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Intrigue in a Small Town on 'The South Westerlies'
November 9, 2020  | By David Hinckley

"Dramedy" is an appealing description for a TV show these days, and apparently you can earn it by simply not building your plot around a murder.

The South Westerlies, an Irish production that becomes available Monday through co-producer Acorn, seems inclined to keep everyone alive. Happily, that's not the only reason to watch a show that aims less for laughs than for observations about life, some heartening and some uncomfortable.

Kate Ryan (Orla Brady, top) is a single mother raising a teenage son, Conor (Sam Barrett), who's really pretty much an adult. Their relationship, affectionate and respectful with some points of disagreement, is written beautifully and becomes a running highlight of The South Westerlies.

Never married, Kate has struggled for years to rise high enough in her job at the Norwegian energy firm NorskVentus so she can live and provide comfortably.

As we meet her, she's on the cusp of that success, with a promotion and a big raise on the table in front of her.

Before she can secure them, however, NorskVentus and Kate's cold-blooded boss, Sigrid (Amalie Krogh), have one final test.

Norsk has invested heavily in a wind farm off the coast of the picturesque Irish town of Carrigeen. Approvals have been secured and the turbines ordered. Only some of the townspeople have now escalated their campaign against the project, claiming it will be costly and that a battalion of offshore windmills will ruin the ocean view that is the centerpiece of Carrigeen's main industry, which is summer vacationers.

The town planners have six weeks to decide whether to reverse their previous approvals.

Kate enters this picture because she grew up in Ireland, so Sigrid wants her to slip into Carrigeen posing as a summer vacationer and surreptitiously gather intel on what's happening with the protest.

Oh, and get close to key critics of the project and change their minds.

Kate will theoretically be doing this in tandem with Norsk's local point person Morten (Kyrre Haugen Sydness except, alas, Morten is useless. So Kate is pretty much on her own in this mole game.

The story gets worse for Kate and better for viewers as we gradually learn what Sigrid had no way of knowing: that Kate has a deep, complicated and in some ways rather troubling history with Carrigeen.

That starts to become clear when she meets her one-time best friend, Breege (Eileen Walsh), and her one-time boyfriend, Baz (Steve Wall). She also meets or re-meets a number of other folks, and soon these past relationships become ominously intertwined with her current Norsk mission.

Conor even joins the fun when he meets a surfer girl, Poppy (Lily Nichol), who makes Carrigeen seem ever so much more interesting for him than he imagined it could possibly be. 

On the high plane, The South Westerlies is about human relationships and the way our actions today affect our tomorrows. These same dramas also make the show a little soapy, which isn't a bad thing. At the very least, it's a nice break from murders.

The environmental component, weighing the clean-energy aspect of wind energy against the physical impact of windmills, pops up here and again, though The South Westerlies would not be confused with a documentary.

Instead, it's mostly just a good story, with a lead character and fellow characters we mostly like a lot. It's six episodes, which move at a lively pace toward an endpoint intriguing enough to keep us viewers wondering which way the wind will ultimately blow. 

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