Shetland series 6, episode 1 review: BBC drama has Vigil-style twist in season opener

Gloomy BBC One crime drama Shetland hits the ground running for season six – but can someone please turn on the lights?

Shetland season 6
3.0 out of 5 star rating

*Warning: spoilers for Shetland series six episode one*

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It’s been a long wait for the sixth season of BBC One crime drama Shetland, but on Wednesday night the show finally returned – with a nail-biting final scene that will feel rather familiar for viewers of another, more recent BBC drama: submarine thriller Vigil.

Last season, the series writers really put poor DI Jimmy Perez through the wringer (the woman he fancied turned out to be married – oh, and running a sex trafficking ring). But for longtime fans of Shetland, it won’t be a surprise to learn that season six doesn’t let up on Jimmy either.

The episode begins with Jimmy (Douglas Henshall) attending his mother’s clifftop funeral, before he’s called in to a high-profile murder: the shooting of a renowned local lawyer, Alex Galbraith (Jim Sturgeon), whose teenage daughter was on the phone to him at the time of his death.

Throughout the episode, Jimmy’s suppressed grief and his anxieties over his father’s apparent dementia are threaded through his interactions with suspects and colleagues alike. Still dressed in his funeral suit, his voice trembles during a briefing meeting, before he advises the victim’s bereaved wife and daughter to “take time” to grieve – which, of course, is exactly what he should be doing, too.

Shetland season 6
Shetland season 6
BBC

Unfortunately, the gloominess that permeates much of this opening episode is sometimes (unnecessarily) also conveyed by literally gloomy shots, meaning you might finding yourself squinting during some of the key scenes.

In one scene, Jimmy even points out that his elderly dad has forgotten to turn the light on – before they both just sit there, in the dark.

Over the course of the episode, the melancholy Jimmy uncovers a kaleidoscope of motives for murdering Alex Galbraith, a lawyer whose recent cases include a bitter custody battle involving a drug addict, and the controversial compassionate release of murderer Donna Killick, who fans will recognise from season four.

Jimmy finally manages to track down a potential witness to the crime: Eamon Gauldie (Thoren Ferguson), who was flying a drone over the Galbraith residence on the day of the murder. However, Alex is a diver currently offshore, doing maintenance on an oil pipeline.

On a dive boat in a separate, secure chamber, Eamon is finally put through to talk to the police – but the minute he picks up the phone, the pressure changes and the room fills with smoke and his yelps of pain.

The cramped underwater setting, and the frantic shouts on deck about the pressure valve, will be just the ticket for viewers still pining for Vigil.

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While you’re waiting for Shetland episode two, visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight or check out our Drama hub for more news and features.