Saturday, October 25, 2014

Inspector Lewis - Beyond Good and Evil - Episode Review

My review of last week's episode: The Lions of Nemea

Need a MacGuffin to inject drama into your season finale? Add a serial killer with a grudge against your hero!

Let's face it, the story is pretty clichéd, but psychopaths have a way of upping the tension in any story, and it's no different in Beyond Good and Evil.

Graham Lawrie, a Scotsman with a rictus of a face, has been in prison for thirteen years. A newly minted Inspector Robbie Lewis put him away in 2001 for allegedly murdering three policeman with a hammer. Now, fresh evidence has cast the verdict into question, and another murder with an identical method adds further force to Lawrie's appeal.

Lewis and Hathaway in that one episode where he had hair
You've got to love a show that's literate enough to have episodes drawing from Euripides, Jeremy Bentham, and Nietzsche. Incidentally, that also means it's more literate than me, but I know enough about Nietzsche to say this episode is more familiar with him than your average Übermensch on the street. For one thing, it correctly points out that many people, Hitler included, tend to make assumptions based on a superficial knowledge of Nietzsche's works (for instance, he was far from anti-Semitic, and even his infamous "God is dead" quote has a different spin in its original context.)

The episode utilizes the Nietzsche angle but doesn't overplay it, effectively exploring how an intelligent psychopath plays with the minds of those around him. Alec Newman makes a suitably chilling Lawrie, slinking about wearing a charmingly reptilian grin, listening to Wagner (wait, what?) and threatening to make Lewis's life miserable.

This episode is difficult to rate. For most of the time, it holds its own, building a plot on two principles that left the audience uncertain. The first of these is a major rule of detective fiction: first person accused din't do it. Therefore there's a real doubt about whether our hero may've got it wrong. Adding to this is the second principle: our hero is fast becoming a sidekick once again.

Now, Hathaway taking the reins is a big positive in my humble opinion. Laurence Fox brings an intensity and intelligence to the leading role that Kevin Whately (bless his 'art) has never managed. The new relationship also creates a strong tension. Lewis is determined to prove Lawrie guilty, even if evidence springs up to contradict him. Hathaway is determined to be fair to all involved, and he can’t just chuck out evidence because of Lewis’s hunch. And Hathaway’s right

Unfortunately, both these elements are rather canceled out in a cop-out finale that substitutes a barely believable, uninteresting solution for what could have been a remarkably clever crime. The issue of whether Lewis bungled the case falls by the wayside as Hathaway, for no reason whatsoever, credits Lewis’s advice for helping solve the case. A dramatic event halfway through the story doesn’t take it all the way, and the characters’ reactions to it are way too mellow. (SPOILER: When a police officer is attacked, a fellow officer—even someone as Foyle-ish as Hathaway—would fly off the handle if some snot-nosed kid takes that lightly.)

But it’s not all bad. It can’t decide if it’s a thriller or not (ending says not), but when it’s forcing Lewis to break the rules, and Hathaway to contradict his mentor, it provides some genuine thrills and uncertainty. That’s more than we usually see from this show. I'm beginning to like Lizzie, though she's little more than a plot point in this episode.

Should there be another season? Yes. But it should be called Inspector Hathaway.

My review of the next season.

3.5/5 stars

Hannah Long


  1. They only have one series of the reboot under their belts--I can't see them changing things up anytime soon. Besides, I don't think that Laurence Fox is interested in his own series at this point. Perhaps when he is older and he has gotten all his other projects out of the way. Like his music career. I think his biggest fear is that once it becomes "Inspector Hathaway" he have to commit to a decade of working on it or it will be seen as a failure next to Morse and Lewis.

    1. I can't see them doing it either. But I definitely could see him pulling it off.

  2. Unfortunately, both these elements are rather canceled out in a cop-out finale that substitutes a barely believable, uninteresting solution for what could have been a remarkably clever crime.

    What is your proposed ending then? Making the college student/Nietzschean zealot the killer would have been even more trite. Having it turn out to be one of the other suspects would have been even less believable--especially the psychiatrist. The prison guard? Nah. Now, one that would floor me would be Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent. I'd never see that coming.

    1. I'm not exactly sure how I would've written it, but I was hoping that a) Lawrie didn't do it, because that would be really interesting - and b) the person that did do it was just as big a threat as he was supposed to be. In other words, I was hoping there was some plot afoot, and that the crimes weren't random. It turned out the killer was motivated by obsessive and rather pathetic love - she wanted to impress Lawrie. That had neither the menace nor the cleverness to live up to the threat posed throughout the story. What I wanted was a serial killer - what I got was a frumpy bookbinder.

      To be fair, however, I can't immediately think of a better solution. If the prison guard hadn't been so prominently suspicious, I think I could've worked up something good with him. And another thing: I really wasn't sure who did it. The story did a fair job keeping me on my toes. I did suspect Tony at one point.

    2. [Hm. I think your system ate my original response.]

      The final plot twist was weak, and I suspect that this was originally written with the doctor or the hospital guard as the secondary perp. This feels grafted-on, because the bookbinder was *absolutely* the most obvious suspect for this rash of crimes. Furthermore, there was no reason that she should have been dismissed from the viewer's mind, in order to bring her in fresh, with a new motive (a la Mrs. Christie's *Towards Zero*).

      Still: the guys, Oxford, awesome theme music. Wouldn't have missed it for the world.

    3. It did feel incongruent with the story. More than anything, what bothered me was that they didn't revisit the evidence Lewis misplaced during the original investigation. How did Lawrie have an alibi? Huge plot hole. Perhaps that was sorted out in the ITV version.

    4. He said he had an alibi--at the time. For all anyone knows it was checked out and refuted--at the time. There is little sense in checking it out now. No one is going to remember if Lawrie came into the pub 13 years ago Wednesday at 8PM. If Lawrie did have a legit alibi, you would think that his barrister would have mentioned it at his murder trial. The police didn't misfile Lawrie's own memories. You can produce a positive defense in the UK, too.

  3. Because I watch almost everything, I've already seen every possible permutation--even the serial killer being the Chief Super of the Met (Touch of Cloth*). I really don't want to see that Morse, Lewis, George Gently, or any iconic detective made a mistake.

    *In the second series, he had to be reinstated--because he had finished his light UK sentence and required counseling, and the Met didn't want to risk a lawsuit.

    1. I think the "alibi" was exactly what Lewis said it was: someone who was unreliable and being bribed. I was okay with that; I just wasn't happy with having the actual killer being the same person we suspected, for roughly the same reason we suspected. (Or at least the twin sibling of that obvious motive.)

      Best part of Touch of Cloth: the flashbacks to such scenes as the killer asking the Sargent to help him clean the blood off of his weapon. I love seeing flashbacks, but sometimes they are overdone. Nice when it's a flashback to something that never happened.

      Though of course I never saw the second series of ToC . . .

    2. Yes, I could reason away the alibi if I wanted to (much like once can reason away many plot points in this sort of story): my issue was that the episode itself never tried very hard to resolve that. But maybe it was cut out of the PBS version.

      And ultimately, like Joy - I just wanted more of a twist. Not something unreasonable, but something less obvious.


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