Her first big case comes in the form of a gruesome local murder where a man is found crucified in the woods. Local cops DS Frank Bliss (Simon Trinder) and DCI Annie Howe (Kate Dickie, Game of Thrones) ask Merrily for help, since she is the local "expert," but she is out of her depth. What's worse, she is called down to the hospital by the staff to administer last rites to Denzil Joy (Oengus MacNamara), a wicked local man known to have been abusive to both women and animals alike. Something strange happens at his bedside and Merrily can't shake the feeling that Joy may be dead, but not gone.
She seeks assistance from the local minister who is being forced into retirement, Canon Dobbs (David Sterne), and he seems frightened instead of completely crazy, as Bishop Mick Hunter (Nicholas Pinnock) has suggested, although he does seem a bit obsessed with local iconic saint Thomas de Cantilupe. Instead of Merrily finding the help she needs, things go horribly wrong and she ends up with more questions than answers in her quest.
Meanwhile, her daughter Jane has become good friends with Rowenna Napier (Leila Mimmack, Mayday) a free-spirited local teenager who lives by herself and is followed by her caring social worker, Lol Robinson (Doc Brown), who is deeply concerned for her safety and well-being. Jane is very vulnerable since her father's death and Rowenna starts filling her head with things her vicar mother wouldn't like. Also, the girls are befriended by Angela Purefoy (Siobhan Finneran), a cafe owner who seems to see right into the very soul of Jane and urges her to come to terms with her father's death and to break free of her mother's hold.
As Merrily feels she is losing control of both her daughter and her new position, she can't help feeling that it all comes back to Denzil Joy and his disturbed crew of followers. As she makes connections between the gruesome recent events and some discoveries about the past, she also has to come to terms with her own feelings towards her recently deceased husband. As things reach a boiling point, Merrily realizes that there is a much larger evil at play and the entire town could suffer as a result, but she and Huw are determined to defeat the evil brewing beneath the surface.
Midwinter of the Spirit is quite chilling, at times, and certain scenes reminded me a bit of The Ring and The Grudge, but I mean that in a good way. While the previous movies were more silly than scary to me, there's just something "off" and unsettling about particular scenes in Midwinter and the scenes are used to good effect. The supernatural events that take place are really well shot and disturbing and Anna Maxwell Martin, in particular, is fantastic in her role. She brilliantly plays a woman who feels tossed about by life, her family, and her new job, yet still clings to her faith to get her through one devastating situation after another.
That being said, the entire cast is excellent and very believable in their roles, from Leila Mimmack as both the vulnerable but conniving Rowenna, to Siobhan Finneran as the concerned and caring mother-figure with an agenda, to Doc Brown/ Ben Bailey Smith as Lol Robinson, the social worker with a heart too big for his own good, and Nicholas Pinnock and David Threlfall as ministers with differing agendas. Of special note are the acting jobs done by David Sterne as Canon Dobbs and Oengus MacNamara as Denzil Joy. They both take "crazy" to the next level.
There's only a Photo Gallery, as far as special features go, but Midwinter of the Spirit is enough on its own. If you like a supernatural thriller of the British variety, you won't be disappointed by Midwinter of the Spirit.