A retired literature professor stumbles upon her police officer son’s case notes, notices a connection to an obscure Elizabethan play, and—despite her son’s insistence that she stay out of it—manages to solve a murder investigation. Harriet “Harry” Wild has a knack for detective work, it turns out, as well as a willingness to stick her nose where it doesn’t belong and all the time (and boredom) that comes with being retired in the prime of one’s life. Cue mystery, drama, laughter, and a series of strange cases to solve—the foundations of a good crime drama.
In a genre with no shortage of things to watch, Harry Wild stands out due to Jane Seymour’s (Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman) strong performance in the lead role. The premise of the show is one that could easily fall flat without the right star: overplay Harry’s nosiness and grammar-policing tics, and the main character becomes a nuisance; overplay her heroic drive and desire to help, and you get a character who feels superficial. Seymour effortlessly moves between those two extremes, charisma and charm balancing out—but not erasing—her annoying habits and disregard for boundaries both personal and professional. In the space of half a first season, Harry Wild is already one of the most compelling on-screen detectives I’ve seen in a while.
Across the first four episodes, Harry Wild canvasses an eclectic mix of cases: an actor re-creating the crimes from a little-known play from one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries; a killing game where people volunteer to be hunted in exchange for a chance at some prize money; a dead body mysteriously turns in in a river, with more to it than meets the eye; and Rodion Raskolnikov wannabe who fancies himself the Moriarty to Harry’s Sherlock Holmes (and completely missed the point of Crime and Punishment in the process). Though only two of these cases directly tie in a literature theme, they’re all ones where Harry’s background as a professor proves key to solving the mystery, and it’s enough to give the cases a unique and intriguing touch.
But as is often the case with these sorts of shows, the investigations are just the hook—it’s the characters, relationships, and how they all develop that creates depth and longevity. Harry is a fascinating character: quick-witted, full of obscure knowledge, free-spirited, sarcastically funny, and sometimes to brash for her own good. She has her cheeky side, too, and isn’t one to shy away from some casual talk about vibrators and weed (mostly to make her extremely uptight son uncomfortable). She even gets to enjoy a positive, healthy sex life—a refreshing depiction, when the screen industry still seems to think that, at least where women are concerned, that’s the exclusive domain of the under-40 demographic.
More than anything, Harry’s tenacious, but the early episodes still manage to show glimpses of a softer, more caring side, particularly when it comes to her unlikely sidekick, Fergus Reid (Rohan Nedd). Harry’s first encounter with Fergus is an attempted mugging, but as she learns about his troubled home life, she takes a sympathetic approach—and, seeing potential in him, decides to take him under her wing. Nedd’s energy and charm brings life to a character who’s young and naive, but also observant, smart, and hides a good heart beneath a facade of bravado and class clownery. The bond that grows between the two—both as partners in a newfound life of detective work and as two people who are both a little outside the common view of “right and proper”, albeit in very different ways—has plenty of opportunity for humour and lighter moments, but more than that, it’s genuine and heartfelt.
The opening half of Harry Wild’s eight-episode first season sets this Irish crime drama off to a strong start. The literature professor-turned-private investigator angle is a neat hook, setting the scene for a string of clever mysteries and just the right balance between personal drama and humorous antics. Sharp writing and a talented cast pull the pieces together, but it’s Jane Seymour’s electric performance in the titular role that really makes Harry Wild stand out.
Harry Wild will stream on Acorn TV from April 4, with two new episodes releasing each week.
Header photo credit: Bernard Walsh/Zoe Productions DAC/AcornTV