Back in 2016, Marcella was one of the hottest new cop dramas around, but its third and potentially final season is no longer irresistible watching, it’s actually a bit of a drag.
After Episode 1 I was unconvinced by the new set-up. Instead of the familiar sights of Marcella sinking a beer after a long day chasing serial killers, we spend most of our time in a Belfast mansion, as she gathers information on her fellow residents – The Maguires. A powerful family responsible for trafficking huge amounts of illegal goods. Going by the name Keira, we see our lead engage in all kinds of morally ambiguous activities and we soon learn that the Marcella we’ve grown so fond of, flawed as she is, is not the character we have in Series 3. This, unfortunately, is the fundamental miss-step of the series. Marcella is removed from her colleagues, her family, her home and everything that humanises her to be placed her in an alien environment that has no connective tissue to her origins. Consequently, it feels like a completely different show. The one constant is Ray Panthaki’s DCI Rav Sangha, whose sudden, convenient appearance in Northern Ireland is tenuous at best.
Story wise, it’s all over the place. There’s a constant carousel of characters being introduced and then killed-off without any repercussions on the larger, over-arching plot. All I’ll say is, don’t get too attached to anyone because there’s a good chance they’ll get unceremoniously dispatched before the following episode. Minor plot-lines and characters are either utterly inconsequential or just forgotten about completely and, as such, the story is riddled with plot holes big enough to drive a bus through. Character motivations are questionable at best and altogether nonsensical at worst and at this point you’d be forgiven for asking why on earth I continued to watch. Well, I was foolishly optimistic. Series 1 and 2 were such triumphs I was holding on to the belief that this series could still turn it around. But as episode after episode went by, my optimism turned into a might-as-well-finish-it-now attitude and admittedly, I was barely paying attention by the end. Speaking of which, it has one of the most uninteresting series finales I’ve ever seen.
Without wanting to bash it too hard, there are solid performances across the board. Anna Friel delivers the psychologically unstable cop haunted by her past as well as ever, but even that began to feel tired. Panthaki reprises his role as detective and friend and offers a welcome connection to the roots of the show however he is criminally underused this time round. Thankfully, there are some strong turns from the supporting cast by virtue of Hugo Spear and Michael Colgan, with Amanda Burton delivering an unsettling performance as the menacing matriarch, Katherine Maguire. With Friel’s volatile Keira dominating almost every scene though, the supporting cast rarely gets the chance to truly shine.
Ruling – I could go on about this show, combing it over to find any saving grace amongst the nonsense but it’s simply not worth it. For every positive there appears to be two or more negatives. Sadly it’s a case of trying too hard and dropping the ball as a result. If the show-runners had stuck to their lane and stayed true to the character, we’d be happy with just another twisty-turny, mystery thriller. Your mileage may vary but if you’re a fan of Marcella, my recommendation is not to watch this series. Just accept the end of Season 2 as the end and you’ll be better off for it.