‘The Pembrokeshire Murders’ Summary & Analysis – New Age Investigation Of An Old Case


The Pembrokeshire Murders explores an investigation of an unsolved case that spotlights a serial killer at its core. With the advancement of Forensic DNA analysis, a newly promoted Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins decides to pursue justice for a series of unsolved murders in the coastal region of Pembrokeshire, Wales.  The suspect, John William Cooper was suspected of burglary and not murders due to the lack of any substantial evidence. Steve decides to keep John Cooper behind bars because his presence in society will threaten humanity again.

Directed by Marc Evans, The Pembrokeshire Murders wraps up in three episodes of 50 minutes each. This series created and distributed by ITV Studios is based on the book “The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching the Bullseye Killer” by Steve Wilkins. Steve’s character has been played by Luke Evans in the series, who brings charm and depth to the character. His always cool persona works best for his portrayal of the character.

‘The Pembrokeshire Murders’ Summary

The Pembrokeshire Murders begins in 2006 with Steve Wilkins (Luke Evans) who has been newly promoted as the Detective Superintendent. As soon as he gets into power, he opens an unsolved case linked to two murders, teenage rape cases and a string of burglaries that happened in the year 1980s near the coastal region of Pembrokeshire, Wales. At the time of the original investigation, the machinery didn’t have enough means and equipment to carry out extensive DNA forensics but with the advancement in the field, Steve is sure to catch the criminal this time and dig up some important information from the grave.

“Cold cases are 99% forensics. Developments in DNA analysis have revolutionized cold case reviews.”

Steve Wilkins

The evidence leads him to a man, John William Cooper who is currently in prison for petty burglaries and is soon going to come out on parole. Steve and his team of detectives and forensics try their best to find evidence against Cooper. Steve ardently believes that John Cooper is a serial killer and once he returns to the habitat, he will start killing people again.  The narrative further explores Steve’s struggle to keep Cooper behind the bars by any means possible.

Drama Eclipsed by Persona

The Pembrokeshire Murders follows a narrative with a poignant antagonist at its center. However, the stature of the antagonist is so strong that it overshadows everything else. Due to this, the drama or the thrill is soon interchanged with the feeling of fear and disgust. Even the writers didn’t try to solve this issue due to which the entertaining value of the drama drains to minimum levels. Now, this isn’t a critical statement. It is always the choice of the writer or the creator on how to portray a narrative. Usually when the story depicts real-life incidents and the loss of people, fictionalizing a lot of it might not be ethical on social grounds. It might hurt the sentiments of the people affected by the incidents. Making fiction out of real people is the hardest task as a writer, if he highlights too many facts sluggishly then the drama becomes a documentary narrative, but if he tries to over-fiction it or stylize it, it could have adverse sentimental effects.

The makers took a safe and the right approach, to keep the material as real as possible, however, I personally feel, by achieving the real authenticity of the non-fiction, they lost the grip of the fiction. There was so much room for styling but it would have required a courageous filmmaker with a vision, to do so. The character of John Cooper wasn’t explored thoroughly, the game show killer had so much potential as a character, and if the makers would have tried to reap that layer for their benefit, the series would have been working on a different tangent.

Enough said, The Pembrokeshire Murders still appeals to the viewers in the best possible way it can. However, it might not have much retainment value for the audience as it looked like a BBC Documentary for the most part. The information was delivered in a complex way, which instead of creating curiosity, created confusion. The character of neither Steve Wilkins nor John Cooper was explored extensively. A short of multi-layered character and gripping drama makes the series a dull and monotonous affair. However, the third and last episode is really threatening and it sure rings some bell. Only if the other two episodes could have made the same impact.

The Pembrokeshire Murders is streaming on ITV.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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