Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Rebecca Nicholson

Clean Sweep review – silly crime fun with the most incredible beard I’ve ever seen

Big hair and eyeliner … who is the mystery man lurking around near Shelly Mohan (Charlene McKenna) in Clean Sweep?
Big hair and eyeliner … who is the mystery man lurking around near Shelly Mohan (Charlene McKenna) in Clean Sweep? Photograph: RTE One

Clean Sweep is a serviceable, perfectly watchable Irish thriller, if you can get past its many credulity-stretching twists and its frequent excursions into the just plain silly. Peaky Blinders’ Charlene McKenna is Shelly Mohan, a busy mother of three whom we first meet as she is frantically scrubbing something red and sticky out of her clothing. As the whole series is bathed in that grey-blue nordic noir light, we can safely assume that she hasn’t just dropped spaghetti bolognese down her front.

It then steps back in time by a few hours to tell us how Shelly got to the Lady Macbeth stage of her day. She is having trouble sleeping, the family is “a little over-extended financially”, and her husband Jason (Barry Ward), who happens to be a Garda, is a womaniser who is never at home. The three kids have difficulties of their own: the youngest, Niall, has cystic fibrosis; middle child Caitlin is going through puberty; and her eldest, Derek, is a weed-smoking bad boy who lies and tries to steal money out of his mother’s handbag.

To add to this soup of drama, Shelly is on the committee for Niall’s end-of-year leavers’ party, which means navigating the world of those highly strung TV character parents who run school events as if they are in charge of a small nation. Luckily, Shelly is distracted by a smooth stay-at-home dad/writer called Matt, who tells her that he writes “mysteries, fem-centric” and a blog about being an American in Ireland, in which he declares himself a “dilf”.

Matt is such a prat that it hints at Clean Sweep going in a more self-aware direction, but his fem-centric mystery-writing does seem to be the limit of the series’ humour. Unless you count the facial hair of the mysterious man following Shelly around, and I choose to count it. When he finally catches up with her as she shops for food, this shadowy figure reveals the most spectacularly hirsute disguise I have ever seen on television. This is competition-level fake facial hair, award-worthy beardery, and I was only sad that the character ditched it so quickly to reveal his wan face beneath.

Needless to say, this isn’t a case of mistaken identity, and the life Shelly Mohan has been leading for the last 20 years is not the one she started out with. The appearance of the bearded man, Charlie, kickstarts a chain of events that make the school planning committee look like a yoga class. Without giving too much away, Shelly turns out to be rather good at making a mess and cleaning it up, as she walks away from a crime scene with a level of efficiency, quick-thinking and sudden-onset American accent that makes it seems as if she’s done this sort of thing before.

When her husband is assigned to investigate what nobody but Shelly knows she has done – I know it’s a small country, but what are the odds? – this turns out to have both pros and cons. The cons are obvious, in that Jason doesn’t have to look far for the culprit, but Shelly prefers to look on the bright side, and sees it as giving her easy access to evidence and the progress the Gardai are making with the case.

The beard should have been the first warning sign, but the husband inadvertently looking for his own wife is where this all starts to get really silly. I know the reputation of law enforcement has taken a few knocks recently, but the level of carelessness when it comes to keeping evidence secure is ridiculous. Even a sassy pathologist who turns up mostly to quip his way around a crime scene – “Quit your shite-talking and get away from my corpse” – knows that standards are not what they should be. Shelly sneaks around dressed as a member of Devo in the hope that nobody will recognise her, and at one point, wears a baseball cap and blue surgical gloves out in broad daylight, which is less a bold sartorial decision, and more a flashing sign above her head telling everyone around her that she has done a bad, bad thing.

The first episode is a little ropey, and it doesn’t chug along at speed, but once it establishes the secrets that need to be kept and the lengths Shelly will go to in order to keep them, it starts to settle into its skin. There is little here that reinvents the wheel, particularly in the crowded field of functional TV thrillers, but somehow, I enjoyed it enough to stick with it: beards, gloves, dilfs and all.

• Clean Sweep is on BBC4/iPlayer in the UK and SBS On Demand in Australia.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.