Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Inspector Lewis - One for Sorrow - Episode Review

 My review of the last season.


The first episode of Inspector Lewis's ninth series, appropriately, begins at an archaeological dig. They're looking for a body in a well, and a body they find, rather newer than expected. This shouldn't really be surprising. After all, this is Oxford! There's a body under every bush.

Lewis, Maddox, and Hobson are quick to the scene, where they banter and wonder where Hathaway's gone on his holidays. Another pilgrimage-not-really-a-pilgrimage? Sort of, but with a goal not religious but familial. He's visiting his father, Philip Hathaway (Nicholas Jones), who lives in a home, struggling with dementia. James, never great with his feelings at the best of times, is completely lost here.

Meanwhile, the new boss - Joe Moody - is settling in. Superintendent Innocent has transferred, going out in a blaze of karaoke glory. Moody is from London, so, as you can imagine, the poor greenhorn has no idea what he's in for. To him, happy-go-lucky Robbie Lewis appears some absentminded old duffer, rather than a battle-hardened 28-year veteran of England's bloodiest city. Moody's inclined to micromanage, and instructs Hathaway to call him "Joe." One gets the impression that Moody is a man who has read a dozen how-to books on good management at the workplace, but never developed people skills to pad out platitudes. And who needs that in the calm streets of London? But this is war.

Soon after the first body is discovered, artist Talika Desai is found dead of an overdose above a taxidermy shop. The shop is owned by Jasper Hammond (Tim Piggott-Smith), who's left her part of the shop in his will. This, understandably, annoys his nephew, Sean Wilkinson - a flashy dresser and suspiciously sleazy character. Motives abound.

As for other suspects, there's Talika's tutor Vivienne Tedman (Helen Schlesinger) and Vivienne's husband, Ian (played by Steve Pemberton, and you know the usual rule for august guest stars). As it turns out, Ian had an affair with Talika, but he and his wife patched up their differences and are about to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Their son, Ollie, is the boyfriend of Talika's cutesy vlogger sister, Sahira. When Sahira finds out about Talika and Ian's affair, she is, to put it lightly, not amused.

Hathaway and Hobson visit Talika's art exhibition, where Hobson giggles at two teenagers "falling in love over the dead things." Pot, meet kettle. Hathaway misses this opportunity for a joke, instead showing about 300% more emotion than he has in the last eight seasons, while staring at a dead animal and talking to a pathologist about his father. That guy really needs to get his priorities straight. But James's joking self is back in time to make fun of Lewis when the latter tries to bemoan his possible firing. I thought Lewis wanted to retire.

While these questions are left hanging as we reach the end of part one, the twin conflicts - Hathaway's father, Lewis's job - have, so far, given the show (somewhat sleepy of late) more momentum than usual. Even better, these come accompanied by a genuinely intriguing cliffhanger. After a bit of footwork, Lewis identifies the body in the well as Indrek Kalda, and one of Talika's performance art videos appears to show his murder. Our deaths are connected.

Suspecting Jasper Hammond of murdering her sister, Sahira Desai posts a video accusing him of the murder. His house is vandalized, and while he's inclined to shrug it off, his nephew is less forgiving. Which is ironic, because it soon turns out Sean has his own secrets.

Related to this: Bryony Willet, a woman who runs a homeless shelter and employs Ollie Tedman, is shown to be dealing cocaine. Soon after her arrest (a team effort by Lizzie and gung-ho Chief Super Moody), she collapses from poison. After the doctor examines her, it is revealed she had trace amounts of arsenic in her system - a sign she was somehow involved in taxidermy. Soon enough, Hathaway finds wads of cash hidden inside Talika's artwork.

At last, the meaning of the performance art is tied in. Hathaway finds the location where the video was shot (and, I believe, thereby visits the roof of Trinity College chapel, a notable location from Endeavour: it's where Fred Thursday confronted the killer in the finale of Fugue), the lads take a trip to the library and find all the evidence they need.

Hathaway on the roof in 2015:

Fred Thursday on the roof in 1966:

The solution itself feels a little rushed, coming after an episode which was overstuffed with events and characters. By the time Hathaway and Paterfamilias Hathaway get around to a little bonding time (with Lewis there as third wheel, just to remind us that this is still his show), we've nearly forgotten about James's family troubles. As it is, the bonding that does take place is instant and does not feel earned. Perhaps this will be revisited in future episodes.

Overall: not bad, but it leaves no time for closure or growth, and because of the superfluity of plot, we don't get to know the characters. One last thing: Hathaway stops reading one of my favorite poems - Gerard Manley Hopkins's God's Grandeur - right before the best part, which needs to be corrected, showrunners. That was just cruel.

My review of next week's episode: Magnum Opus

For more detective news:

Want something good to watch? Check out my full list of good detective shows.



  1. It looked like a female hitting the immigrant with the bat. I'm going with the woman who runs the homeless shelter. Or Chief Superintendent Joseph Moody.

    1. I've only watched it the once, and not very closely, but it's true, that sort of scene is often created to make the viewer imagine the culprit is a man.

  2. In the credit column: I love, love, love that the exhibition turns out to revolve around the original murder (the body in the well). The video aspect of the installation is next door to the dream sequences/"fractured reality" clues that I adore in a murder mystery.

    In the debit column: I had trouble buying the complicated solution to the well murder, and this production felt like it had borderline-too-many-characters. But that is the tension of murder mysteries: too few characters, and it becomes too easy to hit upon the solution. Too many, and it turns into a circus, stat. I suspect that the episode reads a good deal better when it isn't chopped into two pieces.

    1. Since all three members of the Tedman family are guilty of murder/attempted murder, this would be a good time for the UK to think about family prisons. Perhaps detached cottages on prison grounds.

    2. I didn't think the solution was really all that complicated, but a) they told rather than showed HOW any of it was done, and b) they didn't really provide the audience too many clues before the big reveal. There was so much plot that there wasn't that brief drawing room recap a la Dame Agatha which is important to Fair Play.

      But I did love the murder as performance art thing.

  3. I was wondering why two shows in a single week involved the the Stanford prison experiment (Castle was the other one) and now I see that there is a movie about it about to be released. Let it be known that viewers that want to see the whole thing in one sitting can wait two weeks and queue them both up at the same time. Stranger things have happened.

    1. As far as I know the Stanford Prison Experiment movie came out a few months ago. I remember reading about it in WORLD magazine. Other things of interest: the Third Wave experiment in the 60s. I read about that as a kid and have never forgotten it. Same principle.

  4. Hi, just a side-note: Sean Wilkinson was Jasper Hammond's nephew, not his son.

  5. When ITV broadcast this episode in the UK they put up strong warnings on the screen that this episode featured depictions of dead animals [all that taxidermy] and advised sensitive people to stay away or take precautions. They repeated the warnings within the start of the episode. Then the first image came up on the screen of the decomposed human body taken from the well. Sure. Warn them about the sodding animals. . . .

    1. Well, to be fair, Oxford-dwellers are probably far more used to corpses than carcasses.

      To not be fair: that's utterly disheartening.

    2. Kudos to ITV. Dead humans are always faked. Dead animals, especially in shows not overseen by the AHA, are not. Watch Wallander if you doubt me. They love killing animals in that show.

      I was quite underwhelmed by this episode. Thank you for your review, Ms. Long.

  6. Hannah, greetings from Buenos Aires, Argentina, the South of the South. We enjoy very much the good British series like Lewis, Endeavour, Vera, Grantchester and Agatha Christie's Poirot. I am very glad to read this complete and impeccable review. I am learning very much English reading this and watching these series.
    I am 47 years old
    Thank you!!!
    Maria Jose

  7. Are you a fan of Lewis? I mean have you watched all the episodes?

    I am a big fan myself but was very disappointed that they felt the need to change the format by bringing in Maddox and Moody (this is the way of things in the UK now, must be seen to be representative) and the last season was a let down.

    However, Lewis is superb and I'm dead proud of it as a Brit. The whole franchise, with Endeavour & Morse, is pure quality and allows total immersion in the world created.

    What are your feelings?

    1. I have never been as devoted a fan of Lewis as I was of Morse. It has, however, been a decent show over the years and one of the better detective tales to grace our screens. I have watched all of the episodes, though not in order, so I can't really judge the series by individual season. Introducing Maddox and Moody is, I think, more than just a sop to political correctness - they've been attempting to discover an actor with genuine chemistry with Laurence Fox, just in case he decided to go on. And, of course, a la Endeavour, large supporting casts are more common now.

      Endeavour is superb - I've been reviewing those as well:

      But Morse is my favorite. We're rewatching the series now. John Thaw was just terrific.

    2. I love the original Morse but I don't watch any re-runs (or repeats as we call them) because I watched them all, when they were first broadcast, with my late father who loved them (and desperately attempted to guess the identity but never did)

      Unfortunately, I'm afraid PC certainly did play apart in the final series because every show on British TV has suffered the same fate in the last few years which for me is a shame.

      I particularly enjoyed S1 & 2 of Endeavour but felt S3 lost the plot (no pun intended) with all the Great Gatsby re-hash and so on.

      Anyway, they show random repeats of Lewis episodes once or twice a week here and I often catch one. The development of the Lewis / Hathaway relationship is excellent starting with them being antagonistic towards each other.

      I'm not a fan of detective series in general but this franchise is exceptional in my opinion. I do hope they are going to continue with Endeavour right up through to the 80s, to complete the cycle & reveal more of the Morse back story.

      Haven't got around to watching the latest Harry Potter film review, saving it for when I need cheering up! I think you could expand into other areas of life, other than films & books, to capture Mamaw's views for posterity. Take care

    3. I agree - all three Morse shows are terrific. Endeavour had a rough last season but I'm hoping it rights itself for series 4 (which is already being filmed).

      I've actually been meaning to interview Mamaw on some other topics but I haven't gotten around to it. I'm transferring to a new school right now as well as trying to keep up with writing articles and hosting my podcast.

    4. Just so we can all be clear about this Richard, what you're saying is that you don't like programmes with black people in?

    5. I'm sure Richard didn't mean that - I think he was trying to say (correct me if I'm wrong, Richard) that the decision to enlarge the cast was made for reasons of diversity rather than storytelling necessity, and feels tacked on as a result. I actually disagree - I think the additions add to the story, and I like that the show doesn't rely as heavily on the Lewis-Hathaway partnership.

    6. I loved Morse, Lewis and haven't seen all of Endeavor yet. I did not want the Lewis series to end, but they'd made 33 episodes, as many as Morse..... I'd gladly watch more of it but I've seen it to the end. I wish Laurence Fox wanted to do more but apparently he didn't. And Kevin appeared to be convinced he was too old to still be in that position in the police. But I'd take them gladly. I had to wait a few years to re-watch Morse, he was such a part of my life I couldn't bear John Thaw's actual death. But now I can watch and I'm still transfixed. I love him. And I love all 3 series. Elizabeth Gabber,Salinas, California


WARNING: Blogger sometimes eats comments - copy before you post.