Nine series, seventy-two cases and at least one complete change of central cast – Death In Paradise is still going strong, with another series on the way. But with another change of lead actor, can the series continue to both charm and perplex the viewers? And, of course, can the series continue to hold its own in the ongoing Death In Paradise vs Puzzle Doctor challenge?
Let’s take a look at the series as a whole first of all. The first half – i.e. the end of Ardal O’Hanlon’s stint as DI Jack Mooney had an odd feel to it at times. Episodes one and two in particular felt a bit like the series was treading water. The story of Mooney’s romance was well done, especially the rationale for him leaving, but his reasons, while satisfying, did seem to me to come a bit out of nowhere.
And then we get the arrival of the reluctant DI Neville Parker, played by Ralf Little. After the comfortable Mooney, we’ve shades of Richard Poole with a reluctant arrival to the Caribbean, but Parker is a distinctive character in his own right, and Ralf Little clearly having loads of fun playing him. There’s a skill to playing comedy in a drama that not everybody has, but the entire cast of Death In Paradise clearly has that skill to spare. Ralf Little also brings out the best in Aude Legastelois as Madeline, a character who seemed somewhat sidelined in the opening half of the series, but really shines when paired with Neville.
I can’t overlook the contribution of Tobi Bakare and Shyko Amos, with the partnership between JP and Ruby being one of the constant highlights, along with the constant presence of Don Warrington’s Commissioner Patterson. The decision to make Patterson antagonistic towards Neville was a great one, with loads of highlights from the final four episodes coming from that. The cast is, I think, currently the strongest it has been – let’s hope they all stick around for as long as possible.
So, episode to episode? Here we go…
Episode One – A masked man attacks two people but everyone has an ironclad alibi. Not the greatest season opener by a longshot, and 1-0 to me.
Episode Two – An artist is poisoned in her studio, but how did the poison get into her can of drink? A definite improvement but while I didn’t get all of the method, the basic trick was obvious, and signposted the murderer. 2-0
Episode Three – An impossible murder of a cyclist in the middle of a race. Didn’t get this one, mainly because I’m not convinced at least one person would have noticed… something pretty obvious essential to making the plan work. Going to call this a draw, as I worked out exactly what happened and then decided that it wouldn’t work because… 2.5-0.5
Episode Four – The dead body of a man in a boat, despite dying from a fall. A more emotional tale than normal, and I missed most of what’s going on. 2.5-1.5
Episode Five – The highlight of the series (it’s the Robert Thorogood episode, so that’s to be expected) and not just because of the debut of Ralf Little. And for the classic mystery fans out there, Robert hasn’t heard of Clayton Rawson. 2.5-2.5
Episode Six – The death of a discount Bear Grylls on an isolated island, despite all of the “survivors” alibiing each other. Didn’t have a clue about this one, either about the mystery, or how one character could make such a stable selfie-video. Another strong episode. 2.5-3.5
Episode Seven – A customer at a hairdressing salon is stabbed despite no-one going near her. Some good performances but it can’t hide an obvious method. 3.5-3.5
Episode Eight – A blind actress’s husband is shot dead on the beach, with an obvious suspect. An effectively complex mystery, despite using an old chestnut that had already been used twice this series. No, didn’t get this one. So the final score gives this series to Robert Thorogood and his team. Congrats!
So, after a shaky start, plot-wise at least, this series had some of the best episodes of recent years with the introduction of Ralf Little. Series ten is coming next year, and I can’t wait…