The next-to-last episode of Inspector Lewis this season of Masterpiece Mystery involves Shakespeare - ergo, it is awesome. It's even more awesome than just your typical Shakespeare association, since the play involved is The Merchant of Venice (one of my favorites). Throwing Shakespeare around can cover a multitude of ills, I'm just sayin'. Here's the episode summary for The Quality of Mercy from the PBS website:
A student production of The Merchant of Venice takes real-life deadly turn when a cast member is killed using a prop knife. Apart from the jealous ensemble cast who can't even muster fake tears over the loss of their colleague, there is an audience of suspects to consider — a career con man, an egotistical television personality and a young man who just might have killed to get a part in the play. Lewis and Hathaway methodically try to make sense of the murderous plot, but before they do, another death occurs with a Shakespearean sensibility. As the final act is about to unfold, the case takes an intensely personal turn for Lewis, bringing back traumatic memories and invoking a lesson in mercy.
This episode opened with a nice moment where Lewis (Kevin Whately) visits his wife's grave to mark the occasion of her birthday. Poor Lewis...will he ever move forward with his life? I also thought this episode provided a nice showcase of sorts for Lewis and Hathaway's (Laurence Fox) working relationship - particularly Hathaway's wonderfully dry, sarcastic sense of humor. Some of the moments where he's interviewing the student members of the theater troupe were absolutely hilarious.
There's two stories going on in this episode - the Shakespearean-related murders, and the appearance of a conman - one Simon Monkford. Monkford is played by Ronan Vibert, who is in one of my favorte shows ever - The Scarlet Pimpernel. Vibert positively owned the role of Robespierre in that series, he was absolutely fantastic. Hathaway senses a story with Monkford's presence in Oxford, so in an extremely attractive and determined fashion he begins to dig into poor Monkford's past, and discovers a gap in his history - a gap where he had a breakdown due to a car accident in London, an accident where he may have hurt someone. The pieces begin to fall into place, and Hathaway is shocked to discover he's stumbled upon the driver of the car who hit Lewis's wife years before.
The murder mystery isn't really the point of the episode. It's all well and good and fairly interesting. However the really interesting meat of the episode is in how it explores Lewis and Hathaway's characters and their friendship. They are still very much trying to figure each other out, and in separate conversations with their boss it's clear that they are both in complete and utter denial about the fact that they are more similar than they'd ever like to admit. Hathaway is more torn up by the discovery of who killed Lewis's than he'd ever admit. And Lewis's initial reaction to the revelation is rather painful to witness. But by the end of the episode they of course come to terms with each other - in only the way two strong, silent, extremely introverted guys can (i.e., not really talking about the issue and exchanging significant looks - haha!!).
I'll be sorry to see this run of Lewis episodes come to an end tomorrow night, they've been a lot of fun to watch. More than I expected, that's for sure, and largely thanks to the presence of the yummy Laurence Fox. :)