Channel: BBC Two
Recurring Cast: Kris Marshall, Sara Martins, Danny John-Jules, Gary Carr
The third season of Death in Paradise starts off with a resounding shock. The lead character, Ben Miller’s Richard Poole, is quickly killed off and the team are sent reeling, trying to figure out who killed their beloved Chief Inspector. Enter a brand new British Inspector (because foreign countries would be helpless without British intervention, of course!), Humphrey Goodman, a man just as brilliant as the late Inspector, but accident-prone and awkward. He tries to integrate into a crew, still struggling to let another Inspector just walk into the station as a replacement, and at the same time, get to the bottom of the murder of their old employer and dear friend.
That was exactly what I wanted from Death in Paradise. A shock. Something above the episodic murders that I described as reliable, yet predictable. This is the biggest shake-up this series has had yet, taking the lead and best character and replacing him with a new hero. Humphrey Goodman is a good fit for the show. He takes the right pieces of Ben Miller’s character that made the show so British and fun, yet adds his own style of character. This is constantly being established throughout the first few episodes. DI Goodman wants to be a part of the team, whereas Richard Poole kept himself isolated from the others. Goodman is clumsy, where Poole was precise. Kris Marshall might seem like a fish out of water at first, but eventually he grows on you. Sure, Marshall doesn’t have the stage presence that Miller did and there is a lack of gravitas in the performance, but he is hardly awful to spend time with. Richard Poole’s character had become stuck in a rut and it is refreshing to see this new person we can learn to spend time with. Goodman comes with his own problems, mainly the fact that the whole reason he is in Sainte Marie is to inject some adventure into a stale and crumbling marriage.
Sadly, despite this hectic turn of events, it becomes business as usual, as soon as Episode Two rolls around. This could have been the last straw. If the show cannot handle the death of its lead character without returning to a tried and tested formula soon after, then there is no way this show will ever manage to escape this rut. However, in realising that, I began to appreciate Death in Paradise a lot more. I can see this show, in ten years’ time, becoming a mid-morning show for those people that just like a nice mystery to slip into. In that regard, it does its job remarkably well. The mysteries are just the right side of guessable, throwing up a tricky little puzzle and spending the running time, trying and mainly failing to put the dots together. Me and my little brother even had a little tally where we tried to see who could solve the most episodes. Even when you get it wrong, most of the time the answer is so clever that you don’t mind. When it comes to the art of a good, old-fashioned murder mystery, the writers know precisely what they are doing.
Still, I do want a few more episodes with gimmicks. One episode sees the team caught in a tropical storm, locking them on an island with all of their suspects, really bringing that ‘there is a killer among us’ element to life. If the suspense was perhaps not played on enough, it was still refreshing to see the team solving the murder without the use of technology and having to improvise when it came to matching fingerprints. That is clever writing and I wanted more of that. Maybe next season, a character is indisposed temporarily, so the team have to solve the case without the help of, for example, Camille Bordey. The finale was also a little lacking, once again. The end episode card it brings to the table is character development (you know, that thing that should be happening every episode!) Humphrey’s wife finally shows up and we get to see that awkward reunion. Goodman lays down his feelings and emotions onto the table. Ironically, I could never escape the nagging feeling that I wanted to be back, solving the murder, turning this reviewer into a hypocrite that has no idea what he wants.
But doesn’t Sainte Marie look beautiful? Set in Guadeloupe, but given a fictional name, every episode makes sure it has its fair share of amazing shots. It becomes easy to see why so many people are taking vacations to an island with a dangerously high death count. One episode saw the team track down a killer in a famous bird watching sight and the jungle was impressive, aweing us at every frame. It is a neat little microcosm to tie the review up with. Death in Paradise is very undemanding and just asks you to relax into it, much like a gorgeous beach view in the sunny island of Sainte Marie.
Final Verdict: Undemanding and fun, Death in Paradise handles the loss of its lead character very well, settling back into a comfortable setting and routine.