This was much better! After episodes 1 + 2, I was a bit concerned that either I’d lost my spark, or Lewis had; but this two-parter had a lot more energy and more pull. The case was interesting and engaging, and it didn’t veer off the path the way the last one did. Plus, not only was the script (written by Lucy Gannon) tighter, plot-wise, it also showed more zest and, dare I say it, spurious glamour in dialogue, pacing, and characterisation.
First impressions, however, were a bit glum: existential flu, it seemed, is catching; what with James on a holiday that Robbie knows isn’t a real holiday, but more work at an orphanage in Croatia, and Lewis standing at the river, gazing out… So, not only is he feeling a bit out of sorts without his dependable right-hand man, he’s also worried. Besides that, he might just be a little concerned that James might discover his inner Arthur Shappey and stay, because he’s such a big helper. The warning not to lose the sense of who he is was, as such, basically code for ‘make sure you come back.’ Robbie knows James wants out, and he’s fine with that—but not quite so far away, thank you very much.
Lewis being a “lonely little soldier,” as Jean Innocent likes to put it, there seems to have been a bit of a shortage of Constables or Sergeants willing to work with him in James’ absence. Probably knowing that, unwilling to work with anyone else (who can’t basically read his thoughts), he’d be a bit of a grumpy old sod. Jean knows, of course, which prompts this lovely exchange:
Lewis: “If Morse had been nice, I’d still be a sergeant!”
Innocent: “Yeah, well, that man has a lot to answer for.”
What was that about people emulating their elders as they themselves get to feeling a bit… funny with age?
But Lewis has also picked up a few hints from Hathers, it seems:
“I’m always happy. My face is misleading.”
Now, if that’s not straight from James’ “I’m not smug, ma’am, that’s just the unfortunate shape of my face,” presented in Expiation…
Enter DC Gray (Babou Ceesay), whom Robbie treats dismissively during the first few days, reminding older viewers of his sniping against God and all but the green grass when first faced with Hathaway; before remembering his manners and warming up to the young copper. Throughout both episodes, though, Gray doesn’t only stand his ground, there’s a fondness in his eyes that is eventually explained at the very end of the story: ages ago, Gray’s father died and a young Geordie sergeant helped him deal with coroners and courts.
Gray: “He doesn’t remember—I’ll never forget.”
(I haven’t done any digging yet, whether Gray and his family were part of one of Morse’s investigations—but no matter.)
Jean is not the only one, though; Laura, too, is a little concerned at the lack of James’ presence at the Inspector’s shoulder, and initially takes Robbie’s absentmindedness as a sign of that. The reasons for that, however, are more involved with the case than anyone could have anticipated.
Enter Jack Cornish, copper, husband, father—criminal.
Hoping that everything might be explained in more favourable circumstances, Robbie must realise that the fast-track detective has been, in fact, playing dirty all along; and that he’s got to tell the wife, who’d sought Robbie’s help in the beginning, that her husband is in the wind.
I really, really liked this case; what with drugs smuggled in body cavities and loads of people being up for grabs as the missing corpse—sure, clues that it was Liam’s dad who was missing were laid out early on, at the latest when Peter Faulkner (Peter Davison!) claimed that he’d been drunk at the party. Pocketing that mysterious notebook turned out to have been a bad idea as well…
If anything, Peter Faulkner is a study in malignant greed. He wanted to kill someone, so he did; simple as that. He runs a Crystal Meth racket out of an abandoned shack just near Split, how lovely; and when someone gets on his nerves, well, he gets rid of them. Lewis’ disgusted face is really getting an outing with this bloke around; I haven’t seen Robbie so completely repulsed by a culprit in a long while.
Lewis (to Cornish): “There isn’t a spoon long enough.”
Very witty, indeed. (Is that the collective band of Lewis writers congratulating themselves on their scripts?)
Now, with the case discussed and solved, there’s the mystery we’ve been puzzling over for… I can’t actually remember how long; since Series 2?
Robbie has been steadily recovering from losing Val, we’ve seen that in past series, and especially during last year’s The Gift of Promise. Val will always be there, she’ll always be a part of him; but she’s “slipping away.” She’s still important, but her death doesn’t make Robbie’s decisions anymore.
And so, finally—finally—Robbie and Laura get their act together and find the happiness that they deserve. Look at them! They’re so brilliant and magnificent together, and they shine. Damn, I’m giddy.
And not just that, Laura marching up to Robbie and sealing the deal with a good snog inspires some wonderful reactions in their fellow investigators and best friends, after years of watching them dance around each other and never quite making the leap until now:
Next: Intelligent Design.