(I've also added some notes on the Q&A that followed the preview screening, featuring writer David Pirie and Laura Mackie (Director of ITV Drama Commissioning), Bel Powley (cast member), Catherine Morshead (director) and Kate Croft (producer).)
After the BBC raised the stakes with its bleak but brilliant Criminal Justice the other week, ITV will tonight try to get back in the game with Murderland, a complex and twisty three-part thriller that looks at a murder from three different perspectives and across 15 years to reveal the truth.
At the heart of the drama is the 1994 murder of Sally Walsh (Lucy Cohu) and the effect is has on her daughter, Carrie. On her wedding day in 2009, the adult Carrie – now known as Carol (Amanda Hale) – runs away and tracks down Douglas Hain (Robbie Coltraine), the detective who led the apparently unsuccessful investigation into her mother's killing.
However, David Pirie's script tackles the story in a novel and engaging way. Each of the three episodes depicts the events of 1994 from a different point of view, so we'll see the same scene through different eyes and begin to question what we've already witnessed. The second episode will focus on DI Hain before the concluding part, seen through the eyes of the victim herself, will provide the final pieces of the puzzle and reveal what really happened.
Anyway, the first episode relates the events surrounding the murder from the point of view of the 13-year-old Carrie (Bel Powley), who enters the “Murderland” of the title by becoming obsessed with the crime and desperate to help Hain however she can – much to the concern of Laura Maitland (Sharon Small), the child psychologist brought in to protect the traumatised teen.
This is complex and compelling television that forces the viewer to lean forward, join the dots and try to guess what's going to be revealed after we've seen the story from every angle. There are strong performances all round – especially from Bel Powley as the victim's daughter – and the first episode ends with a cracking cliffhanger. Breathing new life into an old genre, this is great stuff. Critics keep publishing its obituary, but ITV drama isn't dead just yet.