comprehend. Steve is plagued with the memory of what he has witnessed, Jess is consumed by memories of the past, and Tom is reeling after a tragedy that turns his world upside down. As the series continues and hours turn into days, unexpected evidence comes to light, and what initially appeared to be an unfortunate accident quickly becomes a murder investigation, leaving the small Scottish community riven with mistrust and suspicion.
Deadwater Fell makes for compelling viewing, no doubt buoyed by the performances of a stellar cast who bring to life the complexity of the characters’ relationships and walk the blurred line between good and evil.
Deadwater Fell premieres on SBS on Wednesday 21 April at 9:30PM, airing weekly. Episodes will be available at SBS On Demand the same day as they go to air.
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This episode we’re in a technologically designated mood for love, as we discuss a trio of shows imagining the next step in relationships - 'Made For Love' (Stan/HBO Max), along with 'Soulmates' (Amazon Prime/AMC) and 'The One' (Netflix). Fiona also speaks to Harry Macqueen the director of a new melancholy relationship road movie starring Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth - 'Supernova'. And we offer up our SBS On Demand Picks: 'Deadwater Fell' and 'Support the Girls'.