Hello and welcome to ‘Putting the D in the P’, my weekly look at the latest episode of Death in Paradise. Death in Paradise is one of my favourite shows on television, and when casting your eyes down to the article below, just remember that my light-hearted ribbing is coming from a place of pure love.
Death in Paradise is a cozy crime show about an English inspector solving crimes on a tropical island whilst also falling over a lot. It is also simultaneously the best and worst show I have ever seen. I absolutely adore it. I love it. I really really do. The mere fact that I am so joyful to hear when it’s coming back on can’t be overstated, but also whenever I watch it, I constantly have to ask myself why none of the cast look even slightly baffled by how ridiculous everything is.
When I attended a talk by Robert Thorogood, the series creator, last year, I went with a single burning question that I was determined to ask. The question was ‘Do you know? Do you really get it? You understand it’s weird, right?’ I was convinced I was going to ask this, but throughout the body of the talk, I got my answer. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t get that what he’s making is utter narrative rubbish, and as I reflected on this, I guessed it was a good thing. Because you really have to be all in on something to make it fantastic.
And don’t get me wrong, I think Death in Paradise is a fantastic show. Purely because everyone is all in. The murders are dumb, the investigation is dumb. the sub-plots are dumb, the acting is dumb. It’s so bloody brilliant.
Even if you’re the stereotypical ‘fan’ of Death in Paradise, it’s probably hard to pin down standout episodes. Thorogood said that the writing team strictly adhere to a template when writing an episode. For example, four pages in, the murder occurs…eight pages in, the team arrive to inspect the crime scene…fifteen pages in, a suspect is established…twenty pages in, a new clue is found that turns the investigation on it’s head and so on. A very rigid framework that is pretty obvious if you watch even two episodes in a row. That makes everything rather samey, and episodes are often marked (at least in my mind) by which British actor they’ve roped in to guest star in the episode. Who can forget the exciting ‘The One With Tara Fitzgerald’, or the epic ‘The One With Keith Allen’…or even the brutally shocking ‘The One With Neville Longbottom’!
Actually the only real standout episode to me is where Ben Miller swaps with Kris Marshall. Ben Miller’s detective character gets murdered, and Kris Marshall’s detective character has to investigate it (basically the Death in Paradise version of regeneration).
So, this is a way to delve a little deeper into Death in Paradise. We’re going to take a closer look at the stories of the episode and break them down a little bit to try and find how this television show is so bloody amazing. And to reiterate, I do think it is bloody amazing. It’s one of my favourite shows. So if sometimes these recaps/breakdowns get a little mean, know it comes from a place of love.
So here we go. Whether you’re a hardcore DiP fan, or you just like crime stories, I hope you’ll join me for what I like to call: Putting The D In The P: Last Night on Death in Paradise.
(Also these episodes don’t have titles, so I’m gonna make them up)
Series 6 Episode 1 – The Seismic Conundrum
As we start our episode, two members of the Saint-Marie volcano institute are hiking up the Saint-Marie volcano – which is interesting seeing as there has never been a volcano on Saint-Marie before. I guess it just appeared since last series.
These two little volcano buffs are Stephen Langham (the dude) and Victoria Baker (the dudette)
and they’re almost definitely fucking each other and they’re off to check on the seismometer halfway up the volcano. It’s been giving some dodgy readings but they can’t find anything wrong with it.
Back at the institute, Megan Colley (a young intern at the institute) and Daniel Langham (the brother of Stephen) are doing volcano work about the volcano (you know, volcanoey things). Daniel can’t fucking believe nothing’s up with the seismometer, seeing as it’s gone tits up for three nights now. Stephen says that if it’s an animal fucking with the equipment, it’s probably nocturnal so he’s going back up in the dark.
The next morning, and Stephen’s not back from the volcano, even though the peeps at the institute have an important meeting with Saint-Marie’s mayor, Mayor Richards. The peeps are slightly distressed with Stephen’s absence, so decide to go out in the helicopter to look for him.
Obviously, he’s collapsed on the volcano and he’s deader than disco.
At Detective Humphrey Goodman’s island shack, DS Florence Cassell arrives to tell him about the death. Humph is outside standing in the sea holding a laptop up. This is the only place he gets wi-fi and he’s talking to his girlfriend on Skype. Her name is Martha and she’s coming to Saint-Marie for a booty call that promises to be equal parts awkward and unattractive. Florence gives Humph the stock oh-you-fucking-English-tosser look before telling him about the murder.
At the crime scene, the team, Humph, Florence, Officer Dwayne Meyers and Officer JP Hooper inspect the body. Humph seems perplexed by one detail – why didn’t Stephen bring a torch with him when he trekked up the volcano in the pitch black? Why indeed?
Humph goes to meet the witnesses who are, as always at this point, sitting together but not really sitting together (see below). They’re doing their own thing, showing their own signs of grief. (N.B. this shows an essential part of Death in Paradise. This isn’t a show where you’re meant to be able to guess the murderer. There’s going to be some insane leaps in logic coming, and it starts with each suspect being isolated, because at some point they’re all going to be in the frame but for super different reasons.)
Humph learns everyone’s names. Victoria Baker starts crying in the middle on her introduction. It’s really unconvincing, but I think that’s more the acting than a clue. Daniel Langham has a touch of the flu and he’s also the resident volcanologist (which means in the science world he’s……..HOT….stuff.
I’m so alone). Megan Colley looks bored as shit and there’s not much going on with her. From this group interview, Humph learns one important thing. Due to the records of a key card lock on the institute door, it can be ascertained no one left or entered the institute between Stephen leaving in the night and Victoria greeting the Mayor the next morning. Apparently, the swipe system is in case of an eruption, which makes no real sense as if there was an eruption on Saint-Marie, the whole island would be fucked. Also, the guys must sleep at the institute (it’s never really addressed).
While at the institute, Humph sees that there are torches right by the door. Stephen would have walked right past on his way out, so why didn’t he just grab a torch? Humph has a real hard-on for this clue…it’s almost as if it’s important. (Actually in Death in Paradise terms, this can go one of two ways. If Humph is obsessing over a clue, it could mean absolutely nothing or absolutely everything.)
In Stephen’s office, Humph learns more about the Saint-Marie volcano, even though from a map it seems to take up about 15% of the land mass of Saint-Marie, a place he has lived for a number of years now. And it never once came up in that time. Humph looks at some chemicals in a test tube – phenolphthalein to be exact. It rings a bell from his GCSEs – it’s used to test acidity.
Strap yourself in because things are about to get REAL. Stephen Langham died of heart failure, according to the postmortem. And Megan Colley, the intern, isn’t on the island according to the passport authority. Say wha???
Humph and Florence go to see ‘Megan Colley’ who reveals herself to be
Eva Burn…or Abre Brown, I didn’t quite catch it (seriously I’ve played it back like ten times) Emer Byrne (should’ve just waited two seconds when Humph looks at her passport). She used her best friend’s degree to apply for a job at the institute, seeing as Emer herself failed her degree. Even though the real Megan Colley is still out there somewhere. So this girl is committing identity fraud just to study at some institute. Like she’s a real fucking bitch. Not to mention a terrible friend. This is a BIG FUCKING DEAL. But spoiler alert, in terms of our investigation, it means JACK SHIT. This is never mentioned again (so maybe you’re asking yourself, why the fuck is it in the episode?? To which the answer is, Welcome to Death in Paradise.)
There are three similar revelations about the other suspects that I’ll just bang out right now. They’re also things that Humph gets told directly, like he does hardly any actual investigating in this episode, it’s all interviews and phone calls. Daniel Langham has a drug habit (not flu, the cheeky bastard) which Stephen was helping to finance. Victoria was sleeping with Stephen, and Stephen allowed her sole credit of a paper. Mayor Richards had a few heated arguments with Stephen about land owned by the institute, although the Mayor insists he likes Stephen. They all do and don’t have motives to kill Stephen, basically how every DiP investigation plays out.
Let’s take some time off from the investigation to check in with the SUB-PLOTS. Humph goes to pick up Martha from the airport, but gets the time wrong! Hilarity ensues, as though both miss each other. Humph and Martha have a candlelit dinner at Humph’s shack, but they get interrupted by Harry the lizard! (Fun side-note, at the Robert Thorogood talk I went to, there was a woman in the audience who only seemed to care about Harry the lizard. She kept asking Robert about him, making sure he was okay.)
In a decidedly B-SUB-PLOT, Dwayne tries to impress an attractive photographer by talking shit about the Commissioner of the Saint-Marie police. The next morning, it’s all over the papers and Dwayne spends the next day trying to stop the Commissioner reading the paper. It doesn’t really go anywhere, but it’s quite amusing, mostly based on the strength of the actors and the fun they’re having in the scenes.
Back to the murder, and during a session at the office where Humph tries to puzzle out the mystery, he hits on something. He uses separate whiteboards to illustrate where Stephen and the others were on the night of the murder. Stephen was on the mountain so he gets one whiteboard. The others were in the institute so they get another whiteboard. JP says that they should get a separate one for the Mayor, seeing as he wasn’t in either of those places. Without a third whiteboard, Humph has to stick the Mayor’s picture on a computer, in a place where he can’t see the others. This makes something click in his head (something that I am still not entirely sure of…or how for that matter.)
Humph tells JP to re-search the area around the institute to look for a mobile phone. He wants to gather everyone together to reveal the murderer.
Here’s another key part of Death in Paradise. The grand reveal. A key staple of the Golden Age. The detective gathers everyone together to reveal the culprit. It’s fun, and a little stupid, but it can also be done really well. A grand reveal scene is, obviously, only as good as it’s grand reveal, so these scenes in DiP vary in quality. This one is rather limp.
I sometimes wonder when they tell the actors who the murderer is, because it is literally impossible to tell. Even ten seconds before the penny drops, the murderer seems to be genuinely denying it. Here is no exception. I guess I better explain this shitpot.
So this grand reveal takes place outside with all four suspects present. They’ve all brought chairs outside with them… guess they don’t like grass stains. Humph starts to talk…and holy dickballs, it was all of them!!! All of them killed Stephen Langham. And it was all about the absence of that torch. They all staged Stephen Langham’s death on the side of the volcano – he actually died in his room and they moved him. But they forgot that in their story, he would have needed a torch to see his way up the volcano.
The seismic irregularities had been manufactured by the instituters, using a mobile phone to upset the readings, a mobile phone JP finds in the tttttrrrraassssshhhh. Victoria removed the phone from the seismometer when they had gone up in the afternoon.
Now Stephen’s heart attack was brought on by hypoxia – a lack of air. The instituters brought on Stephen’s heart failure by posioning him with bold and unabriged CO2 in his room. It mixed with the phenolphthalein we saw earlier (you know, a few years back) creating a colourless solution and giving a clue as to what happened. With the body taken on a stretcher to the volcano, Daniel swipes Stephen’s card through the swipe system. Daniel and Emer waited outside the institute for when Victoria opened the door for the Mayor and got in just before the Mayor arrived.
Why did they all do it? Money. The Mayor wanted to buy the land on the beach to build a hotel, but Stephen wouldn’t budge so he had to go. The deadline on the hotel planning permission was the day after Stephen’s death. The Mayor was at the institute to get the contract signed, and wanted to make sure he was going to get it, so had a man (or dudette) on the inside. Victoria convinced the others to go along with her, wearing Daniel down and blackmailing Emer.
This mystery is way too disjointed and passive to make much sense. Almost every revelation comes from JP or Dwayne telling Humph something. Humph doesn’t actually figure much out, until the end where he makes a connection that I still can’t puzzle out. How did Humph know that it was all of them? I get thinking that it was Victoria, with the Mayor’s help, but why the other two?
Also, as always, there are a number of things glossed over.
- A big deal was made out of the swipe system and CCTV at the door. How did they get the body out without it being on the CCTV? In a flashback, it is shown they use the front door to take the body out. Similarly why were Daniel and Emer not picked up going back in?
- Why would Emer not go to Stephen when Victoria started to blackmail her? Emer said that Stephen knew – so surely Stephen would have been able to help. It was clear Emer cared for Stephen, so why would she turn on him, without even trying to get his help first?
- During the investigation, it’s found out Stephen is fuelling Daniel’s drug habit to the tune of $400 a week. But Stephen only has ‘a few thousand’ in his bank account. Where was Stephen getting the money?
- Why did Victoria and Daniel look so shocked in the helicopter when they found Stephen’s body? Maybe to trick the helicopter pilot, but when they landed, why did they carry on the charade? They were alone – why bother to pretend?
- Where was the helicopter pilot and why wasn’t he at least interviewed once?
- What was the point of the whole seismometer scam – the mobile phone messing up the seismometer readings. The only reason for it was for a reason to get Stephen back up the mountain – but someone usually went up at night anyway (Daniel says something about a night shift). When it’s revealed that Stephen died in his room, the only reason for the scam was to get Stephen to go to his room to prepare. Would there not have been an easier way to get Stephen to go to his room for a bit?? Why not piss him off so he goes to his room, why not just wait till he goes to his room, why not have Victoria tell Stephen to go wait in his room where she will join him later and make sweet sweet scientific love?
- Also…won’t someone PLEASE THINK OF THE SCIENCE!
Oh well. With the team relaxing at the beachside bar after a win, Humph and Martha share a kiss – which is as unappealing and unattractive as advertised.
Humph needs another drink. And so do I…
Overall, this wasn’t a terrible episode. The actual murder mystery lacked any real excitement, with revelations not feeling earned, and too much big stuff being forgotten about. But the sub-plot with Dwayne and the Commissioner was fun and although it might not be very stimulating to watch, it’s nice to see Humph getting some sweet sweet sciencey loving.
I think we can all agree this was a very very
THE SEISMIC CONUNDRUM
UP NEXT: A murder takes place on Saint-Marie and Humph investigates it.
See you next week.