Death in Paradise: Season Two DVD Review: Conventional Murder Mysteries, Unconventional Setting

A stuffy English investigator gets transplanted to a laidback Caribbean island to solve their murders and his own misanthropy. Even after a year on the island, Detective Investigator Richard Poole (Ben Miller) foolishly clings to his stodgy habits, wearing full dark suits in the blazing tropical sun, searching for a decent cup of tea, and gathering his suspects at the end of each case for his grand chamber reveal of the culprit. He’s completely out of place in his environment, and makes barely any attempt to adjust, but boasts a stunning closure rate on his cases.

Meanwhile, the local police act as his supporting staff, carrying out the grunt work of the investigations but offering very little of their own insight. Only attractive local co-investigator Camille Bordey (Sara Martins) offers any substantial independent thought, and indeed her role seems to be a bit expanded from the first season, but is unfortunately also saddled with a completely unbelievable attraction to the nebbishy Poole.

The cases follow a completely predictable pattern of murder in the first scene, investigation, and subterfuge for the next 40 minutes, and Poole’s epiphany and subsequent public identification of the murderer in the final 10 minutes. There are a few scenes thrown in for the local police to have subplots so minor they don’t even approach a B story, with only one cop’s quest to pass an investigator exam and Camille’s growing affection for Poole getting any recurring play. Cases range from a death at an upscale cosmetic-surgery resort to a murder at an excavation site with potential supernatural influences, but there’s never really any surprise in the writing other than simply attempting to guess the villain before Poole.

I imagine the key casting draw of the series is its gorgeous tropical setting, and indeed each episode in this season boasts at least one recognizable British import from mainstream shows like Hustle, Hotel Babylon, and Survivors. Or maybe I just watch too much Brit TV. In any case, it’s a pretty sweet gig for the guest stars as they attempt to throw Poole off the scent while working on their tans. It’s the equivalent of Hawaii Five-0 for us, with about the same national level of star power and character development in the guest roles.

The concept of the series is at its core somewhat troubling with its idea that the island needs Poole because the local police are somehow incompetent to solve their own cases, an outdated and ill-advised stance that is even more stodgy than the Poole character. With Poole departing the show in the following season, a far more intriguing and appealing approach would have been to promote Camille to DI and let her run the next set of cases, but that’s never going to happen in this rigidly formulaic show. Instead, we’ll welcome the next import from jolly old England in Season Three. That should suit the core demographic of geriatric spinsters just fine, but betrays what could have developed into a much more meaningful series.

The DVD set includes all eight hour-long episodes spread across two discs. No bonus features are included.

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Steve Geise

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