Review: The Pembrokeshire Murders was a bit of a plod through a true crime tale of south Wales killers

After the drama of last week’s 24 Hours in Police Custody, you might have expected The Pembrokeshire Murders (ITV, Mon-Weds, 9pm), which featured an actual script and actual actors, to ramp up the suspense and the thrills.

Friday, 15th January 2021, 5:00 pm

Unfortunately, this true-life tale failed to live up to those expectations.

The story of the investigation into a series of murders and robberies on the beautiful South Wales coast, the first two episodes consisted mainly of people sitting around doing some clumsy exposition – what the crimes were, when they were committed, advances in science... the explanations and explications went on and on.

Sometimes it spiralled off into the absurd. Luke Evans’ lead investigator referred to Fight Club at one point, which meant one of his team had to explain: “Fight Club... that’s a film.”

Luke Evans played Det Supt Steve Wilkins in The Pembrokeshire Murders

Thanks for that Sherlock.

There’s no doubt that these were horrific crimes, worthy of investigation. But this plodding drama-doc did few favours to anyone, either to the drama or to the real people involved.

ITV has made these true-crime dramas their calling card in recent years, from Des back through A Confession to Manhunt to Little Boy Blue. They’re all solidly made, using a star in the lead, respectful of the victims and the police.

And maybe I’ve got true crime fatigue, but The Pembrokeshire Murders failed to catch light. It only flickered into life midway through part three, when killer John Cooper (Keith Allen) was confronted with the huge pile of evidence against him.

While humans still cling on to this rock, there will be murders and ITV will dramatise the investigations. But on this evidence, maybe they need to look elsewhere.

Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema (BBC4, Mon, 9pm) returned with a canter through British comedy films. These are always worth watching, but this one seemed a little thin.

Oh, Death in Paradise (BBC1, Thurs, 9pm), how I have missed your beaches, guest stars and Poirot under the palms denouements. The ultimate in undemanding viewing and a delight.