The North Water (TV series)

The North Water is a BBC Two five-part television series, based on Ian McGuire's novel of the same name. The series premiered on AMC+ on July 15, 2021.

The North Water
Created byAndrew Haigh
Based onThe North Water
by Ian McGuire
Written byAndrew Haigh
Directed byAndrew Haigh
ComposerTim Hecker
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes5
Executive producers
ProducerKate Ogborn
CinematographyNicolas Bolduc
EditorsJonathan Alberts, Matthew Hannam
Running time90 minutes
Production companies
Original networkBBC Two
Original releaseJuly 15 (2021-07-15) –
August 12, 2021 (2021-08-12)


"Farrell plays Henry Drax in the drama, a harpooner and brutish killer whose amorality has been shaped to fit the harshness of his world, who will set sail on a whaling expedition to the Arctic with Patrick Sumner, a disgraced ex-army surgeon who signs up as the ship’s doctor. Hoping to escape the horrors of his past, Sumner finds himself on an ill-fated journey with a murderous psychopath. In search of redemption, his story becomes a harsh struggle for survival in the Arctic wasteland."[1]



No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release date [4]
1"Behold The Man"Andrew HaighAndrew HaighJuly 15, 2021 (2021-07-15)
In Hull, 1859, Patrick Sumner, a cashiered Irish army surgeon boards the whaling ship Volunteer as its ship's surgeon under Captain Brownlee. He becomes acquainted with the rest of the crew, including the vulgar first mate Cavendish, whalers Jones, Otto and the especially thuggish and murderous harpooner Henry Drax. Working with the ship's financier and whaling company head Baxter in an insurance scam, Brownlee plans to sink the Volunteer in northern waters, with the crew being rescued by a nearby ship, the Hastings. Drax and Cavendish, who both are complicit in Baxter's scheme, discover Sumner is in possession of a valuable ring from the spoils of his time in India, and plan to kill him to sell the ring off. During a sealing expedition, which Sumner participates in, Drax leaves the surgeon behind across an ice floe; Sumner attempts to jump across but falls in the icy waters.
2"We Men Are Wretched Things"Andrew HaighAndrew HaighJuly 22, 2021 (2021-07-22)
Sumner manages to crawl out of the water, being saved by Jones and recovers from frostbite on the Volunteer, which proceeds to head further north. The whalers, led by Drax, catch and kill their first whale. After his recovery, Sumner is visited by cabin boy Joseph Hannah, who complains about a stomach ache; upon examination Sumner discovers Hannah has been sodomised. Reporting it to Brownlee, the captain becomes determined to find the culprit, but Hannah refuses to name his assailant out of fear. Suspicions fall on carpenter McKendrick when Drax gives an eyewitness account of Hannah and McKendrick being together; Sumner examines McKendrick and believes he is innocent. Hannah is later found dead in an oil barrel, having been strangled and missing part of his front tooth. McKendrick is imprisoned, and Sumner begins to suspect Drax.
3"Homo Homini Lupus"Andrew HaighAndrew HaighJuly 29, 2021 (2021-07-29)
With the Hastings nearby, the Volunteer continues further into ice fields. Sumner believes that McKendrick is innocent due to a hand injury that would've made it impossible for him to strangle Hannah. Brownlee is unmoved, but allows Sumner to examine Drax. Brownlee notices a gash on Drax's arm, and when examined Sumner discovers part of a tooth embedded in the wound. Discovered, Drax fatally bludgeons Brownlee with a whalebone cane. Jones saves Sumner by threatening Drax with a rifle; Drax is imprisoned and McKendrick set free. Brownlee dies from his injury and Cavendish takes command. Colliding the ship with an ice floe, Cavendish purposely sinks the Volunteer with indirect assistance from Drax. The crew abandon the ship and split off into a small group, consisting of Cavendish, Sumner, Otto, McKendrick, a chained Drax and two other men remaining with the sinking ship and the rest, including Jones, travelling to the Hastings. After the Volunteer sinks and a stormy night, the group discover the Hastings has sunk and all the crew are dead.
4"The Devils Of The Earth"Andrew HaighAndrew HaighAugust 5, 2021 (2021-08-05)
Having made camp on a small frozen island, the group tenuously led by Cavendish attempt to survive the winter on meagre rations. Sumner discovers two Inuit men nearby, and Cavendish trades a rifle for seal meat to eat. The Inuit pair stay with the group for a while, and Drax secretly builds a rapport with them. When the surrounding sea begins to freeze, the Inuit pair decide to leave, despite the protests of Cavendish. Sumner persuades one of them to stay for longer so a supply of meat is maintained in exchange for the ring. Drax informs Cavendish that he has agreed passage with the two Inuit and that he only needs to set him free. Cavendish attempts to bargain escape from the island as well, and Drax supposedly agrees. The next morning, Drax kills the two Inuit and then slits Cavendish's throat, taking the last whaleboat. With the island frozen in, the remaining men, apart from Otto and Sumner, depart the island in a doomed attempt to find a ship or camp. With winter setting in, Sumner and Otto become desperate and use the corpses of the Inuit to attract a polar bear for food. When one arrives, Sumner wounds and follows it, leaving Otto back at the camp. Trekking many miles, Sumner eventually becomes caught in a storm and finally kills the bear after hallucinating it as Drax. Sumner eviscerates the bear and shelters himself in its carcass, before eventually being rescued by an Inuit and taken to a cabin inhabited by a priest.
5"To Live Is To Suffer"Andrew HaighAndrew HaighAugust 12, 2021 (2021-08-12)
The priest takes care of Sumner, explaining that he has spent many months as a missionary to the Inuit, attempting to convert them. The Inuit hunters nearby believe that Sumner has special powers after finding him "reborn" from the polar bear, and he joins them on a seal hunt. Afterwards, they gift him with a knife and necklace both adorned with a sculpt of a bear. Five months later, Sumner returns to Hull and meets with Baxter, who pays his wages and suggests he go to London. Sumner is determined to bring Drax to justice but Baxter dissuades him; the financier meets with Drax in his attic and schemes to have Sumner killed. Baxter's henchman Stevens is sent to bring Sumner to a warehouse where Drax will murder him, and on Baxter's instructions Stevens will kill Drax to eliminate loose ends. When Sumner is brought, a drunk Drax accidentally kills Stevens but discovers Baxter was double-crossing him. Sumner and Drax fight, culminating in Sumner fatally stabbing Drax in the jugular with his knife. Visiting Baxter, Sumner robs him and, to ensure he is not apprehended by the authorities, Sumner shoots Baxter. One year later in Berlin, Sumner visits a zoo and watches an emaciated polar bear in a cage.


The series first began development in late 2016.[5][6][7][8]

It was announced in February 2019 that Colin Farrell had been cast to star in the miniseries.[1] Jack O'Connell was added in April.[9] with Stephen Graham, Tom Courtenay and Peter Mullan amongst additional cast announced. Filming of the drama started in October 2019, in Hungary[10] and on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard (Spitzbergen), with the production team journeying north as far as 81 degrees, to shoot pack ice sequences, which is purported to be the furthest point north any television drama has ever been filmed.[10]

In March 2020, filming had to be paused when quite close to wrapping, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The remaining four days of filming were completed at a later date, at a studio in the UK.[11] It aired in July 2021.

In May 2019, Canadian composer and sound artist Tim Hecker announced that he had been hired as the show's composer.[12]


The North Water has received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 88% based on 8 critic reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10.[13] On Metacritic, it has a score of 71 out of 100 based on 6 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]

See alsoEdit

The Terror, a similar TV series set aboard a ship stranded in the Arctic pack ice during the Franklin expedition of 1846


  1. ^ a b White, Peter (19 February 2019). "Colin Farrell To Star In See-Saw Films' Arctic Whaling Drama The North Water For BBC".
  2. ^ "Gary Lamont filming The North Water". November 22, 2019.
  3. ^ "Eliza Butterworth - currently filming for the BBC Two four-part thriller The North Water". 2020.
  4. ^ "The North Water – Listings". The Futon Critic. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  5. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (4 October 2017). "BBC Sets 'World On Fire' WWII Drama, 'The Trial Of Christine Keeler' & More".
  6. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (17 October 2016). "Andrew Haigh Dives Into The North Water Limited Series From See-Saw, BBC – Mipcom".
  7. ^ "Colin Farrell to Star in BBC mini-series The North Water". 19 February 2019.
  8. ^ "BBC - Colin Farrell boards Andrew Haigh's BBC Two series The North Water for See-Saw Films - Media Centre". BBC.
  9. ^ "'Godless' Jack O’Connell to Star in Andrew Haigh's BBC Adaptation of The North Water"
  10. ^ a b "The North Water: Stephen Graham, Tom Courtenay & Peter Mullan Round Out Cast For BBC Whaling Drama". November 7, 2019.
  11. ^ Roots, Sam (5 October 2020). "When is The North Water release date? Cast, trailer and plot for BBC drama". Radio Times. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  12. ^ "Tim Hecker interview for dublab Intermission Studio (05.04.21)". 23 May 2021.
  13. ^ "The North Water: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  14. ^ "The North Water: Season 1". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved July 24, 2021.

External linksEdit