Then there’s Seth Docker the mentally unstable brother of Steve a character who has already placed himself at the centre of the search for Hattie perhaps because of his estrangement form his own wife and son. Seth taps into the mythical backdrop of the series, with talk of earth spirits and what the woods wants or doesn’t want. “I’ve seen the end of the world” he declares at one point. Realising Seth may become a target for the riding vigilante attitude Steve brings Seth to his own house which seems to make him even more paranoid. Is he just suffering delusions or does he know something? The question develops into the prospect that is actually Steve who might be guilty. Each brother suspects the other and as for us? We’re never quite sure and this is how the serial works leading us here and there in what becomes an increasingly fascinating trail.
The intrigue that builds as we follow these stories is matched by the show’s sense of place. An elemental angle- espoused in particular by Seth- is essayed by director Brian Welsh who shoots the surrounding woods with a dramatic flair. There is often a sense of something more lurking especially when the sound mix includes whispering voices whenever the cameras pan around the trees.
These last two episodes are really quite masterful managing to keep several concurrent plots stewing with anticipation so that the viewer’s idea of who the murderer is changes every few minutes. It’s all brilliantly edited to throw curveballs and entice us at once. Whereas a lot of serials end disappointingly Mayday ramps up the further it goes and the last group of scenes will surprise on first viewing. It is clever, thrilling, dramatic and also, at times, warm. It would be wrong to give it away but suffice to say the conclusion is in keeping with what we’ve seen containing a wonderful bit of mis-direction and an act committed by Fiona that takes your breath away. How could she? Plus the elemental themes are woven into matters as well. It is so well packaged and completed that even if a second series were contemplated it could not match the pressure cooker of these five episodes.
Needless to say you reach the end of Mayday with renewed appreciation of the cast. Sophie Okenedo ’in particular is peerless as Fiona wrestles with conscience, with the past and present and ultimately where her loyalties lie. It’s an awkward sort of role but she nails it. Aiden Gillen and Max Fowler deliver note perfect performances as the full details of what happened in the past come to light. Gillen’s Everett up till part 5 an unlikable character suddenly draws your sympathy in unexpected ways while Fowler remains utterly believable however his storyline turns. There’s some superb stuff from Lesley Manville as Gail deals with revelations about her late husband and the loss of all her furniture in some of the scripts’ darkest comedic moments. Leila Mimmack is exceptional in the role of Caitlan portraying the numbness and shock yet showing other sides to the character. Her versatility is evident in the scenes where she also gets to play Hattie in flashback.
Criticisms of the acting I find harder to understand - there are some astonishing performances here. To settle at a level that allows for the idea of grief and numbness but also enables a character to communicate and the plot to develop is tricky to achieve but I feel everyone in this cast gives that 110%. Unlike some dramas which have their quieter and/or duller moments, I found Mayday riveting from the first to last scenes whichever storyline was being played out and that owes a lot to the way the cast performed the intriguing script.