TV Review: “Dublin Murders” on Starz Is a Confusing, Jerky Mess

Killian Scott and Sarah Greene in "Dublin Murders."

Based on the first two books of Tana French’s “Dublin Murder Squad” series, “Dublin Murders” takes place in 2006 Dublin as it follows two mysterious cases linked to the dark secrets of partners Detective Cassie Maddox (Sarah Greene) and Rob Reilly (Killian Scott).

“Dublin Murders” makes the terrible choice of combining two books that essentially had nothing to do with one another. Stretched over an eight-episode season, this dual-story format causes the driving plot to get completely lost as it spends too much time on the setup of situations that have no payoff.

The story from the first book by Tana France, “In the Woods,” explores the secrets of Rob Reilly’s past from an incident in 1985 when he and two friends went into the Knocknaree Woods and Rob was the only one who came out alive. Now, 21 years later, another child is found dead in the same Knocknaree Woods Rob got lost in so many years ago. Unable to remember what happened to himself or his friends, Rob spends the season torturing himself as he struggles to come to terms with the childhood trauma and how it relates to the murder he tries to solve today.

The series begins with a non-linear choice. First is a preview of the final episode, then jumps back four months to tell the tale. There are many flashbacks throughout the episodes, mostly used to develop Cassie Maddox’s character.

The story of the second book, “Likeness,” doesn’t begin until three episodes in. After losing her parents at a young age to a car crash, Cassie moves in with her aunt and begins to see an imaginary twin she calls “Lexie.” Maddox uses that identity when she goes undercover at the beginning of her detective career. Now, in 2006, a doppelgänger of Cassie named Lexie is found dead, prompting Cassie to go undercover as the deceased to solve her murder.

Maddox and Reilly have plenty of other things to focus on other than their own pasts. With a dead 13-year-old girl named Katy found in the Knocknaree woods where Reilly disappeared, the question of whether it’s the same killer is on everyone’s lips. This is bad news for Reilly as he is desperate to keep his real identity hidden from his peers.

Killian Scott, Sarah Greene, and Sheeran Martin in “Dublin Murders”

Hiding in plain sight, Reilly finds himself on a case linked to the one that still haunts him today. After surviving the woods, his parents sent him to boarding school in England to get away from the press and provide stability after such a horrific event. Rob Reilly returns to Ireland years later with an English accent and a different name, working as a detective for the same department that once tried to solve his case.

The show was not without some stellar performances. The most notable from this ensemble cast is Conlin Hill as the murder department Superintendent O’Kelley. A gruff boss who’s a teddy bear underneath, Hill approached this character delicately as he straddles the line between mean and sweet. Killian Scott also delivers an impactful performance as the trauma-inflicted detective. A lot of baggage came with this character and Scott portrays this tortured soul as the layered man that Tana France created.

While Sarah Greene as Detective Maddox provides a singular note to her role, the chemistry between best friends Scott and Maddox is spot on. We don’t learn how or why these two people are inseparable or learn why they know secrets about each other. Regardless, their friendship is palpable, sweet and very relatable.

Leah McNamara, Kathy Monahan, Amy Macken and Peter McDonald in “Dublin Murders.”

The one deliverance we receive is the answer to who killed 13-year-old Katy. A whodunnit plot that is repeatedly dropped and picked up, this driving story was often rudely forgotten. Several episodes go by without any attention to this murder and it isn’t until episode seven that we receive an update. We finally receive a satisfying ending at the last second.

After so much setup and so many hours of focus on Maddox and Reilly, one would think there would be some satisfying answers waiting for us at the end. Think again. The show ends with absolutely zero answers given to these characters’ journeys and closes with a finality that provides no hope for answers if there is a second season. An uneven, confusing and jarring ride, “Dublin Murders” delivers nothing but empty promises.

“Dublin Murders” premieres on STARZ on Sunday, November 10. All eight episodes were screened for review.

GRADE: (★)

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