One of ITV’s most popular series returned to our screens this week for what is purported to be its final series. I say purported in the loosest sense of the term, as this is now the third time the programme has been announced to be in its final series.
I was rather concerned when I heard that they had recommissioned the show. Anyone who is familiar with Nouse’s output will know that I have a penchant for everything Colin Dexter (I’d hoped that we would have another series of Endeavour by now, but the fates are always against Morse aren’t they). The problem with recommissioning the show was that at each end of the series the show is brought to a natural close only for someone to unnaturally rip it all back open again. Sometimes it feels far too forced; the last series started off feeling that way. If a programme’s continuation begins to feel contrived, it ruins the special something that made the show so popular in the first place (see New Tricks).
Fortunately for Lewis and Hathaway aficionados, this new series was less a rip and more of a tug; a tug at the heart strings. Our dear young D. I. Hathaway has a family, who we have only ever heard mentioned in hushed whispers. James has a Dad called Phillip (Nicholas Jones), a sister called Nell and a mother who died 12 years ago. Hathaway’s past has always been hidden, a sense of shame perhaps lingering; we know that he grew up on an estate from the episode ‘The Dead of Winter’ but little more. Suddenly we have a family for our friend and it doesn’t entirely fit. Next week’s episode promises some more light being shed on Hathaway’s past, but I remain unconvinced that it will be satisfying.
As for the story itself, there were a lot of elements to the plot, perhaps more so than we are used to with Lewis. They seemed distinct enough not to make it too obvious that the two murders were going to be related, and that is a novelty for the series. The story itself was well thought out, with the victim down the well proving a novel outlet for the discovery of a body.
The new Chief Inspector (Steve Toussaint) is trying to forge a new and distinct personality from Rebecca Front’s Innocent, but seems to have the same mistrust for our favourite crime fighting pair, especially poor Lewis. Lewis’s return in series 8 was always going to be forced in some manner and it looks like his exit is going to be forced as well as cost cutting exercises may see him lose his job. It is rather unsatisfactory.
The integration of Hathaway’s deputy Maddox (Angela Griffin) was certainly much better. I was unsure of the role she had to play last series but this series she seems a lot more integrated into the team and ready to run with the boys. Finally she has a purpose and it’s about time.
The cliffhanger ending for the episode was particularly satisfying and saw a rare moment between Maddox and Lewis, who worked together to find the link between the two cases, which seems to show an altogether darker turn for the second part of the episode.
As Laura Hobson said to Hathaway, “were you yearning for Robbie?” If James wasn’t then we were.
Thank goodness the boys are back.