Blackshore review: Silly, watchable drama is one of the better thrillers from RTÉ

Television: Lisa Dwan brings a dynamic grumpiness to her leading role as the sort of cop who goes to the pub on her own and reads a book while frowning

It’s over a decade since the heyday of “Nordic noir”, as epitomised by grim capers such as The Killing and The Bridge. Television thrillers have since moved on. Alas that memo has yet to reach RTÉ, which has refused to build a bridge and get over the Nordi craze. It instead continues to churn out sub-Scandi stodge featuring frowning but consistently stylish lady detectives investigating horrible crimes in depressing villages where everybody has a secret.

The broadcaster’s latest addition to the stockpile, Blackshore (RTÉ One, Sunday, 9.30pm), ticks off cliches by the barrel load. However, there’s a twist in that it’s a generally fun watch. That’s partly down to a straightforward plot. Lisa Dwan plays the standard Girlboss Ladycop – Irish television’s favourite strain of woman protagonist – who returns to her hometown, where it soon emerges that a local woman has been murdered.

Dwan’s Fia Lucey – name or anagram? – has the traditional upsetting backstory, and her hometown is awash with dark mischief. But the story is simple to stay with. It’s more than could be said for the previous offering from the makers of Blackshore. That show, Smother, suffered from a sprawling cast and storyline that had wrapped itself in knots before the first ad break of its opening episode.

Blackshore is nowhere near as ambitious and generally just gets on with it. Fia is reprimanded after violently intervening in a sexual assault in the toilet of a Dublin bar (she’s the sort of cop who goes to the pub on her own and reads a book while frowning). Her punishment is to be sent back to her fictional home of Blackshore, which appears to be somewhere in the midwest (it was filmed in Killaloe, Co Clare).


In Blackshore, she must reckon with her shadowy past and a terrible tragedy that altered the course of her life. And that’s before the AWOL Róisín Hurley turns up dead, and a missing person’s inquiry becomes a full-blown murder hunt. None of this is clever or original, but you want to stay with it to discover what happens next.

Blackshore suffers from undercooked dialogue. “You broke my nose!” says the man whom Lucey punches as he’s assaulting a woman. “You’re damn right I did,” she replies – an exchange straight out of a Playstation2 cut-scene.

Can the script get any more cringeworthy? You’re damn right it can. “Sometimes I use my gob the way other people use their elbow,” declares a peppery garda (a different one) in her first scene – verbal miasma that nobody would under any circumstances utter in real life and which breezes past the received wisdom that good screenwriting is about showing rather than telling.

Dwan, at least, seems to know exactly what kind of series she is in. She brings a dynamic grumpiness to the perpetually out-of-sorts Fia, who spends most of her screen time huffing around crime scenes looking vexed (opposite her, Rory Keenan comes across as merely confused as a junior garda in a toxic marriage).

Her studied grouchiness has precisely the sort of over-the-top energy required of a drama that is silly and watchable and, for all its flaws, one of the better thrillers RTÉ has put on screen recently.