Last Tuesday, Death In Paradise came to the end of its third series and it was presumably a bit of a gamble for the creators. After the second series, star Ben Miller – DI Richard Poole, the very British detective sent to the island of Saint-Marie – decided that he had to leave the show in order to spend more time with his family in the UK. A completely understandable decision but viewers were at a bit of a loss as to how it would continue with a new lead. And I’ll happily admit, I was concerned when the replacement lead actor was announced as Kris Marshall, famed primarily for My Family (ugh!) and some BT adverts.
I’ve posted my thoughts on the first two episodes, but now the series is over, let’s have a look at the eight episodes together, shall we?
As I said, I was a bit concerned because I love this show. Series Two was outstanding, from the performances of the central cast, the clever fair-play mystery plots and the ongoing sort-of romance between Richard and Camille (Sara Martins).
It was a brave and sensible decision to kill Richard in the opening episode in order to give Humphrey a clear run to establish himself. In fact he never gets a mention in the rest of the series – but what completely surprised me was that I really didn’t care. Humphrey is such an endearing character – as I said before, just as British and eccentric as Richard but in a completely different way – that he fits right in and while the only real choice dramatically was to move him and Camille closer as the series progressed, even the hints of that didn’t feel like a rehash of the Richard-Camille plot – you’d never had got Richard saying what Humphrey does at the end of the series…
I think Kris Marshall does a wonderful job with the character – none of his flaws are played up (apart from his tendency to occasionally fall over, but that’s down to the director). The emotional scenes with his wife in the final episode in particular were a window into the how the character thinks and feels. It’s not much of an exaggeration that at the end of the series, my thoughts were pretty much “Richard who?” It’s Humphrey’s show now, due in no small measure to Marshall.
As ever, the supporting cast are great to watch. In particular, I loved the occasional sub-plot of Dwayne’s underhand attempts to help Fidel’s career as a sergeant – it gave a real extra depth to the character.
Mystery-wise? Well, that was the problem for this viewer at least. In at least three episodes – (2, the zombie film one, 3, the gigolo one and 6, the bird watching one) – I’d solved it before the opening credits had finished because the trick being played was obviously to someone like me who may well have read too many Agatha Christie mysteries, and two more (1, the Richard one and 4, the airline one) when the important clue was mentioned, the murderer gave themselves away very early. But it is important to remember that I have read a lot of mysteries and the TV audiences, as a whole, haven’t and I don’t think any of these were direct lifts from the source. And to be fair, it took me a while to twig the method in the airline one. In fact, only the birdwatching one was blindingly obvious – possibly due to how the opening sequence was filmed and acted.
You can always rely on series creator Rob Thorogood to up the ante though. Episode 6 – the murder of a suicidal man – and episode 8, a proper locked room had me fooled, both came from his pen and to be fair, I hadn’t twigged the method in episode 7 – the stranded on an island one. All of these, I thought, were clever.
Each episode was fairly clued, so rare on television these days, and had at least one perplexing question to use as a focus for the mystery – why kill a suicidal man? how could a man in full view shoot someone elsewhere? – even when it wasn’t an actual impossible murder. And after all, if the aim to get the audience to play along, then some of the mysteries should be easier to solve than others. You always get a beginners puzzle next to the expert one in the paper, after all. And even when I had solved it, it was still great fun to watch and finding out if I was right or not.
And the good news? They start filming series four later this year! So the only proper play-along detective show will be back in 2015 and I, for one, can’t wait!