“Nobody is going to catch us”

The second episode of ‘The Secret’, ITV’s drama about the killer Colin Howell was always going to be a difficult watch.

But tonight’s episode was at times almost unbearable.

Having discussed the possibility of murdering their respective spouses in Episode One, tonight’s episode saw James Nesbitt’s Colin Howell and Genevieve O’Reilly’s Hazel Buchanan go about their horrific deed.

Given that earlier this week, Howell’s daughter Lauren Bradford expressed her family’s distress at the murders being dramatised I will not rehearse again the details of how the murders were portrayed in tonight’s episode.

As a critic, however, I must judge this on its merits as a drama and the fact is that Episode Two of ‘The Secret’ was one of the most disturbing depictions of murder ever seen on British TV.

In adapting Deric Henderson’s book, screenwriter Stuart Urban and director Nick Murphy did not hold back in coveying every disturbing detail of what happened.

Indeed, it was so well directed, edited, acted and written that the viewer was left with the same sense of dread that anyone who saw John McNaughten’s 1996 movie ‘Henry, Portrait of A Serial Killer’ had.

For 43 minutes, dialogue was pretty sparse as Urban and Murphy extracted every ounce of horror.

They were aided and abetted by Nesbitt and O’Reilly’s extremely brave acting.

A scene where Howell cradled his child in his arms, as he phoned Hazel Buchanan to tell her that he had made Glen Wallace’s Trevor Buchanan and Laura Pyper’s Lesley Howell’s deaths look like suicide, was really disturbing.

Parallel scenes where Jason Watkins’ Pastor Hansford and the church elders broke news of the discovery of the bodies to Howell while Ali White’s Hilary McAuley did the same at Hazel’s house only emphasised the callousness of the two lovers.

Howell’s offer to give Lesley’s brother the tape she was listening to on her Walkman when she died was chilling.

As in the first episode, Murphy and Urban cleverly showed Howell using evangelical language to justify their evil deeds.

“Nobody is going to catch us,” he assured Hazel as they hatched their plan.

“It is God’s wish that we will be together.”

It is this potent mix of evil cloaked in Christianity that jolts the viewer.

‘The Secret’ so far is as gripping and cinematic as any Scandi-noir.

The question is will audiences outside Northern Ireland be able to stomach this darkest of true crime dramas?

(Dan McGinn is the resident film critic on Belfast 89FM’s ‘Saturday Bites’ programme and has a film and TV blog, They’ll Love It In Pomona – http://loveitinpomona.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1)