08 January 2016

TV Review: Death in Paradise 5.1


The return of Death in Paradise is something I was eager for at the end of the last series, but after watching the first episode of 2016, I'm not entirely sure why. It's not that this is a particularly bad example of the series, there was just nothing that really excited me.

The case this week involves a party of marine biologists, whose leader was killed minding the boat while the rest of the team were collecting samples on the seabed. After various avenues are investigated and ruled out, it is decided that one of the four scientists must be responsible. So how did one of them manage to sneak back to the boat and murder him whilst in plain sight of the others? The answer is as obvious as it seems: they didn't. He was killed before they went down. I worked this out even before the titles rolled, which must mean it was a pretty basic solution. It's not even that I'm any great murder mystery expert (I'm really not) I've just seen most of this show, and this is a trick that has been employed several times before.

Death in Paradise is never the most intellectually rigorous programme but usually there's an amiable feelgood atmosphere as DI Humphrey Goodman bumbles his way through the case, and there are normally a couple of impressive deductions. Here though, there wasn't much to entertain me.

The rest of the team is comprised of DS Florence Cassel, Officer Dwayne Myers and last year's new recruit Officer JP Hooper. It's the last two who we spend most time with in this episode's subplots, as they reveal their phobias to each other out of necessity. Usually when a point is made about a character's flaws, a beat follows where they have to put their fear aside at the crucial moment. Here, when JP reveals he can't swim and is scared of the water, in my brain it immediately indicated that at some point later in the episode he would have to overcome his fear for the advancement or resolution of the main plot. Likewise, Dwayne admits a fear of the dark. However, neither of these come to anything. The pair are trapped in a container but are swiftly let out without any real trauma or difficulty, rendering Dwayne's admission irrelevant. Later., it looks like JP is going to get his chance to shine when a suspect uses a boat to escape, but it's Florence (who otherwise does nothing) who saves the day here. Perhaps I'm being too harsh here but I don't see the point of including these traits if they're not going to be exploited for dramatic potential. It doesn't even make them more likeable or relatable, it just undermines them a bit.

Anyway, turns out I guessed correctly who killed the party leader, when, how and why. I even guessed right that there was a collaboration involved, but I did get their identity wrong. This relationship is the backbone of this episode and I understand the idea of throwing the audience off the scent but it's normal to leave some hints around for them to pick up on. The final deduction comes out of nowhere and although I did suspect something was up with the telephone call, I didn't work out who it was to. All in all the revelation of the secret relationship was just a bit flimsy and unbelievable.

This is unusual from Robert Thorogood, who is usually the series' best writer and ordinarily manages to conjure up an interesting and throughful mystery. The rest of the cast and crew are on form, and Neve McIntosh is easily the strongest of the guest cast. Josephine Jobert's talents are wasted here as the will they/won't they between Florence and Humphrey goes on and on still. Edward Bennett does a nice job of the direction but it all feels a bit disposable and insubstantial, which is a shame for a show that should feel sumptuous and engaging.

In conclusion, this isn't the series' poorest episode, but it's one of its most simplistic. There's no real air of mystery or tension and there's not even much in the way of an interesting subplot. Don Warrington shines with every line as the Police Commissioner but he's still underserved here. A disappointing return, and if I wasn't committed to reviewing every episode I doubt I'd bother tuning back in next week.


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