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The Hit Police Thriller from Ireland, 'Bloodlands,' Has Arrived on U.S. Shores with Acorn
March 15, 2021  | By David Hinckley

As U.S. networks and streaming services troll the world for programming to fill their COVID-induced void, some of the shows they reel in are inevitably better than others.

The Northern Ireland crime mystery drama Bloodlands, whose four episodes arrive here Monday on Acorn, is markedly better than most.

James Nesbitt (top) stars as Detective Chief Inspector Tom Brannick, a cop who gets a call when an SUV is discovered underwater.

Since no one is in it when it's brought to the surface, we would seem to have not much more than a missing person.

A postcard taped to a window, however, throws the case into another world for Brannick. While it's not one he will enjoy visiting, it's as valuable for him as it is intriguing for viewers.

The SUV belonged to one Pat Keenan (Peter Balance), who becomes the bridge between Brannick's routine world and the case he's about to confront.

Keenan has a history as both a fringe mobster and a supporter of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), two elements that figure deeply into Bloodlands and expand it into more than just a complicated police procedural.

The postcard takes Brannick back to early 1998, when the IRA, still officially considered a terrorist organization, was on the brink of signing a peace accord with the British government.

Right around that time, four people disappeared. They all had some ties to the politics of the day, though it seemed curious that they weren't all on the same side. They haven't been seen since, dead or alive.

So, it's a very cold case and one that Brannick's boss, Detective Superintendent Jackie Twomey (Lorcan Cranitch), would prefer to keep in the freezer. No good can come, he tells Brannick, of resurrecting whatever concerns may have led to those disappearances.

There had been talk at the time that the perp was a rogue cop, nicknamed Goliath, when no link or evidence was ever found.

The postcard isn't really evidence, either, except that it suggests Keenan may know something.

So he has to be found and questioned, a more challenging enterprise than it might seem. Like the rest of the local Catholic population, Keenan has little interest in cooperating with the police about anything.

But Brannick has a couple of weapons, starting with his partner, Detective Sergeant Niamh McGovern (Charlene McKenna). She was a toddler at the time of the peace accord, but she's a sharp detail cop with good instincts. For starters, she enlists the amenable Billy Bird (Chris Walley) to help her check out a longshot clue that just might come in.

Meanwhile, Bloodlands artfully weaves in Brannick's daughter Izzy (Lola Petticrew), a third-year medical student with whom he seems to have a strong relationship and who might inadvertently prove helpful as the case moves along.

Fans of the great Amazon series Bosch should watch Bloodlands if for no other reason than Nesbitt's astonishing resemblance to Titus Welliver's Harry Bosch and the charming parallels between the two men's relationships with their adult daughters.

In the end, that's a bonus. The real reason to watch Bloodlands is to get engulfed in a mystery drama with a tight, focused script that keeps the tension and the expectation constantly building.

After establishing much of his younger reputation in comedy, Nesbitt has transformed himself through several roles into a compelling troubled adult.

Throw in some astute socio-political ruminations, and you've got a fine import.

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