Final Thoughts: “Hidden” Series One

A new crime drama from BBC Wales, Hidden/Craith begins with police officers discovering the body of a young girl by a lake, which sets off an investigation led by DI Cadi John (Sian Reese-Williams), one that brings up related missing persons cases from several years before. As DI John and her team investigate, a deeply troubled young man who lives with his nasty mother and young daughter in the woods, as well as a lonely young college student, soon become entwined in the dark series of events.

As you may have gathered from that plot outline, Hidden tries very hard to emulate those popular Scandi-noir programmes that we’ve become so accustomed to over the years – those incessantly dark, brooding and glum drama series that feature bodies being discovered by bridges or bodies of water, leading to a slow and drawn out investigation headed up by the main character who has to battle their own demons throughout the show. And while Hidden sure looks the part, it also takes itself far too seriously, the main story is nothing particularly special, and the whole thing is just bleak for the sake of being bleak.

The first couple of episodes make it clear that this will be a drawn out and slow series and for a certain amount of time, it seems as though not much is happening at all; the series takes its time to introduce all the major players (which is ultimately a losing battle because it’s too hard to remember all the MANY names that keep coming up and the side plots that involve certain other families go nowhere) and the show doesn’t properly come to life until episode three, at which point the series gets interesting enough to maintain interest and as events are set into motion, you feel compelled to stick around and see how it all ends up.

As hinted at before, Hidden is a very gloomy series and while it’s admirable that the BBC here in Wales is trying hard to create their own type of dark, compelling programming that borrows heavily from the Scandi Noir giants (Cymru Noir, if you will), the series is far too gloomy and depressing for its own good; it thinks that a joyless and glum atmosphere is what good crime drama is all about but while the cast and crew is wholeheartedly focused on that, the story ends up being pretty basic and standard, with characters that don’t display enough warmth or humanity.

With that in mind though, it’s great to see Welsh programmes like this being accepted into wider UK television, the Welsh language included in the episodes, and with shows like Hinterland and Keeping Faith (which I’m currently in the middle of) currently showing what BBC Wales can do, this is a promising step that will make others take notice of original TV shows made here in Wales. We just have to start thinking outside the box and bring the world programmes with greater imagination and innovation.

Hidden is an impressive looking series (though as you may have gathered, it’s often particularly dark, cloudy and foggy) and the varied locations are shot beautifully, showing off some real technical expertise, and the acting’s decent all around, though some of it’s a little ropey and laboured. In the main role of DI Cadi John, Sian Reese-Williams is relatable and quintessentially human as the dogged detective; she has those darned personal problems with her father and sisters that she has to go through as well as not sleeping much until she cracks the case but she’s ultimately a real tough cookie, she even occasionally gets to display some dry wit (shock!), and Reese-Williams is more than capable in the role. Elsewhere, Sion Alun Davies is adequate as Cadi’s partner, Gillian Elisa is harsh and nasty as the “evil grandmother”, and as the central antagonist, Rhodri Meilir appears believably damaged and unpredictable as the soft spoken Dylan Harris – he’s not the most intriguing character in the world but he’s still a striking presence and many will surely be creeped out by him.

Plus, the supporting role of PC Mari James is played by someone who I went to youth theatre with. So that’s really neat!

An impressively shot drama series with a strong performance by Sian Reese-Williams but held back by a run-of-the-mill plot and an uneccesarily bleak atmosphere.

★ ★ ★

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