‘Marcella’: A Netflix Cop Show That Asks ‘What Happened?’

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·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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I’ll bet a lot of people have spent part of the Fourth of July weekend getting to know Marcella, the new eight-episode Netflix offering that began streaming last Friday. It stars Pushing Daisies’ Anna Friel as a British police detective trying to solve a series of murders, and trying to put together the puzzle pieces of her own personality.

Friel’s Marcella Backland is a London cop who’s good at her job but is having trouble in her private life. Her husband is having an affair and they’re separating, and it’s strongly suggested that Marcella (she instructs anyone around her to pronounce it “Mar-CHELL-la,” as though she was named after an Italian fruit soda or something) is having a personality crisis. The series begins with her waking up in a bathtub, with her body and the walls smeared with blood, and she has no idea what’s happened. This is a bit of a sticky situation for an officer of the law to find herself in.

Chief among her cases is the search for a serial killer whom Marcella thinks she’s identified. Few of her colleagues believe she’s correct. If Friel didn’t project such strength as a shrewd, aggressive cop, the show might be open to the charge that Marcella is an awfully disrespected character.

The series was created by Hans Rosenfeldt, who also created the Danish-Swedish co-production The Bridge (which was turned into the two-season, American-made FX series of the same name). Among its costars are Laura Carmichael — Lady Edith on Downton Abbey — as an awfully naïve university student, and Jamie Bamber (Lee Adama on Battlestar Galactica) as a police colleague.

Marcella starts off well, but pretty soon its pace is impeded by a number of subplots and the abrupt introductions of characters whose role in the overall plot is either unclear or irrelevant. The series has a familiar enough cop-show structure, so if you like Friel’s performance, you’ll be carried pretty far along into the season. As holiday-weekend viewing, it was a perfectly nice binge, but I’m not sure now many people are going to plow through it all once the work-week gets going, reruns are over, and other attractions compete for your attention.

Marcella is streaming on Netflix now.