Shetland season 8 episode 2 recap: What does Ellen's mysterious tattoo mean?

 Cora McLean (ANNE KIDD);DI ‘Tosh’ McIntosh (ALISON O’DONNELL) looking scared as she looks at Ellen's body in Shetland season 8 episode 2 .
Cora McLean (ANNE KIDD);DI ‘Tosh’ McIntosh (ALISON O’DONNELL) looking scared as she looks at Ellen's body in Shetland season 8 episode 2 .

The second episode of Shetland season 8 kicked off right where episode one left off, with Nowak still bleeding in the back of the car and Howell desperate to get help for his colleague. Unfortunately for poor Agnes, she's the first car they see driving towards them and soon she is being held at gunpoint until she lets Howell move Nowak into her Land Rover and take him back to her farmhouse.

More Shetland season 8 recaps

Shetland season 8 episode 1 recap

Meanwhile, Calder and Tosh are still at the ruins where Ellen's body was found at the end of the previous episode.

Tosh says Ellen has pressure marks around her throat and that they look pretty uniform, but as forensics arrive there is something puzzling Calder — why didn't Cassidy's men just shoot her? She says strangulation is too personal for the likes of Howell, why didn’t they just shoot her like they shot Maura Watt? She also wonders if this is where Ellen died, or if her body was moved here... especially as it is miles from anywhere.

As a terrified Agnes is being forced to drive Howell and Novak back to her house, the police are on their way to break the news about Ellen's death to her family.

Stella sees cars approaching the farm and tells Rory to go and see his gran. Tosh and Calder get out of their car and Stella asks what’s happened and Calder says they have found a body that they need her to formally identify, but that they believe to be Ellen.

As Calder and Tosh explain that they think Ellen was murdered, a distraught Kieran says a couple of tourists turned up the previous day. Grace jumps in and says they weren't tourists, while Rory says they were looking for Ellen, the one with the gun said so. Kieran is shocked: "What gun, what are you talking about? You never said anything about a gun!" Calder asks what these men looked like and as Grace says one was black, English, the other white with a foreign accent, Calder knows exactly who she is talking about.

DI Ruth Calder (ASHLEY JENSEN);DI ‘Tosh’ McIntosh (ALISON O’DONNELL) looking worried in a field in Shetland season 8
DI Ruth Calder (ASHLEY JENSEN);DI ‘Tosh’ McIntosh (ALISON O’DONNELL) looking worried in a field in Shetland season 8

Back at Agnes's house, she is helping Howell carry Nowak indoors as he cries out in pain. She grabs some scissors and cuts open his blood-soaked t-shirt and sees that he has been shot in the stomach and says he needs the hospital or he will die.

Howell is adamant that he's not going to a hospital and pulls the phone out of the wall as Agnes tries to call for an ambulance. Instead, Agnes gets a tea towel out of a drawer, telling Howell that Nowak will bleed out if he doesn’t get treatment. She puts the tea towel over the wound as Nowak screams. Desperate to not have another body on his hands, Howell goes back into the kitchen and makes a call to his boss, but it seems they have been forgotten.

Grace Bain (PHYLLIS LOGAN);Stella Quinn (DAWN STEELE);Heather Bain (LORRAINE McINTOSH) in Shetland season 8
Grace Bain (PHYLLIS LOGAN);Stella Quinn (DAWN STEELE);Heather Bain (LORRAINE McINTOSH) in Shetland season 8

Cal soon finds himself in hot water when an eyewitness places his transit van near where Ellen's body was found. He is soon brought in for questioning and before Calder can stop him, he names her as his alibi for the night that Ellen was killed. Calder is left red-faced and is forced to explain to her colleagues that she and Cal are former flames and that it was a mistake dropping by his house the night before.

The police search Cal's van as a precaution but they don't find anything of interest and he is let go — but it is clear that there is something that he is still hiding.

Bobby is now on the warpath, demanding answers about what happened to Ellen. He goes to see the bus driver who threw her off the day before and he tells him that he feels awful and didn't realize who she was. The driver says she was hysterical, shouting the odds and saying that her bag had been stolen. The driver describes the lad who stole it, and Bobby calls someone who works at the wind farm.

Later Bobby drags wind farm worker Gerry, bruised and beaten, out the back of his truck at the ferry depot and tells him he’s lucky he didn’t touch Ellen, and if he comes back here, he’s dead. Bobby sits in the van with the bag of cash.

Back at Agnes's farm, Nowak is barely alive, and Agnes pretends that she needs the toilet, but secretly goes into her bedroom and loads a shotgun she has hidden in a chest, she points it at Howell and tells him to drop his gun and tries to call the police and an ambulance.

The 999 call alerts the police that something is going on at Agnes's house, but before they can get there they see her Land Rover racing away from the house, and they chase it down to a remote beach, where Nowak is dying on the floor and Howell is fleeing into the sea, where he is finally caught Calder and the rest of the team.

As Howell is questioned at the station he remains tight-lipped about what happened, answering every question with 'no comment' until they ask about Ellen, and he finally reveals they didn't kill her, and the last time they saw her was when she jumped into the sea to escape them.

So if Howell didn't kill Ellen, who did?

Agnes Moffat (ANN LOUISE ROSS) in Shetland season 8
Agnes Moffat (ANN LOUISE ROSS) in Shetland season 8

With the police investigation into Ellen's murder now turned on its head, Calder says they need to look into her life before London, and Tosh agrees. They’ve commissioned her phone records and will look into her social media again, and soon it dawns on everyone that if Howell and Novak are ruled out, Calder probably doesn’t have a reason to be in Shetland anymore.

But before Calder leaves, she heads to Alan and Amma's house for dinner, where they have an evening catching up and looking at family photos, but as she leaves, Amma has a sneaky cigarette, hiding in the garden because Alan thinks she has given up smoking. But as she gets in her taxi, Calder notices something familiar about the cigarette brand... realizing they are the same rare brand as the ones found in the house Ellen was hiding in during episode one.

As the episode comes to an end, Tosh is with Cora who is doing a preliminary examination on Ellen's body. Cora says there is light bruising around her neck but no signs of the hemorrhaging she would expect to see with manual strangulation - so maybe she didn’t put up much of a fight? There’s also bruising on Ellen's thigh, along with a large cut, but Tosh is more concerned with a tattoo she has seen on Ellen's upper thigh... Cora says it looks homemade as Tosh stares at it with a horrible realization... because it looks like the same symbol found on the mysteriously slaughtered sheep they keep finding on the island.

Does this mean Ellen's death is connected to whoever is killing the sheep? Could her murder be totally unrelated to Cassidy after all?

Shetland season 8 is available on BBC iPlayer in the UK and BritBox, from November 29, in the US.