By Gen Terblanche8 September 2023
Marsha Thomason’s hottest case in The Bay S4
If “family liaison officer” sounds like a copout instead of a cop job, try “liaising” with a family whose mom has just been burned to ashes, along with everything they owned. There’s no bullet proof vest for that kind of emotional shrapnel. Morecambe Police’s family liaison officer DS Jenn Townsend (Marsha Thomason) is called out to an especially tragic scene in The Bay Season 4. The four Metcalf children are sobbing in front of their burned-down house. Their mom, Beth (Victoria Elliot), is dead, their home is in ashes, and dad Dean (Joe Armstrong) is clearly overwhelmed. Meanwhile, the Morecambe Police could be facing their own losses. An assessor is on the way from Divisional HQ with a red pen and a sharp knife for those cutbacks. Toss an ex-wife on this burning pile and things really start to sizzle!
Watch the trailer for The Bay Season 4
Walking through fire
The Bay has earned its place in fans’ crime drama lineup by prioritising empathy over evidence collection. As each season centres on a single case, there’s always a human story to tell. And it’s never as simple as “The scum husband did it”.
Executive producer Catherine Oldfield reveals, “This series watches the Metcalfs as they rebuild their own definition of what family is and we see a man come to terms with the emotional life of his family that he may have been a bit distant from. We’d done a number of stories about grieving women so we wanted to tell a story of male grief; about a man who loses his wife … You can expect to see a really nuanced and emotional look at how certain men deal with grief and emotion, and a truthful look at what a tragedy can do to a family.”
Series writer and co-creator Daragh Carville adds, “We did a lot of research on male grief. We spoke to two men who had lost their wives in sudden and tragic circumstances. We talked to them about the impact on them personally, how they dealt with it, and particularly how they related to their kids and to the community around them.”
Think of the children
While Dean is trying to get back on his feet, Jenn and her colleague Karen (Erin Shanagher) will be working closely with his children. Actress Marsha Thomasson explains, “There are four children in the family. Two of them are teenagers, but two of them are still quite young, so Jenn has to tread carefully. The dad hasn’t really been very hands-on with them ever, so this is the first time he’s ever had to step up and take care of them on his own whilst dealing with this grief, whilst he is trying to keep his business afloat and everything that comes with that.”
Jenn takes charge of the two teens, and Karen focuses on the younger ones, particularly Amy (Ella Smith), the youngest, who has Down Syndrome. “It is just devastating to watch her processing the grief and trying to understand what’s happened to her mum. They just break your heart. It’s just as well I don’t have too much work as an actor with them, honestly, because you just watch them perform and it breaks you. I’d never get through a scene,” says Marsha.
The other mother
Being confronted with families on their worst days is bound to make Jenn step back to look at her own life. By the end of Season 3, Jenn, her partner Chris (Barry Sloane), and their blended family of three teenagers had ironed out most of their serious issues. It’s been a year since then, and the family has really grown together. But Maddie (Emme Haynes), the ray of sunshine, is being bullied, Conor (David Carpenter) has a boyfriend, and shhh, so does Erin (Georgia Scholes). Then Erin’s mom, Chris’s ex-wife, Jacqui Fischer (Claire Goose), starts meddling.
“Chris’s ex-wife appears out of nowhere, and doesn’t appear to be keen on staying away, which starts to drive Jenn bonkers,” reveals Marsha. “Jenn and Chris are in a really good place but it feels like their relationship is being intruded upon and it starts to become an issue.”
And if Jenn struggles to leave home life out of the office this season, she won’t be alone. Newly divorced DS Tony Manning (Daniel Ryan) has a romance on the bubble, and Karen starts doubting her friendship with Jenn. “The relationship between Jenn and Manning is a little tricky this year. Manning has got some personal stuff going on that Jenn stumbles upon quite by accident so it gets a bit messy,” says Marsha. “Karen is going through some stuff in her personal life, which is making her a little more sensitive at work, and she thinks that Jenn is keeping things from her when actually Jenn is just doing the best she can.”
Morecambe’s busybodies can only gossip and speculate about what the cops and the Metcalfs are up to, and what’s up with that Walsh kid, Lewis (Arthur Kay). But if you really want to be up in everyone’s business in this sleepy seaside town… Watch The Bay S1-4 now »
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