Acorn TV's newest original series Harry Wild is an Irish mystery set in Dublin that is both fast-moving and fun. Retiree Harry Wild and her teenage sidekick Fergus Reid make a great crime-solving team, and star Jane Seymour’s portrayal of a strong, aging woman who is not going gentle into the dark night of retirement is thrilling. Two new episodes will arrive on the streaming service each Monday, through April 25.
Episode 1: When Harry Met Fergus
Harry—short for Harriet—Wild (Jane Seymour) drinks too much, is sarcastic and mouthy, has few social filters, and is given to inappropriately-timed grammatical corrections in conversations. You either love her or can’t wait to get away from her. She’s a literature professor at Trinity College, Dublin, and, as the series begins, is giving her final lecture before retirement. Her students, upon whom she rains insults, gaze at her adoringly. The class is followed by a farewell booze-up with her colleagues, and Harry rewards herself by taking a new professor home.
But the next day, reality dawns. She’s hungover, which doesn’t help. What on earth is she supposed to do with her life now? Garden, clear out the attic, write a novel, drink? She’s already bored.
Across town, there’s a very nasty scene. A body lies on a carpet surrounded by candles in a dark room. We don’t know whether he’s dead or alive. In the background, another man tends to a meticulously detailed model of the same scenario. He stands, approaches with a weapon, and a heavy blow indicates that the prone figure is now almost certainly dead.
At a secondary school in Harry’s neighborhood, a burned-out teacher attempts to interest his class in Wuthering Heights. But class troublemaker, smart, mouthy Fergus Reid (Rohan Nedd) shows what a hopeless task the teacher has.
Harry decides to go shopping, since hers is the sort of house with plenty of alcohol but little food, and is mugged by Fergus. Her son Charlie (Kevin Ryan), an officer of the Garda, learns his mother has been injured and invites her to recuperate with his family. Since wife Orla (Amy Huberman) would rather rip off her own head than host Harry, it’s not clear how this decision was made, but it's obvious that no one is happy about it. Harry commits several grandmotherly gaffes: she smokes in the house, uses her teenage granddaughter Lola’s childhood pottery effort as an ashtray, and then asks Lola if she can acquire some marijuana. She needs it to relax, she tells the family, particularly since she’s left her vibrator at home. Her son almost chokes at this bit of information.
Snooping around the house at night, Harry finds Charlie’s case files. The victim has been identified as Leonard Walsh, a homeless man who served time for child abuse. Literature, Harry believes, tells us why, and she recognizes clues in the death scene as being inspired by a Shakespearian-era revenge tragedy, Calabras, in which an artist goes on a killing spree followed by the kidnap of an actress.
Harry would never admit it to her family, but she is shaken by the attack, and when she returns home decides that handy household implements—knives, a rolling pin—are inadequate as protection. She buys a taser from a shady character in her local pub. The pub TV is airing news about the search for a missing young woman, Kayleigh Connor (Tara Egan-Langley). Recalling the plot of the obscure Elizabethan play, she wonders if possibly the two cases, a murder followed by kidnapping, could be linked.
She interrupts a social evening Charlie and Orla are hosting, attended by his boss Glen Talbot (Paul Tylak) and other Garda bigwigs. Charlie pushes her out of the house and refuses to listen to her theories. Harry visits the father of the missing woman, masquerading as the Commissioner of the Guard, and learns that Kayleigh had aspirations to become an actor. She was briefly a member of a failed amateur dramatics group that fell apart financially. Visiting the group’s deserted theater, Harry learns that the stage manager committed suicide but that the set designer Colin Fountain (Jim Roche) is still around. And bingo, they were planning to stage Calabras.
Charlie meanwhile is furious with his mother and tells her to "do old lady stuff” and keep out of his cases. Besides, his team have arrested a suspect, who, it turns out, is innocent, but he doesn’t tell Harry that.
Harry turns her attention to Fergus, her mugger who she notices on the street and stalks him. He is surprisingly sweet to his little sister and then visits the cemetery, carrying flowers. Fergus is mourning his grandmother and not expecting to be tasered, or receive a lecture. Harry is intrigued by him––he doesn’t seem like a criminal, and she wants her wallet back.
Fergus shows up at her house with the wallet and Harry hires him to help her solve the case, to pay her back for the missing cash. She takes him to Colin Fountain’s house to keep watch while she searches for Kayleigh, whom she’s convinced is inside. The house is temporarily empty and unlocked, and Harry finds Kayleigh chained to a bed upstairs. But Colin (who had left a few minutes before), returns, chloroforms Harry, and chains her up too. Colin can’t figure out Harry––she’s too old to be in the Garda, too English. As villains tend to do, he admits he killed the stage manager and made it look like suicide, as well as Leonard Walsh; there may have been a spot of cannibalism, too. But then he gets serious and approaches her with an electric drill.
Just in time, Fergus comes to the rescue with Harry's taser. Fergus and Harry leave the scene as Charlie and his team take over, and she tells him she’s going to make a man of him––that is, she’s going to tutor him. It’s what she does. How will this relationship work out?
Episode 2: Samurai Plague Doctors Kill for Kicks
“It’s only a game,” announces a black-clad villain wearing a plague doctor’s mask and a body cam, before tipping his prey, a man in a pig mask, over the parapet of a parking garage. Squid Game comes to Dublin.
Harry and Fergus have become local celebrities, and the murdered man’s widow approaches asking for help. She doesn’t believe his death was a suicide, and she’s accumulated evidence––her late husband’s body cam, and newspaper clippings announcing cryptic games. But Harry isn’t interested in any more cases. Kayleigh, she tells Fergus, was a one-off. She’s his tutor, not one half of a dynamic duo.
Fergus, however, is intrigued and researches back into the newspaper archives. The dates of the games, over a period of several years, coincide with deaths that were ruled as accidental or suicides, and the advertisements ask for specific professions––baker, gardener, dentist––followed by types of animals. Fergus breaks this to Harry the next morning, fixes her the Reid family hangover cure, and tempts her into an investigation of what is very possibly a snuff game.
Charlie, meanwhile is instructed by his boss, Glen Talbot, to “keep your mother on a tight leash.” Glen is married to the District Commissioner, who is quite clear that both men’s jobs are in jeopardy. But Harry can’t keep away from her son’s family. She pays what seems to be an unnecessary visit to her son’s house, takes over Orla’s cooking, and when Charlie comes home, advises her to take Harry to the bedroom to “sort him out.” Stress, she tells them, is not good for a man of his age. Naturally she’s shown the door.
Following a trip to the local newspaper office, where Harry charms and bribes a luckless employee, she and Fergus pay a visit to the man who placed the ads. He looks like an errand boy, she thinks, and he’s uncooperative to the point of running away. Fergus pops out of an alley and steals his phone, and finds that he was talking to a Gary Wheelan.
When Fergus gets back home, he finds his dad playing cards with some local gangsters. Fergus is not at all happy about it, particularly since one of them, Happy (Liam Carney) is a loan shark, but takes his father (Shane Lynch) aside and asks him if he knows anything about Wheelan. He knows of him––he’s nasty and dangerous––but he does know his accountant Eric, a keen pigeon breeder who owns a used furniture store.
Posing as a customer Harry initiates a long, rambling conversation about ottomans, while Fergus enters the back door of the shop. He finds a laptop and new, packaged body cams, narrowly escaping discovery. After Harry and Fergus meet up, she goes back into the store, dropping her former persona, and tells Eric she’s giving him a chance of survival. “South America is very nice at this time of year.” Even when he pulls a knife on her, she continues her bluff, and extracts the laptop’s password from him (she and Fergus had already tried his favorite pigeon’s name).
The laptop reveals the details of the snuff game, which is live-streamed on the dark web, but not who the chief villain and/or the killer is. This time Harry isn’t messing around. She takes the evidence to Charlie, and while at the station, turns her charm onto his boss Ray. Charlie and his team are able to arrest Wheelan in the act of handing out animal masks to three participants, who, if they evade 24 hours of pursuit, stand the chance of winning 100,000 euros. But the arrest is watched by someone wearing a plague doctor mask.
Charlie calls Harry to tell her that a new ad has been placed and Wheelan is not cooperating. He suspects a bent copper is part of the conspiracy, and warns Harry that she’s not safe. Harry’s next call is from an alleged journalist who wants to interview her and suggests a nearby cafe; to her horror, she realizes he knows her location, and calls Fergus in a panic. He advises her to change her phone settings to airport mode, and she takes refuge at his home. Fergus introduces her to his father as a social worker, and Harry also meets his little sister Libby. Libby reveals that Harry is something of a hero to her brother.
Fergus opens up about his family. His mother left, and his grandmother had moved in, but died after a few years. Harry asks him why he mugged her. He tells her that his father was in debt to Happy the loan shark. When Happy visited to collect, his dad found he was three euros short, and Happy threatened to break Libby’s arm if he didn’t come up with the money. Fergus ran out in a panic, and Harry was the first person he came across. His dad does his best, Fergus says, but as Harry comments, his best isn’t very good.
Meanwhile, Harry is in danger and doesn’t want to implicate Fergus’s family. After writing Fergus a note, she returns to her home turf, the university, where she activates her phone and sets up video cams in a part of the building that is being redecorated. Not one, but three plague doctors arrive, armed with antique samurai swords which they have saved for this special occasion. There’s a lot of posturing about blood and cutting, but Harry outwits them, leading them on a chase in which she locks one in a room, trips another up on the staircase, and finally has a confrontation with #3, armed only with her trusty taser and a can of industrial adhesive.
From his syntax and his accent, Harry identifies him as a man of the elite who’s attended the prestigious Balliol College of Oxford University. But who is he? We’re none the wiser when he takes off the mask. And if he’s a customer who’s paying for the privilege of a kill, doesn’t this suggest that the mastermind of the games has yet to be captured And that’s the real weakness of this episode, that there is no surprise reveal, although the final scenes, with chases up and down stairs, the murderer getting stuck in solvent, and Fergus rushing to the rescue and whining about how sharp the swords are, are entertaining enough.
Did you feel disappointed by these episodes? What do you think of Harry Wild so far?