Shetland Season 4 Review

  • Series Title: Shetland
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network:  BBC (Produced by ITV Studios)
  • Cast: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson
  • General Information: Based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves

This review contains spoilers for Season 4 of Shetland.

Shetland Season 4 is a single mystery story told in six parts. The story opens with Thomas Malone being released from prison after his conviction is overturned. Malone was accused and originally found guilty of killing Lizzie Kilmuir but some evidence was ignored and not presented at his trial of a possible second suspect, thus Malone’s release. DI Jimmy Perez and his team are soon investigating the cold case, to try to find the other suspect and determine if Malone was guilty or innocent. Many people on Shetland, including the now-retired police officer who investigated the original case, believe Malone is guilty and it was “only a technicality” that got him released. Others are convinced he was railroaded and want actual justice for Lizzie. This causes high tensions in the small community.

Shortly after Malone is released and returns to Shetland another young girl is found strangled and left in a lime kiln, like Lizzie. Perez and his team investigate this murder as well. Everyone assumes the two crimes are linked. The second girl, Sally was also a reporter who worked for the Shetland Gazette but that seemed to be wanting to make her mark so she could leap to a bigger urban paper. Sally is found but her phone and computer are missing, making some connection to her work seem more likely.

Much of the story has Tosh trying to find out what Sally was working on and if it got her killed. She has a witness who tells Tosh that Sally was talking to and possibly arguing with a “Norwegian man” at the music festival before she was killed. At the paper, Tosh discovers Sally covered the Norway beat – stories from Norway that might have a connection to Shetland. She discovers a man was killed on an oil rig, and the company might be negligent. When Tosh interviews the man’s wife, she insists her husband was a teetotaler, so he couldn’t have been drunk when his arm was torn off by a drive shaft and he bled to death. At the company, she also discovers all records of random drunk and alcohol tests of the man have disappeared. But she also runs into the man’s wife, she insists she was mistaken. Even Tosh’s pleas that someone else might die fail to persuade the woman to not revise her story.

Tosh then starts to look into the “Norwegian”, eventually going to Bergen to investigate. She discovers Sally was looking into a Norwegian far-right group called the NDF that was planning a major terror attack against migrants and immigrants to Norway. However, the Norwegian police, though initially helpful, eventually stonewall because they know about the NDF and they have an undercover agent in place, plus they are monitoring in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack by the right. Unfortunately, just the arrival of Tosh and Perez makes the double-agent vulnerable and he is killed. However, the police officer that Tosh met, Lars, seems to be very interested in her. Tosh turns him down.

Later Lars turns up in Shetland, and Tosh at first thinks he’s there because he wants to pursue a relationship with her. But he soon gives himself away – he’s a member of the NDF and he’s the one who exposed the Norwegian Security Forces agent, which led to his death. Lars also attacks the witness who saw him at the music festival where he talked to Sally. And Lars trashes the witness’s croft. But Tosh realizes that Lars lied about “never being in Shetland” and she and Perez arrest him when he goes to the hospital to “talk” to the witness. Perez and Tosh interview Lars, and he eventually says enough that they are able to conclude what the NDF target is and inform the Norwegian police and security services. But Lars didn’t kill Sally.

Back to square one, Perez and his team look at everything again about the murders of Lizzie and Sally, still assuming they are linked. By this time, they’ve had the second DNA sample analyzed and discovered it’s a partial match for a suspect (Alan) – meaning it belonged to the suspect’s father. But when Perez goes to Donna, the suspect’s mother, for DNA of her late husband, she refuses to provide it. The body is exhumed and doesn’t match. Perez confronts Donna and discovers her son, Alan, was the product – she says, of a one night stand and that she was so drunk she doesn’t even remember the man’s name. Perez has his doubts about that, but there’s nothing they can do – unless they have someone to compare the sample to, there is no way to determine who Alan’s father was. This sits on the back burner for a bit in the story.

Eventually, Perez both figures out and has confirmation of who Alan’s father was, and he gets a confession out of who killed Lizzie. It turns out not to be Alan, his mysterious genetic father, or Malone. And who it is is very interesting, as well as the actual motive – but I’m not going to reveal that. However, when the murderer confesses, first to Perez and then in an interview room formerly to Perez and his superiors brought in from Glasgow to investigate the cold case, the outside police accuse Lizzie’s murderer of killing Sally. She denies it and says she has no idea who killed Sally.

This throws Perez, his team, and the outside police force operatives from Glasgow into a tizzy. Everything was built on the cases being related and now, once again, they almost need to start over. But they know that Sally’s journalism career wasn’t the cause of her murder (though some of her photographs lead to finding Lizzie’s murderer). Perez goes back to the retired police officer for closure on why he framed Thomas Malone in the first place, destroyed and buried evidence, and basically did a lousy job – especially as they now know Malone didn’t kill Lizzie. This confrontation leads Perez to discover who killed Sally. I’m not going to reveal that.

I enjoyed Shetland Season 4, the scenery of the Shetland islands, and in this story of Norway is beautiful. The cases are complex and wind around through various information being uncovered, leading to a variety of suspects. The story also addresses the prejudice against someone different (Thomas seems to have some sort of mental defect or disability, but it’s never stated outright) and against someone who was convicted and then released. Scottish police officers from some form of major crimes squad are sent to take over Perez’s investigation and basically seem to want to convict Malone again, despite any evidence that he didn’t do it. However, Sally’s investigations in Norway turn out to be a red herring, as do her investigations of the oil platform drilling company, as her death really has nothing to do with her job. And as with most Shetland stories, yet again we have the uncovering of a decades-old affair in the midst of an investigation to lead to a lot of pain and hurt in the present. Still, overall it’s a great story and I really liked it. Season 4 and the series, in general, is recommended.

Read my Review of Shetland Seasons 1 and 2.

Read my Review of Shetland Season 3.