“There is nothing so unnatural as the commonplace.”
Arthur Conan Doyle
It’s episode three of Scott and Bailey Series 4 (I’m going off Wikipedia here, though, so don’t take my word for it), and Rachel’s struggling with her new promotion. The team’s investigating the death of Rich Hutchings, the suspected victim of a homophobic attack, and Rachel’s also trying to deal with her mother, who has become involved with a known domestic abuser. (Kudos to Tracie Bennett, who’s endearingly cringing as Mother Sharon.) The episode deals a sharp lesson in professional competence, as Rachel has to admit that she’s missed a crucial piece of evidence through not checking her messages in front of the team, and her superior gives her a Bad Look worthy of Mary Berry. “Deal with your mother on your own time,” she says sharply.
If I’m honest, I can’t remember the details of the mystery, and I don’t particularly care that much. It’s the method that interests me: there’s very little of the high-flown melodrama that characterises plenty of Murder Mysteries. Even the criminal interviews are more like counselling sessions – “How did that make you feel?” is a question that gets asked with inordinate frequency. At no point does any officer slam their hand upon the table and demand a confession. Superior officer DCI Gill Murray stresses the importance of precision and accuracy over “copper’s intuition”, and so the investigation is – meticulous. Detailed. Thorough. But, and this is important, still quite interesting for all that.
The lesson of Scott and Bailey? Murder Mysteries don’t have to be unrealistic to be watchable. Of course, the most interesting thing about Scott and Bailey may not be its inherent interest but the fact that it is different. Perhaps. But with four seasons under its belt, it’s surely doing something right.