You might be well-apprised of the police procedural format by now; typically, our hero detectives are broody rebels touched by crime-solving genius.
In ITV’s Twitter-storming 2016 ‘London Noir’ thriller Marcella, the heroine had bigger issues than a meddling DCI or an unhealthy relationship with booze - plagued by dissociative fugues, DS Marcella Backland suffered periodical black-outs, and while she appeared to function normally during these moments, she was later unable to remember anything she had done during these episodes.
This proved incredibly problematic when her cheating husband’s mistress suddenly turned up dead - and Marcella wasn’t able to say with any confidence whether this was the work of a fugitive serial killer, or her own misdeed.
Naturally, this issue became the core of the show’s appeal, and the fact wasn’t lost on actress Anna Friel: “It’s a study of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown whilst holding down a really full on job.”.
Just like it’s ITV crime-drama stablemate Broadchurch, Marcella gave its female lead a highly personal stake in catching the killer, and the idea carries over to the second series. In the words of writer Hans Rosenfeldt: “Marcella is a show that is just as much about Marcella being Marcella as it is about her being a police officer. So, it works best when the case she is working on is connected to her personal life in some way.”
This time around, we catch up with her following a grim discovery inside a wall. The body of a child is found, clothed in a school blazer and surrounded by soft toys, and Marcella is devastated when she realises the tragic victim is Leo Priestley, a boy who was abducted a few years earlier - and one who had been friends with her own son Edward.
As a result, work follows Marcella back home once again. Not only must she protect her own children from a deadly predator, but she also has to help her son come to terms with the death of a schoolmate. And it seems her efforts might not quite hit the mark.
“Marcella has thoughts on whether she deserves to be a mother or not,” states Friel. “She seems to try her best but maybe that’s not enough.”
Considering the demands of playing a character whose life falls apart on a routine basis, it must be hard for the ex-Brookside star to get back into Marcella’s head-space. Not so, claims Friel: “As soon as the fringe was cut back in and my hair was pulled back into the ponytail, I was like ‘oooh, she’s back’”.
For some, though, the mark of a great Scandi-style thriller heroine rests solely on her wardrobe.
Danish actress Sarah Lund famously jump-started a knitwear revolution with her Faroe Isle jumper in The Killing, and back in 2016, high-street retailers struggled to keep up with demand for replicas of Marcella’s own fur-trimmed casual parka. So does the coat make a reappearance this series?
“Last time we started off in the deepest winter, so the coat was reflective of that,” smiles Friel. “In series two we start off in the summer.”
Marcella’s now rocking a new jacket designed specifically for the show.