BritBox’s Hope Street Is a Charming Procedural Set in Northern Ireland
Not much happens in the sleepy Northern Ireland seaside town of Port Devine, and that’s how the residents like it. The local police force consists of three people, and their duties mostly involve resolving minor local disputes. So it’s a pretty big disruption when that force expands to four people, with the arrival of a big-city detective from England. BritBox original series Hope Street stars Amara Karan as that big-city detective, DC Leila Hussein, who comes to Port Devine under slightly mysterious circumstances and shakes up the cozy police department with her investigative prowess.
Leila doesn’t shake things up too much, though, and “cozy” is the right word for Hope Street, a low-key, low-stakes procedural that smooths out most of the edginess of its setting and concept. Leila is laying low after working undercover exposing arms dealers back in Nottingham, and Hope Street’s 10-episode first season follows her ongoing storyline along with episodic cases. But while Leila’s life may theoretically be in peril from the criminals she helped apprehend, there’s very little sense of danger to anything on Hope Street.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of drama, though. Port Devine is the kind of small town where everyone is in everyone else’s business, and the people that Leila questions or arrests always seem to be somebody’s relative or childhood friend. Hope Street is more soapy than gritty, presenting love triangles and will-they-or-won’t-they dynamics from the start. Leila’s boss, Inspector Finn O’Hare (Ciarán McMenamin), is the only one who knows why she’s really in town, and that creates a bond between them that could become intimate.
Meanwhile, the two other officers in the department have their own complicated feelings about Leila. Young PC Callum McCarthy (Niall Wright) has a bit of a crush on her, while Sgt. Marlene Pettigrew (Kerri Quinn) is instantly suspicious of her cover story. This isn’t the kind of show about secrets tearing people apart, though, and the characters’ journey is toward acceptance and camaraderie rather than betrayal or extortion. Leila is charmed by Port Devine, and she in turn charms everyone in town, from Finn’s mother (who owns the bed and breakfast where Leila stays) to Marlene’s stepfather (who’s the local taxi driver, pastor, and retired detective).
There are occasional references to the “bad old days” of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and Leila is clearly one of the only people of color in the entire town. But creators Paul Marquess and Susanne Farrell aren’t focused on social commentary, although the show’s upbeat tone could also be regarded as its own kind of political statement. In Port Devine, people get along despite their differences, without pretending that those differences don’t exist. The police treat cases involving counterfeit vodka and missing therapy sheep with as much diligence and respect as they would treat murders or kidnappings.
Hope Street is full of sweeping shots of the gorgeous Northern Ireland coast, and most of the show takes place in the bright light of day. Bad things sometimes happen in Port Devine, but this isn’t the kind of town that hides a seedy underbelly beneath its sunny exterior. It’s the perfect place for Leila Hussein to start fresh, and for mystery fans looking for something lighthearted but thoughtful, it might be the perfect place for a visit.
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Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He’s the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and the former TV comedies guide for About.com. He has written about movies, TV, and pop culture for Syfy Wire, Polygon, CBR, Inverse, Crooked Marquee, and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.