Shetland Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Shetland
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network:  BBC (Produced by ITV Studios)
  • Cast: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD
  • General Information: Based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves

The third season of Shetland is all one single mystery and at six hour-long parts you would think that it feels overly long, however, it doesn’t – it just feels almost like a real case, with the police pursuing multiple lines of inquiry, rather than simply running into red herrings. The season opens on a car ferry to the Shetland Islands, a 12-hour trip. A young woman witnesses an altercation between an older man and a younger man. When the older man pushes the younger one and falls, then leaves, she rushes over to the younger man. She finds out the young man is named Robbie, and the two get to talking and then share drinks in the onboard bar. But the next morning, Robbie is nowhere to be found. The girl, Leanne, reports him as missing to desk Sgt. Billy, but at first, he pooh-poohs her. Later, the police, under Perez, treats the case as a missing person case. Perez interviews the other man that Leanne described, who is known as Michael McGuire. When he returns to the station, his boss, Rhona, tells him that McGuire launched a complaint – accusing Perez of intimidation, harassment and using bad language. Perez is stunned. Rhona just tells him to stay away from McGuire.

A few days later, Robbie’s body is found at the recycling center. But before Perez, Sandy, and Tosh have even gotten the body down from a claw used to move old clothing and such – they receive a call. The local Shetland police are to have nothing to do with the case, it’s to be left to mainland police. Perez is confused. He and his team investigate quietly, and also head to Glasgow to get to the bottom of it. Perez is able to have Cora, his forensic pathologist unofficially look at the body. She isn’t able to do a full autopsy, but she tells Perez that the boy, Robbie, was locked in the shipping container and suffocated. Perez knows he must have been put into the container on the ferry by a person or persons unknown. He also eventually discovers that although the doors to the car storage area are normally locked, and all car ferry passengers are required to stay in the ferry’s passenger areas – one of the doors had a broken lock and the light by the security camera was broken.

Perez continues to do what he can do, investigating what he can, despite the stonewalling by higher levels of his own department. Then a sniper shoots Leanne and McGuire. Perez then finds out part of the story – McGuire is actually Michael Thompson. He was placed in witness protection because he was going to testify against Arthur McCall – a mobster and major player in the drugs scene in Glasgow. Perez and his team quickly realize that Michael and Leanne were shot by a professional hit man. Again, Perez and his team go to Glasgow. By this point, the police realize they made a mistake in not telling Perez who Thompson was. Perez also starts to become attracted to the witness protection officer who was Thompson’s handler, even though she had concocted the fake complaint against him and had set up a fake alibi as well.

Perez, Sandy, and Tosh become more and more involved in the investigation into McCall, who is now free since the case against him collapsed without Thompson’s testimony. McCall threatens Perez. Tosh is picked up at the airport by one of McCall’s men, kidnapped, threatened, and raped. Perez finds out that Michael left an answering machine message for his wife, but it’s badly garbled. Cleaning up the audio leads to the Level Nine club in Glasgow, and an old report of an attack on Burns Night. That investigation turns up some interesting history (especially considering what’s just happened to Tosh). Eventually, Perez and his team discover some police corruption and who ordered the hit on Thompson – but it seems to be completely unrelated to the death of Robbie.

Perez and his team return to Lerwick and start over investigating Robbie’s death. Perez does figure it out and catches the person who did it, and it is a tragic story, but I’m not going to spoil it.

Shetland is a great series. Even though Season 3 is all one long story, it doesn’t feel drawn-out, rather it’s like the real twists and turns and changes of focus one can imagine might actually happen in a real case. This season also expands the show – have Perez and his team flying back and forth to Glasgow and introducing some of the police officers there. We still get to see some of the wild beauty of the Shetland Islands, but we also see a lot of Glasgow. I enjoyed Shetland Season 3 and I recommend it.

Read my Review of Shetland Seasons 1 and 2.