The third series of Death in Paradise is the first to ring significant changes to the cast. Ben Miller departs early in the series to be replaced by Kris Marshall who at this point was best known for his role in the long-running sitcom My Family.
Time for what may possibly be a controversial opinion: I prefer DI Goodman to DI Poole. This is not saying anything negative about Ben Miller who is entertaining but rather that I think Goodman brings something new and interesting to the show.
Where Poole tried to retain his sense of structure and British identity, Goodman is trying to reinvent himself. The comedy comes from his misjudged attempts to integrate to life on Saint-Marie which I think offers more room for the character to grow.
I think it helps as well that this season sets a high standard in terms of the stories it is telling. There are several stories that have striking premises such as Ye of Little Faith, The Early Bird and Rue Morgue and I appreciated that the secondary characters seem to get a little more to do this season.
Next time around I’ll be looking at the show’s fourth season which will bring further changes to the cast.
Episode One: Death of a Detective
Written by Robert Thorogood
Synopsis: DI Poole attends a reunion of some of his university friends on the island. While they play games and drink in the living room, he opts to sit on the deck in a chair with his back to them but in full view of the room. Late in the party he is discovered stabbed to death with an ice pick.
Review: In addition to telling a good murder story, this episode has to accomplish the difficult tasks of saying goodbye and paying tribute to a lead character and introducing a new one. While I think Poole’s sudden departure from the series was a little unfortunate and abrupt, I think this episode does a good job of accomplishing the transition and establishing Inspector Goodman in his own right with his own set of quirks and peculiarities. More importantly, I did appreciate that it gives the other members of the team time to mourn.
Turning to the case, I think the episode uses its time effectively to tell a very solid murder story. Several of the clues are quite subtle and I thought that the revelation of the killer’s identity and motivation were very clever.
Episode Two: The Wrong Man
Written by Daisy Coulam
Synopsis: A zombie film shoot on the island turns tragic when a stand-in for the film’s star, Lexi Cunningham, dies after eating a poisoned chocolate from a box that had been intended for Lexi.
Review: As a Doctor Who fan this episode was already onto a winner with me by casting Peter Davison as one of the suspects along with Michelle Ryan as the intended victim. Others’ mileage may vary on that.
Regardless of the casting, the premise is fun and I liked that it plays with the idea of the unintended victim which felt new for the show. I also felt that it did a good job of beginning to explore the dynamics of the new team (and gave us a really strong moment when we see how Inspector Goodman’s new post will affect his life). The solution is solid although it did not wow me but this struck me as a very entertaining episode.
Episode Three: An Artistic Murder
Written by Paul Logue
Synopsis: The team are assigned to work a security detail to protect a valuable painting that is about to be auctioned. Following the viewing however they receive a phone call rerouted from the station from a man who had attended the viewing before suddenly leaving saying that a woman was threatening him with a gun. When they arrive at the man’s home five minutes later he is dead.
Review: A great episode for Fidel who had been friends with the victim as well as one of the suspects though the mystery suffers a little from a casting choice that makes the killer stand out when it really should have been a surprise. That being said, the process of getting there is fun and the motive is very cleverly worked so even if you guess whodunnit there is something there are still points of interest in the case.
Episode Four: Ye of Little Faith
Written by Ian Kershaw
Synopsis: An airline stewardess on her first visit to the island is found dead in her hotel room but no traces of poison can be found in the room.
Review: I liked this episode a whole lot. While the identity of the killer will likely not surprise seasoned mystery fans, the murder method is one of the cleverest used in the show to this point. The jokes around Goodman’s terrible new selection of shirts are cute and build on the sense that this team is growing together.
Episode Five: Political Suicide
Written by Robert Thorogood
Synopsis: Saint Marie’s Commerce Minister is discovered dead in his study with a suicide note. The problem is that there is no sign of gunshot residue on his hand suggesting murder but why would someone kill a man who was planning to kill himself?
Review: This episode balances an intriguing mystery with some strong material for Sara Martins as Camille discovers that her father is a suspect in the case. The suspects are interesting and the question of how one of them managed to kill the Minister without being seen is simple but convincing. The solution is well-clued and credible.
Episode Six: The Early Bird
Written by JC Wilsher and Simon Winstone
Synopsis: A group of birdwatchers are woken early one morning to find that one of their number has raced off early. They chase him through the forest to find him dead, stabbed with his own knife.
Review: The first story from this season to really surprise me with its choice of killer (and the explanation for the sock). The crime is a variation on a classic trick delivered well and I enjoyed seeing Goodman geeking out about the case’s ornithology angle. The best material though is somewhat peripheral to the case as we see Dwayne attempt to trail a suspect – a plot thread that has a wonderful payoff.
Episode Seven: The Man with the Golden Gun
Written by Jack Lothian
Synopsis: A businessman’s family gathers after his wife’s funeral at the family home which is on a private island. Before lunch the businessman steps out into the garden and is discovered shirtless and dead with a gunshot wound to the chest. The team arrive to investigate but a storm hits, forcing them to rely on old-fashioned methods as they hunt a killer they know must still be on the island.
Review: The series had previously utilized the device of an investigation taking place during a severe weather event in the DI Poole story A Deadly Storm but this takes that idea in a somewhat different direction. Rather than focusing on the dangers the weather poses, the story uses the event to strand the team and create a tight closed circle setting.
The other way that the weather impacts on the story is it restricts the tools the investigators have at their disposal. There are no labs on offer, nor can they call out for information about any of the suspects. This is perhaps less novel than it sounds at first because we have seen both Poole and Goodman use some of these methods before but I appreciated it nonetheless.
While the situation was promising, I found the episode a little underwhelming. This may be because I had been hoping for a little more atmosphere and excitement from the storm aspect of the episode (even though I think that would have risked seeming repetitive) or it could be that I did not find the scenario of the murder to be particularly compelling. Either way this episode disappoints in the context of the two much stronger stories on either side of it.
Episode Eight: Rue Morgue
Written by Robert Thorogood
Synopsis: A woman in a retirement community is discovered dead of an overdose of sleeping medication in a room that is locked and bolted from the inside. There does not seem to be any way a killer could have gained access to the room but there are details in the room that suggest she did not intend to commit suicide. Meanwhile Goodman’s wife shows up to speak with him in hope of a reconciliation.
Review: A splendid story that ends the season on a very high note. The locked room mystery is very cleverly worked and I was happy to find it was more complicated than I first assumed. As for the secondary plot, I think it is very effective and feels like a strong and natural cap to the season.