Lewis: Fearful Symmetry

Previously on Lewis: Generation of Vipers.

Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

— The Tyger | William Blake

The Case

Honestly, what case? Jessica Lake, babysitter, gets murdered for no apparent reason, the detectives discover bondage artist Marion Hammond, including pictures that have Hathaway blush and choke again, and Swinging with the Finkels, Oxford suburbia style. Baby’s dad seems to have a motive, there’s a lot of poking around in a lot of private lives, someone else dies, red herrings are dangled like mistletoe at yuletide (no, Andrea, do not start thinking about writing a Lewis/Hathaway ficlet involving Laura, Jean, and mistletoe. FOCUS!), and in the end it turns out that the boyfriend’s dad did it, caught in a psychotic episode. Convicted by Noo-Noo, a plush giraffe.


The Coat

If, by the introduction of James’ new coat, the costume department aimed at distracting the inclined viewer so much that they somehow don’t notice the gaping plot holes, then: well done, you! If not: it worked anyway, brilliantly, at least for one half of my brain. The other couldn’t help but wonder if the writers were having so much fun concocting outdoor scenes—or pretty much any scene—as a reason for Laurence Fox to stay in that coat throughout almost the entire episode, that they just sort of… misplaced the rest of it. I like Russell Lewis’ writing in earlier series, but this one left me with a bit of What the Hell Went Wrong During Those Rewrites. It feels as though they’ve dropped bits of the plot and character development and forgot to pick them up again when they put it back together.

The entire story just… fell through. Plummeted to Earth in one lump, hitting a few branches of the plot hole tree on its way down, taking Nick Addams with it into the abyss, but not before clobbering Gideon’s father over the head, poor sod. I really am struggling with this, because when is a twist a good, surprising twist, and when is it a deus ex machina ending just flung at you—us AND the detectives alike—like a Spring-Heeled Jack in a Box out of bleeding nowhere?

Woohoo, he’s clinically insane! There’s no indication of that whatsoever during the episode up until that point—he’s a bit weird, yes, and, if substantiated, Jess’ complaints about his over-familiarity of course make him a suspect, but this? If anything, this episode does its job in highlighting the depths of mental illness, in showing that you really just cannot tell sometimes, and then some, but… really? I like to think that my judgement is very much not off this week, so, no, Russell, no, this one didn’t quite work out. In Lewis, the audience hardly ever knows substantially more than Lewis and Hathaway do, so getting smacked in the face by a sudden development literally minutes before the denouement is nothing new; it’s just that something about Dr Robert Massey feels off. It’s as though the writers themselves didn’t quite know where their case was going, so when lead after lead ended nowhere and the investigation started resembling a beached whale, out came Noo-Noo and “losing time”—schizophrenia.

What the episode does well, though, is play with the major theme: in this case, symmetry. As in The Soul of Genius especially, where the main characters were each on their own impossible quest, here almost everyone and everything has their mirror image.The binds on Jessica’s wrist are symmetrical, but it doesn’t stop there. Gideon’s father has a sinister version of himself inside of him, and then there’s Silas, the Knight Keeper, trying to make a difference. James tries to take care of him at least for an evening, but he can’t save Silas, who is basically a younger, bi-polar, even more out-cast mirror image of Hathaway, holding the line, but very much at the end of his tether.

There is the, indeed, fearful symmetry of the swinging couples, with two of them being very interested in each other, with their partners hating the idea or, at least, passing out drunk. The parents, Gideon’s parents, one of them eternally fussing, the other withdrawn, and in the end it’s Bob who nearly kills him. His mother, probably suffering from post-natal depression, could never bond with Gideon; it’s not her fault, although of course Gideon resents her for it.

The Companions

Oh, the things to discover about DS James Hathaway. Reader of comics, Mark’s gospel, and Euripides. And so very, very tired, it seems. His quiet, sombre assessment of the first crime scene—is that confidence, the new stock he puts in his abilities as he becomes a more experienced copper, or is something wrong? He always feels responsible for every dead body he looks at, Lewis and Dr Hobson both know that. This might be all that the look they exchange means, but it might also mean more, that something about James is off. He’s definitely withdrawn into himself today, and only Lewis knows how to bridge that distance. They hardly actually talk this episode, they have entire conversations merely by eye contact. Yet, they walk in step and think in sync, and they don’t need to speak to communicate.

That new coat, is it an armour or a sceptre, or burden or a privilege? He doesn’t take it off at all, just a few times at the station. It seems he doesn’t know what to do with himself half the time, and it’s when he’s huddled close to Lewis next to the radiator that he looks out the window and sees a young couple, kissing, and his expression turns so sad and just so alone that it’s heartbreaking. It must be one of those weeks where he’s wondering why he’s doing this job at all, why he didn’t take that fellowship offer last year; but then, the reason he’s still there is sitting right next to him.

With Lewis, there’s hints of the sassy and facetious Hathaway we know and love.

James: “Maternal instincts just this side of Medea.”
Lewis: “She’s the one that did her kids in, right?”
James: “Well done, you!”
Lewis: “Well, I never know when you’re going to spring a test.”

There’s the way he briefly lectures Lewis about how horses are tethered and boats are moored, how he flirts with him when he can spare a thought—”Opens this week. I’ve got tickets!”—and how it’s Lewis’ amused looks that can actually tickle a right smile out of him.

When Laura first referred to James as Lewis’ other half, the Inspector had to double check; now, he doesn’t even blink and just takes the proffered coffee from his Sergeant. That’s one of the hark-backs to earlier episodes, but there’s a bigger one at the end:

Lewis: “Come on, Boy Wonder, I’ll buy you coffee.”

James was first called that by, I believe, Innocent, and she hadn’t meant it in a nice way. For Lewis, the Boy Wonder isn’t a moniker, it’s just what James is. Of course he knows it’ll needle James a bit, but that’s not really why he says it. It’s just because it’s true, and because he now feels he can say it without James blowing up in his face or the shutters closing. Their exchange right before they walk off, with James signalling for Lewis not to leave him, because he can’t be left alone right now, and Lewis picking up on it immediately—they’ve come such a long way, even from last series. That’s why this is such a two-edged sword, because James surely has to have got better to trust Lewis like this, to trust he’s earned that permanent place in his life that entitles him to ask Lewis to stay; but at the same time his vulnerability translates into melancholy so easily. He’s holding the line, though, because he’s got someone looking out for him, to look out for in turn, and as long as he’s got that, he can keep going, can keep making the difference and balancing that razor’s edge when people like Silas can’t.

Next: The Indelible Stain.



  1. thanks for noting all the details my brain could not quite separate. i love all of Lewis (and Morse), and i’ll watch it as long as they’re broadcast. but this episode, left me a strong WTF feeling. the things that draw me to Lewis and Morse are far deeper than any of the crimes and have to do with all the inner dialog-y kind of material. thanks for talking about that stuff. those quotes were among the highlights of this–i wish that had done something better–episode.



  2. I’m pretty new to detective dramas, but I love Lewis. I see what you mean about this episode, I just presumed I’m too rubbish at guessing who the killer is!



  3. Can anyone tell me where the swinging couple ‘chap’ went in the car as he clearly didn’t take the car to the end of the drive as he said he did…when his wife denied he’d done this (as did the other female in the group), he apologised…but didn’t say where he’d gone?????



    1. I… um… see, this is what I meant about gaping plot holes: it’s not being resolved. He doesn’t tell anyone, and since the interrogation is cut short by James figuring out where he had indeed seen Noo-Noo, it’s unclear whether the police get it out of him. So… no idea.



  4. medea
    She (Medea) just refused to be an “humble vessel”?
    I understand Lewis but not Hathaway who should know better.



    1. As I said, I think he’s mostly teasing/simplifying for Lewis. I don’t know the entire story of Medea, neither does the general viewer; so I guess it serves as an easy device. I’m not saying the source material isn’t sexist, and perhaps the allusion wasn’t the smartest move by the writers, but it doesn’t cast major aspersions on James’ character, in my view.



  5. Overall I am just plain disappointed that I didn’t get my Hathaway/Lewis fix this week. I had to stop watching the by the second time they showed the “monkey” lab. I can’t stand that – animals trapped in labs/experiments. Plus I was already really agitated by this episode. Wasn’t sure why until I read your blog. Thanks for the clarity.



  6. as stated above, the loose ends really annoyed me in this episode, especially where nick addams actually went in his car??! also the killer came completely left of field with a very weak motive…it looks very much like the writer(s) developed too many characters and didnt know where he was going with it and took a left turn somewhere near the end of the episode, it also looks as they were making it up as they went along….but at the same time i just enjoy watching lewis and hathaway and the chemistry, regardless of how week the episode is! i was actually drawn to hathaways coat because it is a nice coat and nobody else seemed to be wearing a coat only him on occasion with the likes of nicks boss appearing in only a shirt or t-shirt so i thought it odd hathaway wearing a winter coat….also i really dont know the point of the whole nick addams and his boss thing as part of the episode, it really made no sense and didnt fit in at all



    1. There are so many plot strands in this one I still haven’t figured out, and it’s been over a year! As you said, they’ve just chucked too many characters into the hat and then drew the killer, but forgot what to do with the rest of them. It’s a pity, really, for a series with only six episodes and two of them being parts of the same story… but true, the chemistry between Lewis and Hathaway makes me watch more than anything, so it’s still enjoyable.



Click those keys: what d'you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.