On the left, Steven Robertson as DC Sandy Wilson, on the right, Alison O'Donnell as DS Alison McIntosh in Shetland season 7

‘Shetland’ Is Getting a New Detective Inspector—Everything You Need To Know About Season 8

Life and crime are about to be very different on the remote Shetland Islands. Hit BBC One detective drama Shetland, based on the award-winning crime novels by author Ann Cleeves, will soon return for an eighth season—but one key player will be missing from the action. Leading man Douglas Henshall, who portrayed DI Jimmy Perez since the show’s first-ever episode, officially left the series after Shetland’s season 7 finale. So, what can we expect to happen next? Here’s everything you need to know.

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Who will lead Shetland’s detectives in season 8?

When explaining why he made the decision to leave the series, Henshall said to the BBC:

“After series 5 of Shetland, David Kane and I decided we wanted to do two more series to complete the story of Jimmy Perez. So series 6 and 7 were commissioned together to give us time to wrap up Perez’s story to a satisfactory end. It’s been one of the privileges of my career to play Jimmy Perez for almost ten years and to work with so many wonderful people both in front of and behind the camera, and also to spend so much time in Shetland. The Isles were so much a part of our show and of Perez himself. I’ll miss him and the place. I wish everyone involved much luck with whatever happens next.”

At the end of season 7, Perez put his career on the line by helping a man escape extradition to the U.S. and the possibility of the death penalty. While the show made it clear this was the right thing to do, Perez was forced to quit his job. In the end, he said, “If the last thing I do is help an innocent man, I’m good with that.” Perez truly did get a deserved happy ending as he found love once again—even after the loss of his wife, Fran.

With Henshall’s exit and Shetland season 8 already commissioned, the series needed to find a new lead detective. Enter Ashley Jensen of After Life, Agatha Raisin, and Ugly Betty fame, who will portray DI Ruth Calder. Not much is known about her character, though we do know that she’s a native Shetlander, returning home after 20 years with London’s Metropolitan Police.

As reported by RadioTimes.com, Jensen said this of her casting: “I am absolutely thrilled to be joining Shetland as DI Ruth Calder. It’s such a hugely successful show and I am aware I have very big boots to fill since the departure of DI Perez, who was very much loved by fans of the show.” She continued, “There will be a different dynamic with Ruth amongst the regular characters and a few more new interesting characters to enjoy. However the integrity of the show and the world that has been created will remain very much in the same tone as the last seven seasons.”

Which characters are returning for Shetland season 8?

So, with Henshall leaving, will the other Shetland natives remain on the show? Two characters we know won’t be returning include Mark Bonnar’s Duncan Hunter and Anneika Rose’s public prosecutor, Maggie Kean. The rest of the main cast is set to return. This includes:

  • Alison O’Donnell as DS Alison ‘Tosh’ McIntosh
  • Steven Robertson as DC Sandy Wilson
  • Lewis Howden as Sgt Billy McCabe
  • Angus Miller as Donnie
  • Conor McCarry as PC Alex Grant
  • Anne Kidd as Cora McLean

It remains to be seen whether Lucianne McEvoy will return as Perez’s love interest, Meg, or if Erin Armstrong will return as his daughter, Cassie Perez, given their considerable emotional and narrative links to Jimmy. It seems unlikely, but then again, it is a small island community. New actors who are joining the cast for Shetland season 8 include Phyllis Logan, Jamie Sives, Dawne Steele, Don Gilet, Ann Louis Ross, and Lorraine McIntosh in as yet unconfirmed roles.

When can we expect Shetland season 8 to release?

The BBC has confirmed that Shetland season 8 is set to premiere on BBC One on November 1, 2023 in the U.K. A U.S. release date is currently unknown. Though exact plot details are being kept tightly under wraps, RadioTimes.com reported the following synopsis:

“Jensen will be joined by returning character Alison ‘Tosh’ McIntosh (Alison O’Donnell) who will will step in to help Calder retrieve a vulnerable witness in a gangland murder investigation. But it’s not set to be plain-sailing for the pair as Calder grows increasingly hostile about Shetland, which is, of course, the adoptive home for Tosh.”

Whatever happens, we’ll be watching.

(featured image: BBC)

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El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.