So, last night, the sixth series of Death In Paradise came to its end – another series of eight seemingly-impossible murders in the Caribbean sunshine on Saint-Marie (well, apart from one of them) with the fish-out-of-water eccentric British detective and his team of locals spotting the clues and catching the villains. Wow, that’s a bland introduction, but it’s hard to talk about this series without mentioning the elephant in the room that was clearly supposed to be a surprise until a British newspaper spoiled it… So, if you haven’t seen the series, then don’t read this review. But if you have, read on…
OK, going to talk about it now…
There were a lot of people who weren’t convinced when Ben Miller was replaced by Kris Marshall in the lead role and now the series has done it again. Humphrey Goodman didn’t make it to the end of the series, which ended with Ardal O’Hanlon, as DI Jack Mooney, ensconced as the new lead detective. But apart from that, everything was business as usual – Dwayne is still slightly dodgy (and needs to find a woman close to his own age), J.P. is hardworking, loyal and the voice of Dwayne’s conscience and Florence still needs more to do. The scripts are as fun as ever, but, as this is a mystery blog, what about those puzzling plots?
Episode One: A scientist is found dead (of natural causes) on the side of a volcano while the rest of his team were all in the laboratory. An odd episode with an early scene seemingly contradicting the solution (see the comments in my review) that felt a little bit off – almost like a first draft that nobody could think of a better way out of.
Episode Two: An old friend of Florence is found dead at the bottom of a cliff while everyone with a motive is in plain sight in the front row of a presentation nearby. To be honest, I felt this one a bit of a cheat, as if a certain aspect had been shown as it happened, then the murderer was obvious. A mystery that shouldn’t have stumped Humphrey for five minutes, really…
Episode Three: Humphrey’s romantic getaway is ruined when the brother of the owner of the hotel that he is staying in is murdered. But there’s a reliable witness watching the stairs to the room that the murder occurred in – Humphrey himself! Easily the best of the series, it had me completely fooled and had some real oompf in the reveal.
Episode Four: The star player of the local cricket team is found shot dead in the middle of the cricket pitch, but, as ever, all of the suspects were in the bar at the same time. Another little cracker, and, while the actual killer was obvious, to me at least, the complete picture was wonderfully complex.
Episodes Five and Six: The murder of a boat owner on his boat in the middle of a storm – with nobody else aboard, obviously, leads the team to London, only for their chief suspect to shoot himself in his locked office… yeah, right. The handover from Humphrey to Jack, intended to be a surprise until the Sun decided that people needed to know in advance (thanks a bunch), is well handled, with the reveal about the timing of an event in Jack’s life being very clever and moving. But, and this is especially surprising given that it was written by series creator Rob Thorogood, the murderer stood out like a sore thumb as soon as part two started. Sorry… definitely read too many mysteries…
Episode Seven: Jack helps out when a visitor to the island – returning after several years – provides an alibi to the person who was jailed for a past murder. A nice little mystery, although the killer was quite guessable, despite the clever plot.
Episode Eight: It’s the day of the mayoral election and Catherine’s main rival is stabbed in his voting booth with Catherine the only one who could have done it. Because – and I can’t say this enough – somebody would have seen or heard the actual murderer. Annoying, this one, as there is no way that the killer would have been spotted, and the method was telegraphed very badly at the start.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this show, but I think it might be time to scale down the impossible crime aspect of the stories. The core ideas behind the mechanics of the solutions to some of the puzzles are becoming a little on the repetitive side – accomplices alibi-ing each other is a bit of a cheat in my book – but the motives behind the crimes are always deep and well thought out. Episode Seven had only a whiff of impossibility about it, but proved to be one of the more involving episodes. Obviously if a new idea comes along – episode three, while having a whiff of a certain Carr novel about it, felt original – then do it, but perhaps in the future, the impossibility could be left out in favour of a stronger whodunit element.
Anyway, that’s my opinion. I still love the show, and I still get grumpy about people dismissing it (Private Eye called it “risible” this week) when there’s nothing wrong with entertaining drama that makes you think. Nothing at all, come to think about it. So, roll on Series Seven and good luck to Ardal O’Hanlon and the rest of the cast and crew. And do give Florence more to do next time…
Series 6 hasn’t arrived here yet, but we can get lots of spoilers anyway from the show’s Wikipedia entry.
I too get irked by the critics’ dismissal of the show. There are far, far worse ways to spend an hour.
It is annoying when people dismiss DiP just because it’s light and breezy, but I really think the writers need to step up their game. The dialogue is getting so dreary that you can almost hear the actors straining to inject some life into it. I don’t think the extremely strict formula is in itself a problem, but I do think the writers are using it as a crutch, and settling for dull scenes that take us through the motions.
I don’t understand why they’re so averse to fleshing out the minor characters! Has Florence ever had so much as a hint at a subplot? Why was Catherine hardly in this week’s? It was the perfect opportunity to show us something, anything about her and they decided to spend an extra five minutes on the solution instead. It must be deliberate, but I think it’s wrongheaded.
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The critics hate it because it’s not difficult to like – same reason they hate anything.
I do think, though, that they should maybe vary the locations used. Aside from wide views of the island, we only ever really see the office, the bar, a beach and the hut. In any other show, we see a wealth of locations: streets, houses, pubs, parks, cafes, gardens etc.
I enjoyed this series, even if the formula does get a bit old — it’s not designed along hugely complex lines, and they’re clearly having a lot of fun with the concept (c’mon — episode one featured a volcano on the island that’s never been mentioned or seen before and will doubtless never feature again…we’re not exactly going for full-Scandi realism here). Yes, the killer is easy to spot a lot of the time, yes the logic in the solutions doesn’t hold watr (several of the episodes have equally valid alternative solutions that could be applied in the circumstances), but as a bit of fun at a gloomy and exhausting time of year I really enjoy it.
I do hope the actress who plays Ardal O’Hanlan’s daughter learns how to actually, y’know, act between now and next series, though…
I also liked #3 best. #2 was the worst episode ever (I spotted the killer before the opening credits, even before the murder took place, because I’ve seen the set-up several times in mystery shows/movies/novels.) The complaint about accomplices is a good one. I don’t mind if they use it once (it did fool me) but repeating it too soon is a cheat because who expects a quality show to do that? Even so I thought this season (what we call ‘this series’ in the colonies) was better than the average for this program (which makes it very good indeed), and I like O’Hanlan. I had no clue something was cooking but as soon as I saw the promo with the team heading to London, I suspected. When O’Hanlan’s character was introduced with care to delineate all his character quirks etc I was convinced.
richmcd above mentioned Catherine. My one gripe over the seasons is after Camille left, the others kept interacting with her mom Catherine but somehow Camille never got mentioned. No how she’s doing, no word from Catherine about hearing from her. That just seemed odd and a bit forced.
it’s really too long between seasons.
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