Marcella is back with a shiny new alter-ego, and it's been worth the wait
Series 3 comes with a new format which features Marcella undercover as Keira, tasked with taking down a criminal family in Belfast.
Marcella may be presumed dead but she's back, and living a life that's barely recognisable. She's platinum blonde, she's living in a big fancy house, she's zipping around town in a red mini, she's got a loving partner, showering her with champagne in the afternoon and a diamond ring – and look, she's even smiling.
No, this is not a parallel universe, because as it happens, Marcella is hiding behind a new identity as glamorous 'corrupt ex-cop' Keira on an undercover mission to infiltrate the Maguire criminal family, she's about to dob that partner named Lawrence into the mob family for swindling their accounts, and we've just seen a fragmented snapshot into her future where she's shot former colleague and close friend Ray Panthaki's DI Rav Sangha (hooray, he's back!).
This, combined with a knife-edge atmosphere as she and Lawrence enter the Maguire's home for what is ostensibly a dinner party, emitting a palpable sense of foreboding - and it's not long until the show's tranquil veneer is blown apart as Lawrence is shot point-blank range in the head by a Maguire crony. (If you've been stealing money from a criminal family who then usher you for a stroll at night while warning you about the perils of a parasitic plant, you know your days are numbered.)
And so, we're finally reacquainted with a familiar sight - Marcella covered in someone else's blood, in the centre of complete carnage and mortal danger, of which she thrives while fearing for her life.
The ITV crime drama, from Nicola Larder and The Bridge creator Hans Rosenfeldt, follows our eponymous detective Marcella Backland on the murder squad of the Metropolitan police, who suffers from an identity disorder which brings on violent blackouts during times of intense stress.
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The finale of series two featured Marcella uncovering a serial killer responsible for a series of gruesome child murders, saving her child in the process but also finding out through therapy that she accidentally killed her baby daughter Juliet some years earlier. In response, she cuts her face, sheds her old life, and is reincarnated as Keira Devlin, where we find herself immersed in the bosom of the criminal Maguire family in Belfast.
It's a whole new format, as it's no longer a whodunit, more a 'how she's going to do it', which takes a deeper dive into her psyche and the devastating trauma therein.
This means a whole new Marcella cast which includes Amanda Burton (Silent Witness) as the chilling matriarch Katherine Maguire, Aaron McCukser as Katherine’s middle son Finn Maguire, Kelly Gough (The Fall, Broadchurch) as Katherine’s daughter Stacey, and Martin McCann as Stacey’s wayward and unpopular husband Bobby.
Michael Colgan plays Rory Maguire and Paul Kennedy plays Lawrence, Marcella’s initial contact within the family.
With Lawrence now dead, Keira is moved into the Maguire house by middle Maguire family member Finn, with whom she is having a relationship with, and before long, Keira is seen admiring her new digs and the trappings of her luxury lifestyle, leaving viewers wondering whether she will relinquish her undercover duties, usurp Burton's matriarch and join them instead.
“That’s basically the arc of the show,” Friel recently confirmed to Radio Times.com. “Marcella is much more preferring Keira and I’m not sure if she wants her old life back. I don’t think she thought there was anything redeeming about herself and she has no point to live and that makes her even more fearless. And then she starts to come part of a world that then it starts to question her own moral compass and integrity.”
While the show brings us new characters and a different backdrop - fans of the show's dark and macabre style need not worry - this one looks pretty twisted too, what with the character of Rory Maguire, lawyer-turned-peeping-tom who has carved a spy hole in the ceiling of Finn's bedroom and is now spying on Keira and Finn getting intimate between their black satin sheets.
In tradition with previous series of the show there's plenty of interweaving storylines which link back to the Maguire family and Marcella's murky past to keep us on our toes.
So far we know a former Maguire henchman who is serving time for the family is about to leave prison, but his 13-year-old daughter has just died from contaminated drugs, which Bobby has been secretly dealing on the side, unbeknownst to his family.
Oh and speaking of Bobby, he's also killed the son of the Foreign Secretary with a jeroboam of champagne to his head at a nightclub in London, drawing DI Rav Sangha onto the scene as he heads up the investigation.
Meanwhile, Marcella's been spotted by a cryptic figure from her past, who seems to know about her late daughter Juliet, threatening to derail her undercover mission. Marcella's undercover handler Frank Young (Hugo Speer) is aware that Marcella is hiding information from him and isn't playing by the rules - but he knows if anyone can complete this operation, it's her.
Yes, it's over the top, and watching it is a bit like going on a warped, head-spinning ride which can leave you feeling a bit nauseous and unnerved at the end - but hey, a whirlwind distraction is what many of us need right now. And with Friel recently hinting at possible happy ending for Marcella, we think that's worth sticking around for.
“There’s quite a twist and a surprise for Marcella coming up, and I think viewers will be quite surprised, as they were with season two, but pleasantly surprised this time… There might be some redemption," Friel teasingly concluded.
The first two episodes of the new series of Marcella will air on ITV, Tuesday 26th January at 9pm and 10:05pm. All eight episodes of the series will then then be available to view on the ITV Hub. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.