13 February 2015

TV: Death in Paradise IV.6

Perhaps eight episodes is too many for a season of Death in Paradise. Perhaps the overheads of housing a cast and crew in Guadeloupe are too extortionate, but this series would probably be stronger with only six slots to fill. I start on this note because I think the premise at the heart of this week's episode stretched credulity even further than normal episodes might.

The unfortunate victim this week is one half of a beach volleyball team. Apparently there is a contest every year between Saint Marie and a fictional neighbour Isla Jonas, and this year it's Hank Laymon's side who are through from the away team. Before long though, Laymon's star player (Shelly Kennedy) has been killed and we're told all possible suspects have a perfect alibi. It transpires it was in fact the deceased's partner, also Laymon's daughter, responsible, but I imagine this was no great surprise to the majority of the audience.

The clues were there from the beginning for me. Kennedy was seen leaving her hotel (which, coincidentally, is also that of the opposition) in her Jeep, and is then found dead in its boot by Jasmine Laymon. She was the first person to see Shelly dead, and over the course of the episode we learn of her father's dubious money-making scheme. He poured all his finances into a bet that his team would win, while simultaneously offering the Saint Marie team money to lose. He was bankrupt, his family stood to lose everything. Shelly knew about this though, and was going to report him to the beach volleyball authorities. Jasmine couldn't allow that, as it would mean the dissolution of her family and its reputation. This whole thing has raised some (perhaps stupid) questions in my mind.

Both Jasmine and Hank seem pretty convinced that the Isla Jonas team were going to lose. One was prepared to pay extortionate amounts of money not to see it happen, and the other was simply resigned to the fact. So here's a thought: why didn't Hank place his bet on the Saint Marie team winning and tell his daughter about the situation and convince her to lose them the match? It could've saved ten big ones and a life. But perhaps this is just me.

It seems quite ridiculous to murder on the basis of sport. I know there's money involved (isn't there always?) and the Laymons stood to lose everything - and just to make sure of that, Jasmine got herself banged up - but when it came down to it, a woman was killed because of beach volleyball. I realise I'm oversimplifying, but things just didn't hang together to me. It took the usually quick-witted Humphrey quite a while to work it out and there were a few bizarre moments. One that stood out to me was the murder weapon: we clearly see Jasmine handling it, but we're told forensics didn't turn up any prints. Perhaps they all have Dwayne's relaxed attitude. Another odd item was when Humphrey, towards the conclusion, announced he had the How and Why but not the Who. Eh? The How and Why surely lead to only one suspect? And in fact, I would've thought the Why would've come after the Who..? Oh well.

This was a well-written, averagely-plotted episode though. It had some nice red herrings, such as the spotless murder scene and the forbidden romance, and the ankle injury, but I was never convinced anyone other than Jasmine could've been guilty. I really liked how the subplot of the main characters fed back into the episode's main concern, and this is something I regularly admire about Death in Paradise. It's a surprisingly difficult narrative trick to pull off, and requires some advanced plotting. Congratulations to the writer and script editor for achieving this so successfully.

Paul Murphy is clearly at home with this show too, and his work is some of the best of the series. It's a shame he was dealt two of the weaker episodes, I'd love to see what he'd do with a Rob Thorogood script. I liked how neatly this was tied up (I knew Burrage was guilty!) and I enjoyed the further development of Florence and JP. And if I may be so shallow, I must say Josephine Jobert really is stunning. Kris Marshall's filling the void left by Sara Martins (which Jobert is beginning to fill with her own tics) with some amusing comedy, some of which is obviously ad-libbed, and imbues Humphrey with the cosy likeability we've come to expect.

Remember when Ben Miller arrived and shook everything about Saint Marie up, ordering forensics and reports and statements in a radical refresh of the island's ways? Well this episode lacked any real excitement or interest for me, beyond being enjoyable and looking very pretty. I hope we get something with the energy and pizazz of episodes gone by for the final couple of hours of Series Four, else there may not be a fifth. Oh, and like Jake Canuso in Benidorm, Danny John-Jules owns every scene he's in and is absolutely the star of the show.

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