Shetland, BBC1, 9pm


COME off it, DI Jimmy Perez. Courtesy of the council’s website, I am more than familiar with the surprisingly mild weather to be had in Shetland, but it still hardly seems possible that the most melancholic copper since the last one could go about year round without a scarf, never mind a bobble hat.

Now he even has the wonderful DS Alison “Tosh” McIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) following in his chilly footsteps, her neck bare to the elements despite the brooding skies. Maybe their shared burning sense of outrage keeps them warm.

If so, they would have been toasty by the end of episode one of this, the fifth series of the crime drama drawn from the novels of Ann Cleeves, with added tales from lead writer David Kane. A jogger has found a severed lower arm on a beach. Perez (Douglas Henshall) and his team wonder initially if it has washed there from Norway, the implication being that nothing like this could surely happen in Shetland. How sweet, given the islands’ murder rate in the last couple of years could have given The Wire’s Baltimore a run for its money.

Douglas Henshall on the return of Perez

When a dog finds a head in a bag (is anyone else suspicious at the way dogs always seem to be in the vicinity of dead bodies?), Perez has the look of a man who knows something wicked has his way come. He is never happier than when he is miserable, and this case looks particularly grim, even before the mother of the victim, a 21-year-old man born in Nigeria, turns up to accusing Perez and the islanders of closing ranks. “I don’t turn a blind eye to anything,” seethes the scarfless one.

What was going on? Was it a fish scam? If not, would that be the ultimate red herring? If not fish, drugs? Worse?

Thank the Lord for Shetland’s bleak as the grave humour, which balances out the misery while ensuring there are no sharp lurches in tone. The Jimmy-Duncan double dad act is still going strong, with the latter coming to live with Perez after his partner finds another man. “She’s leaving Scotland,” says Duncan. “Wi him?” asks Perez. “No, wi’ the big top.”

Elsewhere, Tosh has been digging into the victim’s social media accounts but there is nothing to suggest he was involved with drugs. “Then again,” she muses, "I don’t suppose Pablo Escobar’s Facebook page did either.” 

Ann Cleeves on writing the final Shetland book

There were some “hang on a wee minute” moments that jarred, such as Perez and the victim’s mother, Olivia (Rakie Ayola) just happening to go into the bar where some obvious wrong ‘uns were having a heated argument relevant to the case. If that seemed rather too convenient, later identifying the place from a song that was playing in the background when Perez was in was even more far fetched. Unless, of course, pubs in Shetland only have one tune, like the disco in Father Ted.

TV series brings visitors galore

Viewers can forgive the drama pulling the odd fast one now and again because there is so much going on. Although Shetland tells a single story over six hours, a long time in TV drama, it barely draws breath, throwing in one twist after another, and many an “issue” besides, without ever seeming heavy-handed. This series looks like it will be shining a light in some very dark corners, including racism and misogyny.

It would be hard going, and it sometimes is, without the company of Perez and his team, especially Sergeant Billy, functioning as a one man Greek chorus, announcing the next woe to come along. I bet Billy wears a scarf to defend himself against the chill winds of man's inhumanity to man. You should try it, Jimmy.