Shetland, series 7 episode 1 review: relish Douglas Henshall's careworn hero while you can

Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez - BBC
Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez - BBC

Have you noticed how many TV detectives have a trademark coat? I sometimes wonder if it’s a compulsory police requirement. There’s Columbo’s crumpled cream raincoat, Bergerac’s leather bomber, Vera’s dusty brown gabardine, Saga Norén’s olive military number, Marcella’s Woolrich parka and Olivia Colman’s orange cagoule in Broadchurch. To that sensibly clad roll call, we can add DI Jimmy Perez’s black peacoat – always buttoned up tightly, collars turned up against the windswept climes and forces of evil.

As McMurder-mystery Shetland (BBC One) returned for its seventh run, Perez (Douglas Henshall) – gasp! – wasn’t wearing it. Instead he was suited and booted for an appearance before a disciplinary committee – fallout from the tumultuous series finale last time around, which saw him suspended from duty.

Happily, he soon resumed his role, donned his signature garment and was reunited with sidekick Tosh (Alison O’Donnell). The duo investigated the disappearance of vulnerable young man Connor (Nicholas Nunn), whose hobbies were wild swimming and graphic novels. How very 2022. His family had recently relocated to the isles. The plot thickened when Perez uncovered why they fled Glasgow.

Sinister threats were issued. Several locals looked decidedly shifty. An equinox party and a spot of amateur witchcraft (“It’s like Salem around here,” noted Tosh drily) lent a frisson of folk horror to proceedings. It wasn’t long before a fishing boat found a body in the water. As artist Lloyd Anderson (Patrick Robinson) sagely said: “He was too sensitive for this world. He took on board all the bad stuff and it ate away at him.” He meant Connor but it might well have been the world-weary Perez.

This Ann Cleeves adaptation is a high-class police procedural – subtle, unshowy but hauntingly powerful and highly atmospheric. With its bleakly beautiful setting, meaningful stares and slow-burning plots, it’s Nordic noir transplanted to the Scottish archipelago’s rugged landscape.

Relish our hero while you can because Henshall will hang up his peacoat when he’s cracked this six-part case. After a decade in the role, he’s keen to explore pastures new. Shetland will sail on with a new protagonist, yet to be unveiled. At least Perez’s name isn’t in the show’s title like Scottish predecessor Taggart, which continued long after DCI Jim Taggart himself had gone to the great incident room in the sky. Whoever takes over has a tough task matching up to Henshall’s charismatically careworn performance. I also look forward to scrutinising their coat.