Detective Montalbano: Episodes 29 & 30 DVD Review: More Murders, Less Fun in the Sicilian Sun

Detective Montalbano (Il commissario Montalbano) is an Italian crime drama set in the fictional town of Vigàta, Sicily. It is based upon a series of novels and short stories by Andrea Camilleri. Started in 1999 it has ran for eleven seasons. Each season normally consists of two episodes with a run time close to two hours making them more like individual movies than what you might consider a normal television episode length. Season 11 consists of Episodes 29 (“A Nest of Vipers”) and 30 (“According to Protocol”). It is brought to the United States by MHZ.

The series protagonist is that of the titular detective (who in reality has a rank closer to captain than that of just a detective) who is played by Luca Zingaretti. He is supported by Mimi Augello (Cesare Bocci) and Giuseppe Fazio (Peppino Mazzotta) and the bumbling Agatino Catarella (Angelo Russo).

I last caught the series back in Season 9, but very little has changed. The gang is still solving complicated murders. Montalbano is tough, but fair and always extraordinarily kind to local citizens. The series has tightened its focus on Montalbano, giving him even more screen time while lessoning that of his compatriots. Mimi and Fazio now mainly exist for Montalbano to have someone to listen to him while giving exposition. Often, he sends them away to do some task but we rarely follow them.

Catarella has been relegated nearly completely to the sidelines. Where in past seasons he supplied a lot of comic relief, here, he only enters to tell Montalbano that someone is on the phone or in the station (he still bumbles everybody’s name though). A new character was presumably introduced in Season 10 as the relationships seem firmly in place. Doctor Guarnotta (Giulio Maria Corso) is the medical examiner. Montalbano often consults him on the cases and the two have a respect for one another even as they constantly argue.

In A Nest of Vipers, a wealthy womanizer is found at his breakfast table shot to death. Upon further inspection, it seems he was first poisoned and then later shot. Presumably, two people decided to murder him on the same night. Suspects include the various women he has wooed and then scorned and his two children who are upset over a recent change in his will.

Montalbano and his out-of-town girlfriend Livia (Sonia Bergamasco) both befriend a homeless man whom he found sleeping on his front porch one morning. The show takes great pains to let us see how compassionate Montalbano is towards those in his community. These scenes have little to do with the case at hand but allow some character building and often create some nice little moments.

According To Protocol begins with a naked woman, who has been beaten within an inch of her life, climbing out of the quarry where she’s been left to die, into her vehicle where she drives herself to the courtyard of a small apartment complex and dies. No one in that complex seems to know who she is or why she would carry herself that far to die. When they find out that the girl was a prostitute, Montalbano butts head with the mafia and comes face to face with private sex parties held by some of the community’s most prominent people.

Once again, Montalbano befriends a local who he sees wandering past his beach side home. This time it’s a retired judge who spends his time reviewing old case files wondering if he ever let his own personal feelings get in the way of his judiciary judgement.

In my review of Season 9, I compared Detective Montalbano with shows like Monk or Moonlighting. I’d say that no longer fits now. The comedic elements that were so prevalent back then have been back-burnered. In Season 11, it is a much more serious series. The cases are severe and while there are lighter elements, they don’t stand out nearly as much. I’d compare it more to something like Poirot now. Whether that’s a negative thing or not depends on how much humor you want in your crime shows.

Overall, the quality still remains good. Zingaretti has been playing Montalbano for eleven seasons, and 30 movie length episodes. His portrayal is smooth and easy like its a second skin to him. The crimes are interesting and the characters remain likable. Its not a great series, I won’t be bragging about it on social media, but its a solid one.

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Mat Brewster

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