Ask anyone to name the best TV shows of the last 12 months and you’ll already know what to expect. Stranger Things. The Handmaid’s Tale. The Crown. Westworld. One thing you won’t see on that list that deserves a mention? Keeping Faith.
The Welsh drama (known as Un Bore Mercher in its native tongue) was first broadcast on S4C in Wales, before being broadcast in a re-recorded English language version on BBC One. The catch? It’s BBC One in Wales, which means that UK living rooms have been inexplicably without it, relegating it to a hidden gem on BBC iPlayer. The good news? It’s all available to stream in one big go whenever you like. And if you like crime drama, or just good drama in general, you’ll like it very much.
The series stars Eve Myles, who almost quit acting before getting the script for this, so the story goes, and you can immediately see the appeal. She plays Faith Howells, a lawyer, wife and mother who finds herself having to hold down all three forts when her husband, Evan (Bradley Freegard), disappears. As the rest of the community takes an interest, she finds herself trying to get back into the routine of work while facing new revelations about the man she thought she knew.
Those revelations come thick and fast, as we zip along from him just not turning up to work one morning to a fake ID being found in his wardrobe to their law firm being £60,000 in debt. By the time a million-pound life insurance policy is on the table, the odds on finding him alive and well are looking decidedly bad. And yet Faith keeps going: she covers for him in court, she takes on his clients, she deals with the police investigating his disappearance, even as DI Williams (a stern Eiry Thomas) seems determined to pin the whole thing on her.
With no body, though, there’s no murder charge, and so the uncertain limbo of Faith’s life continues. The tower of lies surrounding her husband unravels quickly and in a number of different directions: the aftermath brings together everyone from Steve Baldini, a client of the firm with a distinctly dodgy past, and wine-loving best friend Lisa (Catherine Ayers) to Evans’ family, including his kind dad (Aneirin Hughes), disapproving mother, and sister Bethan (Mali Harries). All of them have unhealthy marriages they’re trying to work through, which makes Faith’s own domestic situation seem just run-of-the-mill for this messed-up community – and by the time you throw in some corrupt cops, nasty criminals and a suspect stash of cash, you’ve got yourself a web of storylines that could easily descend into melodrama.
But Keeping Faith is as grounded as it comes, with the script by Matthew Hall (a veteran of the crime genre) managing to serve up twists at a steady pace for eight hours, never letting things become too convoluted or ridiculous. That’s partly because he balances a growing pile of corpses with the day-to-day challenge of running a household and looking after kids – not to mention juggling the spiky support of Hannah Daniel’s enjoyably steely junior law partner, Cerys. And it’s partly because Faith is played by the wonder that Eve Myles.
Myles, who has blown us away repeatedly over the years in Torchwood and Broadchurch, delivers a career-best performance as the maybe widower, sometime lawyer, full-time mum and undoubted powerhouse. She’s on a constant cliff edge of collapse, fighting on the brink of composure and never quite snapping, even as life throws yet another curveball at her. Her facial expressions go from angry to sad to relieved to ruthless, often all at once, inhabiting her role so completely that it’s magnetic to witness. She’s funny, kind, tough, vulnerable, all before she even starts on the dialogue, which she learned Welsh in order to deliver. Evan’s disappearance may be the catalyst for the programme, but he’s really just a plot device – a MacGuffin to give Eve Myles the opportunity to act her socks off.
She turns this eight-part mystery into a portrait of a brilliantly rounded woman taking control of a situation that, in a lesser series, could simply buffet her along. With its unpredictable plot, commitment to character and completely absorbing protagonist, this feels like the Welsh counterpart to Lennie James’ Save Me, if you swapped South London council estates for the gorgeous Carmarthenshire coast. The soundtrack follows the landscape and Myles’ lead, rippling in and out of the background with each new wave of hard-hitting emotion – the piano is just enough to pull at your heartstrings, while Amy Wadge’s vocals are unabashedly uplifting. The result is a moving, gripping and wonderfully human drama that deserves a primetime slot in your TV schedule.
All eight episodes of Keeping Faith are available on BBC iPlayer until Monday 7th May at 11.59pm.