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The Creative Process Behind 'Blood'
March 9, 2020  | By Mike Hughes

The second Blood mini-series is a classic, Irish-style drama.

It's deep and dark, brooding, and (only briefly) bloody.

The title actually refers to family, not bloodshed. "We can all look to our own families," screenwriter Sophie Petzal told the Television Critics Association in January. "Dark (stuff) happens."

Petzal, 29, grew up in England, not Ireland, but in a rural setting that gave her time to be pensive. That seems to qualify her for these tales – filmed in counties Meath and Kincaid – about an Irish village rocked by deaths. Now Blood, Series 2 reaches the U.S. via the Acorn streaming service – the first two episodes air Monday the 9th with an episode on each Monday after that.

(SPOILER ALERT: If you plan to see the original first, skip the next paragraph.)

The original Blood started with Cat Hogan (Carolina Main) visiting her little Irish hometown. She soon suspected that her dad, Dr. Jim Hogan, had killed her mom and was having an affair with a younger woman. In the final, painful minutes, he confessed to a mercy killing.

(SPOILER COMPLETE – you can safely now move ahead.)

Now we skip ahead a year, with Dr. Jim Hogan (Adrian Dunbar) and his three children in disarray. Cat has returned to the city, Michael is bitter and distant, Fiona is understanding, but has her own problems, including a degenerative disease and a hard-to-trust husband.

Fiona has a car crash, and there's a startling discovery. The rest leaps between interviews by the police detective – "he's got a personal vendetta" against Jim, Dunbar said – and the events that got us there.

Jim has lost his medical license and is floundering. "He felt his life was going one way," Dunbar said. "And now he can't do that any more…. His integrity has been called into question."

Dunbar was talking in an interview after the TCA session and was upbeat about his 40-year career. "This is a great time to be an actor," he said.

He said that quite convincingly – well, actors can do that – and the facts back him up. Right now, Dunbar, 61, has deeply nuanced roles in two British shows, both on Acorn. In Line of Duty, he plays an honest-but-troubled cop; in the two Blood tales, he's an earnest-but-troubled doctor.

Yes, there's a trend there. Petzal said she was a Line of Duty fan and wrote Blood with Dunbar in mind. "This was a character who called for enormous warmth and charm, but also an inscrutability."

Shows like these are similar to the new platinum age of American drama that copies the British model, using short seasons and complex characters. Dunbar's shows each only has six episodes a season.

Dunbar grew up in a Northern Ireland town of 14,000, the eldest of seven kids, and went away to drama school in London. He's had small roles in praised movies – The Crying Game, My Left Foot, The General, etc. – and even had a role that was deleted from The Phantom Menace. That makes him an eccentric autograph goal for Star Wars zealots.

But the real impact hasn't been in movies. "TV has changed tremendously," he said.

His Line of Duty character is complex. "His marriage is falling apart, he lives in a tiny apartment," but he does honest work. "People really want to know there are people who do their civic duty."

And his Blood character is the stuff that drama buffs savor. Buried deep in that inscrutability are layers of pain, hope, and frustration.

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