TV review: Don't watch Death and Nightingales if you are looking for fun

Liam Ward (Jamies Dornan), Beth Winters (Ann Skelly) and Billy Winters (Matthew Rhys) star in Death and Nightingales. (C) Night Flight Pictures Ltd 2018 - Photographer: Helen Sloan
Billy Foley

Death and Nightingales, BBC 2, Wednesday at 9pm

It's based on a novel by Eugene McCabe and stars our own Jamie Dornan, so what's not to like?

Death and Nightingales is set in Fermanagh in 1885. A Victorian Ireland where sectarianism, sexual repression and abuse stir a rebellious pot.

Our heroes are Beth Winters (Ann Skelly), the step-daughter of a Protestant quarry owner who married a Catholic woman only to find she was already pregnant by another man, and Liam Ward (Jamie Dornan) the heartthrob, small farmer, revolutionary.

They are not meant to be together, but where would costume drama be without unacceptable desire?

It's meaty stuff this, just don't expect to have any fun. The production is dark, with moody Irish music, shadowy sets and lots of silence.

All I could think about was Churchill's dictum.


Hurt Locker Hero, BBC 4, Monday at 10pm

If you watch one programme this weekend make it Hurt Locker Hero on the iPlayer.

It's the incredible, heart stopping story of Colonel Fakhir Berwari of the Kurdish Peshmerga.

A self-made bomb disposal expert who began the deadly trade because he tired of how long the US army bomb disposal teams took to get to a situation, and started dealing with mines and booby-trap bombs himself.

This was in Mosul after the US invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Labelled “crazy Fakhir” by the Americans, the father of eight from Duhok, 40 kms north of Mosul, removed thousands of mines between 2003 and 2008 when he was blown up by a bomb for the second time.

The first attack on him was filmed. It occurred when Fakhir and his men found a group of teenagers in a truck with a heavy machine gun, assault rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Fakhir closed the district and gathered the residents in the street to lecture them on allowing their children to be armed.

Then we heard the shout of “Allahu Akbar” before the screen when blank.

Fakhir was seriously injured, with shrapnel in his leg and shoulder, but recovered and went back to work.

In 2008 he was more seriously injured. We saw Fakhir, from a camera phone held by one of his colleagues in the truck, search through rubble in a desolate area.

We see him look up and shout out to a man off-screen: “Who are you? What are you doing?” Again there is an almighty explosion and the screen goes blank. Then we see what appears to be Fakhir's crumpled mass on the ground.

He is rushed to Mosul hospital and his life is saved, but he has lost a leg and most of his hearing.

As Fakhir returns home to recover, a new US President, Barack Obama, announces the end of the US campaign in Iraq and in the vacuum, Islamic State take control of Mosul.

With a basic prosthetic limb, Fakhir convinces the Peshmerga to let him rejoin and he heads south to battle IS in 2014. As the coalition forces retake towns, they are faced with booby-trap bombs left everywhere.

We see Fakhir take out tonnes of explosives wired to front doors, fridges, wardrobes and couches.

But one house, after he is convinced by the owner to help clear it, proves fatal. With two colleagues he finds two mobile phone controlled bombs and knows that a third is located somewhere.

As they search the phone rings and the house explodes killing all three.

It is a study of war, ego and raises questions about the nature of the filming, but above all you must salute the difference made by one man's bravery.

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