NEW YORK (CNS) — Ancient family history collides with contemporary tragedy in the overwrought and dreary limited series “Blood.” Having premiered on Virgin Media in October, the six-hour crime melodrama is currently streaming on Acorn.
Sophie Petzal created and wrote “Blood,” which opens with the intense and agitated Cat Hogan (Carolina Main) driving at night back to her parents’ home in the small, rural, fictional town of West Meath, Ireland. The youngest of Jim (Adrian Dunbar) and Mary (Ingrid Craigie) Hogan’s three adult children, twentysomething Cat has returned from Dublin after learning of Mary’s death earlier in the day.
Feeling nauseous, Cat pulls over to the roadside and throws up — just as police officer Dez Breen (Sean Duggan) happens upon her. He believes Cat may have been drinking and orders a breathalyzer, which she passes. Realizing Cat is the daughter of the town’s well-respected doctor, the Garda officer feels better letting one of West Meath’s own go free.
Being a Hogan may stand Cat in good stead with the townsfolk, but among her family she’s considered a misfit. Thus, unlike Cat, both her sister, Fiona (Grainne Keenan), and brother, Michael (Diarmuid Noyes), readily accept Jim’s version of what happened to Mary; her demise was the result of a tragic accident.
As a young girl, however, Cat (Mae Higgins) witnessed an incident involving her best friend Barry’s (Cillian O’Gairbhi) father that left her convinced that Jim was — and is — capable of murder. Unable to get her siblings to accept such a possibility, Cat enlists Dez’s help to make the case.
To dissuade Cat, Jim encourages old family friend Frank (Mark O’Regan) to scare her away. She puts the lecher in his place, but when her reaction goes too far, Jim convinces his strong-willed daughter to back off for a time. A tragedy related to Barry, though, soon persuades Cat to resume her quest.
Besides its focus on a potential murder, “Blood” also graphically depicts a suicide and other violence — as well as illicit drug use. Additionally, characters employ much coarse language, some of it dramatically unnecessary.
But it’s the sexual content — which involves not only adultery and one character’s homosexuality but a scene explicitly portraying masturbation — that pushes the program beyond the bounds of common decency.
The script also deals with euthanasia in a manner out of keeping with Catholic morality. The misguided notion of “death with dignity” is promoted by references in the dialogue to helping people reach “a place of peace” and achieve their view of a “happy” death.
This insidious view, of course, directly contradicts the teaching of the church, which urges believers to manifest true compassion toward the dying by alleviating their suffering and living in solidarity with them. As a result, if there is any appropriate audience for “Blood,” it consists exclusively of adults well-grounded in their faith and possessing a strong tolerance for seamy material.
Such viewers will find their perspectives on the story altered and broadened by the show’s surprise ending. Yet, by the time this intriguing wrap-up arrives, they may long since have wearied of the anger and constant recrimination that mark the Hogans’ fractious, dysfunctional dynamics.
Like too many contemporary TV productions, “Blood” saturates itself in human misery. It then compounds this mistake by implicitly supporting a misguided solution to the very wretchedness in which it wallows.
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Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.