UK TV review: Blood Season 2
Ivan Radford | On 03, May 2020
Warning: This contains spoilers for Blood Season 1. Not caught up? Read our spoiler-free review here.
Two years ago, Channel 5 surprised everyone when it dropped a new original drama series almost all in one go and gripped the nation immediately. Now, with the country on lockdown, it’s doing it all over again with Season 2 of Blood airing nightly over the past week – and whether you binge it in one go or mete it out in 24-hour doses, the show’s lost none of its potent ability to drip-feed suspense.
Season 1 announced Sophie Petzal as a writer to watch, introducing us to the Hogan family, headed up by Jim (Adrian Dunbar). A doctor suspected of killing his wife, we discovered at the end of the season that he did, indeed, do it, but only at her request, as she had motor neurone disease. Season 2 cements Petzal’s knack for character-fuelled tension, introducing us to yet more of the family – this time, focusing on daughter Fiona (Gráinne Keenan), who also has the same condition and is struggling through an unhappy marriage with Paul (Ian Lloyd Anderson), a faintly desperate farm worker. You’d think that Jim coming home after a year away might be a welcome sign, but his arrival only seems to unearth yet more secrets and unspoken unhappiness – it’s no surprise that a dead body turns up within the opening hour.
Who, how and why are only part of the fun, as Petzal plays a precisely paced game of red herrings and burning truths. We’re quickly made familiar with the suspects surrounding the family, including Kian (Darragh O’Toole), a drug-dealing tearaway who crosses paths not only with the farm’s owners, Tom and Gillian, but Paul too.
Family ties, as ever, are the key, and Blood’s success lies in the way that every twist and turn is rooted in the ensemble’s titular bond. The cast all bring an immediately believable chemistry to their roles, which brings a wonderfully observed feeling of lived-in awkwardness that’s sustained all the way through. There are so many tiny details that hover in the background, from Tom and Gillian looking down on Paul and his family to Paul’s own melancholy and uneasy presence. Even Fiona has a hidden passion that leaves us torn over whether to root for her or question her behaviour. Everyone isn’t just a suspect; they’re real people to boot, demanding our understanding and sympathy, as much as our mounting distrust. To say that the unfolding mystery is rooted in family drama is perhaps a misnomer; really, it’s a seething thriller of revenge, violence, anger and guilt that’s disguised as a family drama.
At the heart of it all is Adrian Dunbar, who once again delivers a career-best turn as the put-upon Jim. A good man who spent a season being misunderstood, he still can’t escape the label of “murderer” here, and Dunbar deftly navigates the grief and loneliness of his widower, a doctor who no longer has the licence to practice and instead has to help out on the farm to earn his keep. And yet, underneath his vaguely honourable, honest streak lies a shifty quality that makes his presence as intimidating and unnerving as it is endearing – it doesn’t help that we see him lie, straight-faced, to the police over the course of these five episodes, leading us to wonder what role he has to play in the messy affair after all.
By the time all the dirty laundry is hanging in plain sight, Blood emerges with a cathartic note of unity and support. It’s here that the show, which has smoothly morphed into a very different story for its sophomore run, stays true to its strengths; Petzal contrasts the gorgeous countryside landscapes with the shadowy nooks and crannies of a family home, while directors Maurice Sweeney and Laura Way let their camera linger on the cast’s quietly expressive faces as they gaze through the windows at the seemingly perfect outside world. Blood beckons us in to root around these character’s wardrobes, and the skeletons concealed within never release us from their tight grip. Riveting telly performed with heartfelt intensity, here’s hoping for another reunion in two years’ time.
Blood Season 2 is available on My5.