Lewis: Down Among the Fearful Pt. 2

“When Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

Percy Shelley

The main impression I got from the second half of this story was one of confusion. “Who’s he?” “What’s just happened?” “Why is that significant?” That is what happens when you split a murder mystery into two. IT DOESN’T WORK.

So, what happened? Well, once again the team went flying around Oxford looking for the murderer. And, of course, they eventually found what they were looking for in the most unexpected of places.

It was quite a good episode, in many ways. Certainly more satisfactory than Death in Paradise, anyway, although there were a few loose ends left untied (what happened to the drugs that went missing from the stables, for instance?). Sergeant Hathaway moped, which was boring and annoying. I sense a departure coming, which is not a good thing, because Laurence Fox is basically the main reason I watch Lewis. (Well, that and the plot complexity.)

And for some reason one of the suspects appeared to be dressed as Leonard Hofsteder off The Big Bang Theory, which was unfortunate, because it elicited a sort of Pavlovian response of laughter. “I went to the psychic…” “Hahahahaha…oh wait, it’s Lewis I’m watching.”

A decent episode, then, although not improved by being split in two or by Hathaway’s moping. Still looking for something that can replace Les Miserables. Might be a while.

Death in Paradise: Ep. 2

“Please don’t tell me I can’t make it;/It ain’t gonna do me any good.”

Brandon Flowers

In this new, exciting episode of Death in Paradise, a nun in the Caribbean gets murdered and Englishman Inspector Poole is, of course, On the Case.

It was a bit tedious, to be honest. Oh, there were funny bits, there always are, but, I don’t know, it was just so…cliched. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been watching Les Miserables and Sherlock recently, which are both very, very good, and now I’m just depressed with the general quality of television. Or maybe Death in Paradise just isn’t that good.

Case in point: Dwight took one of the nun’s thumbprint and then she went away. Just the thumbprint? How useful is that? You can’t eliminate someone from your enquiries on the basis of a thumbprint.

Another case in point: the holy spring that was, allegedly, a tourist attraction was also empty of people. Did the BBC not have enough money to hire any extras? Where is all that licence money going?

But the worst bit was the Great Explanation at the end, where all the suspects got called together for the Big Reveal. Why? Does that ever happen in real life? Answer: No. It’s a cliche of the detective genre, and rehashing things we already know is just boring. We are cleverer than this. We don’t need Ben Miller to tell us the story from the beginning to understand the end. Please, BBC Scriptwriter, go look at Sherlock. Or even Lewis. And take a leaf out of their book.

Lewis: Down Among the Fearful

“The skill lies in presenting the logical as the mystical.”

Lewis

And we’re back among the dreaming spires of Oxford for the seventh and last (*sob*) series of Lewis. This week, a psychology researcher masquerading as a psychic is ‘orribly murdered, Lewis and Hathaway look for the Oxford psychology department at the top of Christ Church staircase (for reasons unknown), and…we don’t get to see the end of the story.

Yes, Constant Reader, the producers in their wise wisdom have done a Steven Moffatt and split the episode in half. There are two sides to this, I feel. On the one hand, it’s annoying. You’ve just settled in to the swing of things, your thinking cap is on, and then it stops and you have to go back to normal life. On the other hand, I suppose it means I spend less time watching ITV Player and more time working, which is, apparently, a good thing.

Anyway. This episode contained all the usual Lewis elements: calculated murder, shady academic dealings, and just a sprinkling of humour. Who said Oxford was a bookish old town that bears absolutely no resemblance to the real world?

And while we’re on the subject, why were all the college students wandering around wearing gowns? I know several people at Oxford, and I can assure you that they do not wear their gowns to lectures.

Leaving aside the inaccuracies, Down Among the Fearful is a strong start to what is bound to be an emotional series. Roll on next week!

Mr Selfridge

“Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle.”

Mr Selfridge

As soon as ITV began advertising Mr Selfridge I knew that I wanted to watch it. Come on people, it’s a period drama about a shop. And not just any shop: Selfridge’s, possibly the most famous shop in London. What’s not to like?

But, as is often the case with such things, Mr Selfridge did not exactly live up to its potential. It tells the story of the founding of Selfridge’s, the problems it faced, the ideology of its eponymous founder (“I’m going to make shopping thrilling!” exclaims Jeremy Piven in an irritating American accent), the excitement it promoted. It’s all vaguely Going Postal-ish, and even has similar music.

The best scenes are those dealing with the shop, with all the preparations for opening, staff hiring, decoration etc. The scenes between Mr and Mrs Selfridge are just intolerably syrupy, and you can see the cliche of “husband who cares too much about work and not enough about family” looming in future episodes. And can someone tell me what Becky from Coronation Street is doing in Edwardian London? Has she stolen Lewis’ TARDIS?

Overall, fairly entertaining but light on emotional development. Just like shopping, then.

Midsomer Murders: Death and the Divas

“Hate is a waste of time.”

Midsomer Murders

Oh yes, Constant Reader. We are back to the Murder Mystery.

This week, a new series of Midsomer Murders, featuring Fake Barnaby! With tasteful red titles that look like blood! (That was sarcasm, by the way. It doesn’t work so well when you read it.)

Midsomer County (yes, it is a county – according to a signpost seen in the episode, anyway) adds to its already rather large stock of murders when a biographer writing about a local celebrity and her Hollywood sister is, well, murdered. Obviously. A string of ‘orrible murders follows, each copying a murder scene from one of the Local Celebrity’s films.

From all this one may deduce that there are some very strange people in Midsomer County.

And some not very intelligent policemen, either. The most incongruous moment in the episode was when Fake Barnaby (Real Barnaby’s brother, allegedly) made a grandiose speech wondering where the killer had gone, as if it were one of those “doors locked from the inside” murders, and then it turned out that there was a whole other staircase. Not hard to work out, really. You’d have thought he would have checked rather than talking to himself. No wonder there are so many murders in Midsomer, if this is who’s catching them.

Admittedly, this wasn’t a bad episode, by the standards of Midsomer Murders. Having said that, Lewis is much more interesting and entertaining, and it’s coming back on Monday!

Lewis – The Soul of Genius

“Every murderer is probably someone’s old friend.”

Agatha Christie

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS EPISODE AND INTEND TO DO SO, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER!

Oooh, this was a good episode. Precocious geniuses, Miss Marple, an unsolvable literary puzzle – it had it all.

Miss Marple? I hear you ask. Haven’t you mixed your murder mysteries?

No, Constant Reader, I have not gone batty. Lewis and Hathaway have indeed managed to find their very own Miss Marple, otherwise known as Miss Marber, Michelle Marber or “lady with bags”. She is an amateur detective trying to find out the truth behind the death of her son, questioning randomers, impersonating police officers and generally being a nuisance. Thing is, after her first couple of visits to the police – “I’ve got something that might help you”, etc. – and subsequent dismissals, you know she’s going to turn out to have a vital piece of evidence which would have enabled the whole mystery to have been cleared up much earlier if only the sceptical police officers had listened, (SPOILER) and so it turns out. An object lesson to policemen everywhere: Do Not Ignore The Lady With Bags.

What else? Oh yes, more romantic entanglement with cases, although this time it’s Hathaway and not Lewis who gets “blown away” (geddit?). The lucky lady is a gardener at the Botanic Gardens (in Oxford, obviously) who is amazed by Hathaway’s knowledge of an archaic medical theory called the Doctrine of Signatures, which says that plants show their medical efficacy by their shapes: so ear-shaped plants are good for ears, yellow plants are good for jaundice, etc. “No-one knows about the Doctrine of Signatures,” she says amazedly.

Well, actually, I do, thanks to the influence of Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky. See? Fantasy. Educational and fun.

Anyway. The Doctrine of Signatures leads to the final essential ingredient of a perfect murder mystery: (SPOILER) the Mad Scientist, complete with futuristic-looking lab in the cellar of a stately home. The answer to the mystery is satisfyingly obscure but not unguessable, the Lady with Bags turns out to have been right all along (well, partly) and life in Oxford goes on. For most people. The perfect murder mystery.

Lewis – Expiation

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

OK, I’ve got to be honest. I didn’t get through this one. I’d been up since 7am (which for me is like the crack of midnight), I was exhausted. I just didn’t have the energy for a feature-length detectivey puzzle set in the heart of historic Oxford. Or whatever.

But, since I can’t think of anything else to write about, the bits that I did see will have to suffice.

First thing that jumped out at me: Lewis seems to go out with a woman involved with the murder case every episode. Surely that’s not even allowed.

Anyway. The episode followed the usual formula. Someone unlikely gets murdered. In this case it’s made to look like suicide, and the rubbish pathology man (a stand-in for Hobson, who, it appears, is on holiday) declares that it is suicide. So the team have Superintendent Innocent on their case, trying to get them to stop goose-chasing and concentrate on something interesting. All of this, you see, by way of varying the formula.

As usual, the story goes through several fantastically unlikely convolutions, involving, surprise, an Oxford don (surely not all murders in Oxford involve the professors?) and a very Midsummer Night Dream-y set of romantic entanglements. And a dentist.

As I said, I didn’t see the end, so I can’t comment on its likelihood. I can say, however, that this episode was a little lacklustre. No Ancient Greek codes or obscure references to literature. Just a straightforward, Midsomer-type murder mystery. No wonder I couldn’t get to the end.

Holby City

“If you work in a hospital, you can’t easily fake call in sick to work. Oh, you’re sick? Well why don’t you come in to work and we’ll have a look at it.”

Jarod Kintz

I don’t really “watch” Holby City. That is, I don’t set out to watch it. I would much rather watch Lewis or even How I Met Your Mother. However, since the rest of my family do watch Holby City, I kind of get dragged along for the ride.

My favourite thing about last night’s episode (for some reason called “You and Me”) was the new efficiency person, George Binns who had some fancy job title that I can’t be bothered to remember and is played by Leander Deeny, apparently. “What’s he going to be when he grows up?” said Ric Griffin, and that, for me, sums Binns’ character up perfectly. He’s going to be fun. You can just tell.

One of the things that always gets me about Holby is the fact that they seem to have a new rare disease every week. What? Why? How? Is there some kind of referral policy in operation at Holby? “All patients with rare diseases to be transferred to Keller ward”? Because the thing about rare diseases is that, well, they are rare. They probably don’t pop up every week.

And I find it highly unlikely that anyone would let an obviously ill doctor operate on a patient. It just wouldn’t happen.

Here’s an interesting article about how realistic Holby actually is. Enjoy.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/jul/03/hospital-soaps-real-life

Lewis – “Old School Ties”

“I’d be happy to spend my life writing books that only 37 people in the world want to read.”

Stephen Gilchrist

Another Lewis post, I’m afraid. But hey, it’s better than Coronation Street.

The above quote comes courtesy of a character whom I have dubbed Harry Potter Guy. He does look very much like H. Potter: glasses, black hair, penchant for hurling bicycles through windows…wait, scratch that last one.

Anyway, this is not the only improbable coincidence that happens in this episode.

Oh, wait. I haven’t given you a synopsis. Well, basically a hacker-turned-famous-author turns up in Oxford for a lecture and (don’t you just know it) gets murdered. Who dun it? Why? and How? etc.

There you go. Now, back to Improbable Coincidences. Sergeant Hathaway (wouldn’t he make a good Captain Carrot from the Discworld series? I think so, anyway) meets someone from his old school. This is just about allowable under the Acceptable Coincidences Code, since Hathaway went to school in Oxford. But, in the same episode, on the same case, Inspector Lewis meets his first-ever girlfriend, all the way from…wait for it…Tyneside. Now that I find unlikely.

Oh, and Hathaway plays the guitar in a world music band.

Really hard to get my head around.

As always, the answer to the mystery is obscure and unguessable and follows a convoluted path. I mean, someone gets given a gun for their birthday, for heaven’s sake.

Never mind. It’s quite funny. And it keeps you guessing.

Lewis

“Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

Euripides

The quote today is a bit of a cheat, since the title of the Lewis episode in question is Whom the Gods Would Destroy. It transpires that it is the first episode ever, which is mildly interesting since…well, it’s always nice to see where something begins, don’t you think?

Anyway. Lewis is a spin-off from the Inspector Morse detective series, which I haven’t actually seen. But since Morse does not in fact feature in this series, it doesn’t really matter. Lewis also happens to be one of my favourite detective series, mainly because it is set in the beautiful city of Oxford. Also slightly because of Laurence Fox, who plays Hathaway, Lewis’ sidekick. Hathaway is an intelligent detective. He knows things about ancient Greek and Euripides and things. Which allows the whole series to take on a slightly more intelligent feel, because you can have riddles and all sorts of other puzzles to think about. About which to think. (Sorry, pedants.)

So this episode, as the title suggests, had a slightly ancient Greek theme to it. There are references to Furies and Greek gods and Sophocles. One of the characters wears a Dionysus ring. “I’ve seen that before,” says resident genius Hathaway. So they go off to a museum to look at a similar one.

As you do.

Why take all the trouble to drive to a museum, pay the entrance fee or at least flash your police badge at the receptionist, find the right gallery and find the right exhibit when you could look it up on the internet, or, God forbid, a book? They seem to spend all their time in libraries anyway.

There are some unexpected twists and turns, but, via several grisly deaths of the kind you only see in murder mysteries, an angry wheelchair-bound drunk and a chamber music concert, eventually, of course, the mystery is solved and everyone goes home.

So. Lewis. The thinking person’s Midsomer Murders.

At least all those murders are more plausible in a university city than in a small Somerset village.