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'Hidden,' streaming, Acorn

By Chris Byrd
Posted: 7/31/2018

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- Its striking look and good performances can't salvage the grim and languidly unfolding psychological thriller "Hidden."

The Welsh-language version of the drama, entitled "Craith" (Scars), first aired on BBC Wales in January of this year, while the English version debuted in June. It began streaming July 16 on Acorn, and all eight episodes are available now.

As the series opens, concern for her aging father, Huw (Ian Saynor), has prompted Det. Insp. Cadi John (Sian Reese-Williams) to return to her home village in the mountainous Snowdonia region of northwest Wales.

Unable to sleep one night, she encounters her dad, the town's former chief of police, outside the home they share. He warns her "the east wind always brings trouble," and soon Cadi is called in to investigate a young woman's murder.

Working with her partner, Det. Sgt. Owen Vaughn (Sion Alun Davies), Cadi discovers the bloodied woman found on the side of the road was Mali Pryce (Greta James), a local reported missing several years earlier. She was trying to break free of a captor when she died.

The investigators connect Pryce's murder to three similarly situated women's deaths, including one case Huw worked on, which resulted in Endaf Elwy's (Mark Lewis Jones) false conviction. Huw's guilt over this failure, which is tied to Cadi's present case, understandably colors her investigation and complicates her relationship with her dad.

Acknowledging Huw's fallibility may oblige Cadi to agree with her bossy sister, Elin Jones (Nia Roberts). A doctor, Elin believes her father, prone to seizures, will eventually require palliative care. But Cadi isn't ready to accept Elin's assessment. Aware her sister has always been Huw's favorite, Elin resents Cadi's reluctance to face facts as much as she resented her staying away from home for as long as she did.

The impact of the siblings' argument on the investigation is one of several subplots complicating the narrative of "Hidden." The series also tracks district nurse Lowri Driscoll (Lois Meleri-Jones), who's being harassed by the boyfriend she scorned, Marc Lewis (Gwydion Rhys). And viewers learn about troubled college student Megan Ruddock (Gwyneth Keyworth), who habitually cuts herself.

Lowri and Megan's lives eventually -- and harrowingly -- intersect with that of laborer Dylan Harris (Rhodri Meilir), a troubled sad-sack with serious mother issues.

Besides the murders and the self-injury, other violence depicted in "Hidden" includes a stabbing and some beatings. The series also portrays a lesbian relationship.

Additionally, there's a reference to a forced abortion, as well as to sexual harassment. While the strong profanity throughout the series is sometimes consistent with how such characters would speak, moreover, it often feels unnecessary.

"Hidden" verges toward being, but doesn't actually become, uncomfortably lurid. Undeniably difficult to watch, nonetheless, it's only suitable for grownups.

Yet even those adults who can stomach its grotesque world will likely become frustrated with the series' maddeningly slow pace. Viewers have to wait three episodes, for instance, before they comprehend Megan's central role in the plot.

By contrast, "Hidden" mystifyingly reveals Dylan as the culprit in its awful crimes almost from the outset, depriving viewers of the pleasure of figuring out whodunit. One episode also loses track of the investigation and of Cadi entirely to focus instead on Dylan's twisted demimonde.

Constantly berated by his wretched mother, Iona (Gillian Elisa), Dylan has developed a penchant for locking young women in his cellar. That's what becomes of the suicidal Megan, whom Dylan injured when she stepped in front of his pickup truck.

Alternating between ignoring and ministering to his captive, Dylan perversely assures her: "All you have to do is give me your life, and I will give you everything else." And, reflecting the mother and son's distorted symbiosis, Iona says to Megan: "You belong to my son now, and as long as you make him happy, nothing will happen to you."

The program may portray this sordidness authentically. But telling the story from the deviant's perspective compels the audience to wallow in an amount of misery many may prefer to avoid.

Despite the excellent rapport between Reese-Williams and Saynor and Stuart Biddlecombe's cinematography, which highlights the stark beauty of the story's setting, viewers may not want to stick around for "Hidden's" drearily predictable conclusion.

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Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.