I review a whole season rather than individual episodes, so there is a chance of spoilers. If you haven’t watched the whole season yet, stop reading now!
It’s difficult to mix two distinct genres successfully without one of the styles suffering. Sometimes though, trying to mix elements and create something original is the only way to distinguish yourself from everything else similar on tv. There seems to be a craze in British television at the moment for the self-contained, one season murder mystery. Successes like Broadchurch and Lightfields have taken inspiration from the Swedish and Danish imports, like The Killing or The Bridge.
Mayday is a series in this style, looking at a small community and how they cope in the aftermath of the disappearance of the Mayday queen, Hattie. It starts off as a missing persons case, with lots of characters becoming intertwined and involved in the search, and then evolves into a murder mystery, with the same characters becoming suspects.
The series lives or dies on whether it can hold people’s attention. Its become the norm to leave enough clues for the audience to be able to work out who the killer is, or at least have educated guesses and create their own theories. Mayday does this very successfully for the most part. Each episode moves the story along well enough and each character find themselves mixing, linked through small events or consequential information which makes up a much bigger picture.
There are plenty of red herrings or developing stories that are loosely linked with Hattie’s disappearance but ultimately create a separate thread to either keep interest from waning or lead the audience down an irrelevant path. When the killer is finally revealed, you never feel like it was a complete rug-pull and that you couldn’t have worked it out for yourself. Unfortunately, it’s the circumstances around the killer being revealed and their motives which creates the shows weakness.
The series was advertised as a supernatural mystery. This was hopefully going to be the unique selling point of the series, distinguishing it from the other mystery series that are around at the same time. Unfortunately, it never truly commits to the supernatural element. Clues are left and some ghostly elements hinted at but it is never addressed head-on, in full terms and you are left wondering whether we are to believe something supernatural has happened or not.
It would be fine to leave it this ambiguous if it was done well but instead we get a loose attempt at introducing the ghosts, psychic links and clues from beyond the grave. It felt like it had been added at the last-minute to make the series different from its competition. The series should have integrated this element completely or done away with it in its entirety. It’s a small issue but it played into the way the revelation was handled and helped explain away a piece of damning evidence.
It’s a shame because the rest of Mayday is very enjoyable. The mystery itself is handled very well but above all, the cast is fantastic. There are too many to mention but it reads like a “best of British tv talent” from emerging stars like Leila Mimmack, to established actors such as Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen. There is no doubt you will have seen most of the cast in another British show that you’ve enjoyed, which adds weight to the quality of the series.
Overall, Mayday is well worth a look if it is ever repeated on the BBC. It can stand alongside the many other murder mystery mini-series that are around at the moment, with an involving story, well constructed mystery and above all, a fantastic cast. It’s just a shame that it is let down slightly by its lazy use of a supernatural element that isn’t properly explained or explored.
Best Episode – Episode 5; It’s difficult to choose one episode when the whole series is so interlinked but the revelation of what happened to Hattie makes watching the series worthwhile.
Best performance – Leila Mimmack as Caitlin/Hattie
Should there be another season? – No, this case was wrapped up really well and really clearly. It works best as a mini-series
Season Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)