J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Inspector Lewis, Back for Season V

Five seasons already—time sure flies when you’re sending snotty intellectuals up the river.  Detective Inspector Robbie Lewis is just the man to do it.  Never a member of the Oxford establishment, the Geordie transplant has an old fashioned bourgeoisie sense of decency that will bring him into conflict with the smart set from time to time during the fifth season of Inspector Lewis (promo here), which airs as part of the current season of Masterpiece Mystery, beginning this coming Sunday on most PBS outlets.

The circumstances surrounding the murder in The Soul of Genius, the first case of the new season for Lewis and his Sergeant, DS Hathaway, does not inspire any special outrage, but it is something of a head-scratcher to the level headed detective.  An eccentric scholar obsessed with Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark has been killed, perhaps due to an academic rivalry.  An amateur detective complicates their investigation, annoying Lewis no end.  However, when he learns she is trying to make sense of her own son’s untimely death, it brings out his natural sympathy.

In Generation of Vipers, Lewis feels similar compassion for Miranda Thornton, an Oxford lecturer who was perhaps hounded into committing suicide by internet trolls when her confidential online dating video was leaked to a gawker-esque website.  He has no patience for the moral dissembling of the proprietor, or for the brusque indifference of her former lover.  Unfortunately, the detectives find themselves in a spot of bother, thanks to a hostile press.  Generation might be the season’s least complicated mystery, but it has some of Kevin Whately’s finest moments as the outraged Lewis this time around.

Lewis also gets a tad bit annoyed with some of his suspects in Fearful Symmetry.  He rather likes Marion Hammond, the S&M photographer.  It is the swinging Garlands’ non-cooperative attitude that chaffs him.  Unfortunately, Tom Garland’s ambitious employee, Nick Addams and his reluctant wife took up the boss’s invitation for a night of whatever.  When they came back, they discovered the babysitter brutally murdered in their bed.  It turns out she had posed in a way to resemble her photo-shoot with Hammond, whom the Garland’s coincidentally patronize.  Featuring Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp as Garland, Symmetry is probably the darkest installment of season five.

Arguably, the fifth season ends with its strongest offering, featuring its biggest name guest star, David Soul (from Starsky & Hutch) appearing as an American academic not long for the world.  Dr. Paul Yelland advocates genetic screening to identify those prone to “dangerousness” before they actually commit crimes.  This line of academic inquiry is controversial and evidently deadly.  Naturally, the local leftist professional protestors disrupt his speech and they do not sound particularly rational when questioned after Yelland’s murder.  However, Lewis and Hathaway’s investigation suggest campus love affairs and professional resentments might have played a greater role in his demise.

It is the chemistry between Whately and Laurence Fox’s Hathaway that makes Lewis click so well as a series.  While last season gave them several particularly nice bonding moments, this year’s batch somewhat neglects the development of their personal-professional relationship.  It is still pleasant to watch them work together, nonetheless.

In the British press, Morse author Colin Dexter speculates the future of Inspector Lewis might be limited to one more go-round.  The good detective is at retirement age it seems and both leads are reportedly ready to move on.  However, Fox has established a strong enough character to merit a Hathaway spin-off, thereby continuing the Morse apostolic tradition, should he decide to pick up the torch.  Though not quite as strong as series four (as aired by PBS rather than ITV), this year’s season is still considerably more enjoyable than most workaday crime television.  Cordially recommended for British mystery fans, Inspector Lewis returns to Masterpiece Mystery this Sunday (7/8) continuing through July 29th.

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