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Series / Shetland

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"Do you still think this is the best place in the world to live?"

Shetland is a BBC British murder mystery set on the Shetland Isles in Scotland. The show follows Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez (portrayed by Douglas Henshall). The show is based on the books by Ann Cleves. The first series is a two parter based on her book Red Bones. The second series consists of three two-parter episodes based on her books Raven Black, Dead Water and Blue Lightning.

The series also follows Detective Constable Sandy Wilson (Steven Robertson), Detective Sergeant Alison 'Tosh' Macintosh (Alison O'Donnell), and Cassie Perez (Erin Armstrong).


Shetland provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Someone breaks into Jimmy Perez's house whilst his daughter is home alone.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sally Henry who is revealed to have murdered her best friend
  • Bittersweet Ending: Many of the cases end like this.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: McCall threatens Perez with going after his family if he doesn't stop sniffing around trying to pin Michael Thompson's murder on him.
  • Body of the Week: It is a murder mystery show so this is to be expected.
  • Break the Cutie: Tosh after she is sexually assaulted in Series 3.
  • British Brevity: The first two seasons were four episodes each, while seasons 3, 4 and 5 were six.
  • Canon Foreigner: Tosh is not in the books.
  • Color Wash: Everything on Shetland seems to be permanently drenched in grey. Even on sunny days.
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  • Close-Knit Community: This being the remote islands of Shetland, it's no wonder. Just in the first episode alone, the murder victim was related to one of the cops. Tosh running into Drew, her ex, basically wherever she goes is kind of a Running Gag for season 1 and 2. It gets darker in Series 4 when Duncan Hunter becomes a murder suspect.
    DI Cole: You're too close to this. It's personal.
    Jimmy: it's Shetland. Everything is personal.
  • Date Rape: Tosh, in season 3, as a message to Jimmy to stop investigating McCall.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When a white supremacist complain to Jimmy about the immigrants "polluting" the white Northern European gene pool, he asks Jimmy if he isn't worried about the same thing. Jimmy points out his own last name.
  • Driven to Suicide: Calum Dunwoody does this in the police cells in Series 5, leading to Sandy being investigated, and eventually suspended, over it.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: How Drew justifies having framed Malone for Lizzie Kilmuir's murder: Malone had the signs of having a dangerously unbalanced personality and it would only be a matter of time until he really did hurt someone.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Calvin Sarwar. Arthur McCall's lawyer. He works around his boss to put hit on people among other things.
  • Happily Adopted: A variation as Cassie is not Jimmy's biological daughter but his step-daughter and even after her mother dies she considers him her dad. Highlighted more as her biological dad lives on the same island but she lives with Jimmy the majority of the time.
  • Human Traffickers: The main plotline of Series 5.
  • Last-Name Basis: A variation- Allison Mcintosh is known simply as "Tosh".
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Jimmy and Duncan. Although sometimes it feels more like Amicably Divorced as the two have a custody agreement over Duncan's daughter (Cassie) and Jimmy's step-daughter. In season 3, Duncan gets kicked out of his home and crashes at Jimmy's. This happens again in season 5.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Lowrie in season 3. He's just a socially awkward guy that doesn't know how to interact with other people and loves to do arts and crafts revolving dead animals.
  • The Lost Lenore: Jimmy's late wife, Fran (who died before the beginning of the series) is this to him.
  • Mama Bear: Series 5 gave us Olivia Lennox, who's one woman mission to get her daughter back from the human traffickers caused all sorts of havoc on the islands, and a headache for Perez and the team.
  • May–December Romance: Catherine and Sally both have these in the first two episodes of season 2.
    • Donna Killick is at least middle-aged, but is noticeably younger than her lover, Drew Maccoll.
  • Missing Mom: Cassie's mum died before the series began.
  • Monochrome Casting: Season 1. Season 2 fixes this with Willow Reeves played by Nina Sosanya.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sally Henry after admitting to murdering her best friend. "I miss her. I miss her."
  • Mystery of the Week: Technically, it's a mystery of the fortnight as each mystery lasts two episodes.
  • Never One Murder: Averted in the first couple of seasons, however the bodies really started to pile up from Series 3 onwards.
  • Odd Couple: Jimmy and Tosh of the They Fight Crime! variety.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Jimmy and Tosh respectively.
  • One Steve Limit: Drew, Tosh's Ex, and Drew McColl.
  • Over Took The Series: The first two series' were based on the books by Ann Cleeves. Series 3 onwards are completely original stories.
  • Papa Wolf: Both Jimmy and Duncan try to steer Cassie away from Alan Killick to protect her, though for very different reasons.
    • Averted with Drew Maccoll, who is revealed to have killed his own daughter in the season 4 finale.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. The protagonist is a Detective Inspector and good at his job. Everyone in the police force is shown to be at least competent if not very skilled at their job.
  • Scenery Porn: Despite the Color Wash, Shetland still looks pretty spectacular at times.
  • Shipping Torpedo: Sandy seems less than impressed when Tosh says she is considering getting back together with her ex-boyfriend Drew.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Season 4 ends with Thomas Malone exonerated of the murder he spent 23 years in prison for and the one committed after he was released. Just after he finds out he's been cleared and he can finally move on with his life, he dies of a heart attack.
  • Story Arc: Season 3 changes the dynamic from being a mystery of the week to a serial over the length of 6 episodes.
  • Team Pet: The police station has a dog.
  • Title Drop: Often. Justified as it is the name of the setting.
  • The TV Show of the Book: Each two parter is based on a different Ann Cleves book. Season 3 is completely original.
  • The Starscream: Calvin Sarwar. Arthur McCall's lawyer. He's systematically working to unseat him as the head of the organization.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Leanne, at first. Boy does it get worse.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom / Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Leanne Randall, or rather Lena Gilborne, is a combination of both. The daughter of Asha Ishrani's first Witness Protection case. After her mother committed suicide following her inability to adapt to her new life, Leanna hated Asha and wanted to get back at her. When she recognized Asha many years later, she followed Michael, knowing that he was likely also in the witness protection program, so she tried to use Michael to lure her out. She trapped Robbie in a container trying to get Michael into trouble. Outted Michael to the people looking for him. Eventually this ends with a fiscal's reputation in ruins, her son accused of rape, a dirty lawyer killed in prison, a mob boss out scot free, several people dead or injured, and Tosh raped. Did she want to get to Asha? Yes. Did she intend to ruin a bunch of other people's lives in the process? No.
  • With a Foot on the Bus: At the end of series 3, Tosh says she's going to leave Shetland. She's still there at the start of Series 4, and it appears she's waiting for a suitable vacancy on the mainland. But it turns out she changed her mind.

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