Dublin Murders aims to tell a story of Ireland’s ever-changing landscape with a series-long investigation into a murder that’s suspenseful albeit familiar television.
I’ve always been a fan of season-long murder mystery series. I never minded the awkward way The Killing ended at the end of the first season, and you were ultimately rewarded with a satisfying payoff by the end of its second. 1995’s Murder One took a network television season-long length, 23 episodes, to solve their murder, which gave new meaning to the word “filler.” My favorite, though, might be Homicide: Life on the Streets, which took its freshman season to solve the murder of Adena Watson but took its sweet time with singular episodes solving separate cases in between. Dublin Murders takes its sweet time to tell a story of Ireland’s ever-changing landscape with a series-long investigation into a murder that’s suspenseful, albeit familiar, television.
Dublin Murders has two main narratives that toggle throughout the season. One is a mystery nearly twenty-years prior when two children went missing in the local woods that were never found and a young boy, Adam, who was left alive, having no memory of what happened to his friends. Flash forward to the show’s present-day, where an adolescent girl with what was a seemingly bright future in ballet was found murdered in the same area the aforementioned children disappeared. The natural conclusion many make, and the strange way she was left on display, have the investigators wonder if the two are connected. The lead detectives from the Dublin Murder Squad, Detective Cassie Maddox (Ransom’s Sarah Greene) and Rob Reilly (The Commuter’s Killian Scott) are ready to pass the case along to someone else and avoid the stress of investigating an awful child murder. Eventually, as the story unfolds in its first two episodes, they both know more about the current case and the one that is etched in everyone’s memory.
Dublin Murders is based on the popular book series by Tana French. The current season takes the first two, “In the Woods” and “The Likeness,” that combines both storylines, and weaves them together without any hiccups. French helped adapt her work with showrunner Sarah Phelps (EastEnders), that uses the investigation as a way to talk about a bigger picture in the ever-changing landscape in Ireland. The series does take it seriously, but it’s used more as a backdrop in the show for character motivations that focuses on the crime at hand. The real secret weapon that keeps everyone’s heads above water is the leads Scott and Greene; both have great chemistry together, and each is adept (Scott, in particular) of going through a vast emotional scope by the end of the show’s run.
Each of Dublin Murders’ episodes is a deep dive and lasts over an hour; not necessarily binge-watch friendly. The narrative moves along well, with a terrific supporting cast lead by a particularly strong Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones) and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Avengers: Endgame), going back between timelines with ease, and is surprising. Though, by the time the series gets to its reveal, you may feel like the previous eight-plus hours were just filler and could have wrapped it up in half the time. Still, it may seem like a doppelganger of The Killing, but Phelps advantageously doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It smartly hinges on the strong leads that can be an intriguing but not great one-off, with reportedly an option for two more seasons with four-books to go (with Vaughan-Lawlor’s Frank Mackey taking over as the main protagonist).
If you are a fan of the genre and would like to see a potential breakout performer in Killian Scott, Dublin Murders should satisfy that itch, but may go down an all-too-familiar road for most.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.