Thursday, May 1, 2014

Death In Paradise Season 1 Review

Death In Paradise offers a nice twist on the detective story by relocating to the fictional island of Saint Marie. Ben Miller stars as Inspector Richard Poole, the fish-out-of-water Englishman who is charged with leading the local police force (a grand total of three people) and solving the various mysteries that frequently occur on the island.

Ben Miller as Inspector Richard Poole

Right from the off, mysteries include locked rooms and other impossible crimes. It's great to see the genre still going strong (Season 1 averaged about 6 million viewers per episode on BBC) on the small screen.

The show's light hearted tone and humorous supporting characters make it an easy watch. Episodes speed by with a familiar format - the murder is committed, Poole & co examine the scene and interview the witnesses, a small detail (often from a secondary case) provides Poole with the inspiration he needs, then all the characters are gathered together for an explanation of proceedings. It's a well worn formula, but the interesting cases and charming cast make it one worth revisiting.

Regular BBC viewers will notice many familiar faces come and go during the season, often with questionable Caribbean accents from distinctly British actors. Performances from the core cast are consistently strong however, with special mention to Danny John-Jules (Cat from Red Dwarf) and Gary Carr as the entertaining Dwayne and Fidel.

While mystery fans may find the cases somewhat elementary (couldn't help myself, sorry!), I found the show to be thoroughly enjoyable. The unique setting and likeable characters differentiate it from similar shows, and I'm looking forward to exploring them more in the later seasons.

Episode 1 - Arriving In Paradise
DI Richard Poole is sent to the tropical isle of Saint-Marie following the death of a fellow British detective in the locked panic room of a resident English aristocrat's house.

The solution to the locked room puzzle will be immediately recognisable to anyone familiar with the genre, but the unexpected way key characters are introduced provides a nice twist on the format.

Episode 2 - Wicked Wedding Night
Source: There's No Time
Poole investigates the murder of bride Lisa Moore minutes after her wedding, shot through the heart with a spear and found in a room for which she had no key.

One of my favourite episodes. With no apparent motive for any of the suspects, the mystery is more of a whydunit than a whodunit. The solution is both novel and unexpected, playfully teasing the viewer down the wrong path before pulling the rug from under us.

Episode 3 - Predicting Murder
Poole comes across a strange case where a woman not only predicts her own murder but also gives a description of the murderer.

Featuring a concept that points so obviously to a single solution, the episode fails to offer a twist that can defy expectations. It would have been nice to see an impossible method of death here to draw attention away from the simplistic core mechanic. Shame a story about predictions is so predictable.

Episode 4 - Missing A Body
When a woman confesses to a murder, it seems like an easy case for DI Poole and the team, but then they realise that there is no body. They must discover whether the woman is telling the truth or if secrets lie within.

The story may be a little contrived, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for the genre. Poole's interactions with the suspects add a little drama to the interesting but unexceptional episode. 

Episode 5 - Spot The Difference
Escorting a convicted fraudster on the ferry back to Saint-Marie goes disastrously wrong when the man is stabbed to death while handcuffed to DI Poole, much to his embarrassment, the wrath of the commissioner and the amusement of his team.

Spot The Difference hinges on Poole not noticing the murder of a man standing immediately beside him, which pushed the believability to breaking point. Where the episode focuses on who stabbed the victim, it would have been much more interesting to explore how someone could have committed the crime without being noticed on a crowded ferry.

Episode 6 - An Unhelpful Aid
When DI Poole is bedridden with a tropical fever and Camille is on a course in Paris, Dwayne and Fidel have to solve the murder of a local diver.

The who and how of the murder are apparent even before the crime has been discovered, but unveiling of the why sheds some light on a number of intriguing sub-plots. If the intended illusion of the crime had not been so simplistic the episode may have held more mystery.

Source: Wikipedia
Episode 7 - Music Of Murder
Solly, a musician, is murdered in a stage coffin on a band's comeback night after a ten-year split. DI Poole's investigation of the band, victim's wife and a female photographer make them all suspects.

Music Of Murder starts with a strong concept - all of the suspects have a rock solid alibi for the time of the murder. I suspected the story may follow a Murder On The Orient Express type twist, but it instead opts for a simple solution that feels a little underwhelming.

Episode 8 - Amongst Us
A woman is found murdered in her bed with many coins in her mouth. Dwayne's police shield under the bed makes him a suspect.

Implicating one of the team adds a layer of intrigue that slightly improves what otherwise is a fairly standard episode.

7/10 - The ingenuity of the mysteries varies by episode, but the characters and setting more than makes up for it.

Death In Paradise is available on DVD from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

Episode descriptions from Wikipedia.

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