‘And there I was, thinking I was in for a quiet life,’ says the new Morecambe Bay family liaison officer DS Jenn Townsend (Marsha Thomason), soon after a dead body is washed ashore. She’s not joking, it’s a rough first day.
While driving with her kids to her new partner's home, Jenn crashes her car by the bay and spots the commotion nearby. She's immediately on the case, comforting the grieving mother Mariam (Rina Mahoney) as her son Saif is pulled out of the sea. Familiar faces from West Lancashire police heroically rock up like the northern Avengers. Jenn has to somehow insert herself into this tight-knit team in a small seaside town that is worlds away from her former residence in Manchester.
Rina Mahoney and Marsha Thomason as Mariam Rahman and DS Jenn Townsend. Photo: ITV
It makes sense for writer/creator Daragh Carville to evolve The Bay, considering it was drying up by the second series. The exit of Morven Christie as the hard-as-nails FLO Lisa Armstrong thankfully provided a reason and, despite the format being virtually the same, series three moves with the times.
It's much less white this time around. Although Jenn is the only Black woman in the West Lancashire station (it seems), the case revolves around a young boxer from a predominantly Muslim family of Indian heritage. Instead of the usual process in British dramas of showing white Christian mourning, The Bay dives into Islamic traditions.
Even more commendable: one of the Rahmans is deaf. The scene-stealing deaf actor Nadeem Islam plays the younger brother Jamal, who proves to be the hero of this rather dysfunctional family. The obvious age difference between actor and character can be distracting – Islam looks way too old to be playing a sixth-former – but he's a convincing, enjoyable presence.
The West Lancashire team is back! Photo: ITV
Despite these welcome changes, The Bay is steeped in scenic formulas. Mahoney gives a vividly hurt and traumatised performance as Mariam, but her character is little more than a loud obstacle to everyone around her – spending a lot of her screentime shouting at people to leave her house. The older brother Adnan (an absorbing Michael Karim) provides more intense intrigue, starting as an aggressively defensive petty criminal before his mask drops to reveal a more vulnerable layer.
The formulas would work better if the investigation were loaded with striking revelations. As it is, the series dangerously grazes a run-of-the-mill procedural. When the gaffer DI Tony Manning (Dan Ryan) announces that they’re ‘back to square one’ in episode five, you can’t help but sigh at the lack of progress. Are they saving the major twists and turns for the finale, which wasn’t distributed to critics?
Despite predictable outcomes and easy resolutions, The Bay retains the pleasures of watching a basic if picturesque detective drama. The errs and delights of Morecambe Bay – blessed with beautiful scenery and eclectic characters but marred with crime and racism – possess a charming simplicity that hooks you till the end. But it’s hard to say whether those hours will pay off.
The Bay, series, 3 airs on Wednesday 12 January at 9pm on ITV.
|What||The Bay, series 3, ITV review|
12 Jan 22 – 12 Jan 23, ON ITV
|Website||Click here for more information|