Inspector Lewis ended its third season run on Masterpiece Mystery with a thoroughly enjoyable episode entitled Falling Darkness. In fact, it may well be my favorite episode of the season. Here’s the episode summary from the PBS website:
It's Halloween in Oxford, and mischief is in the air — and, as it happens, murder. A woman is found dead, a stake through her heart, a bulb of garlic in her mouth. It's a surreal crime, and an intensely personal one for Dr. Laura Hobson. The victim is Ligeia Willard, one of Hobson's old college housemates. It seems to be a terrible coincidence, one that has left Hobson disoriented with grief. When another murder takes place in a house where Hobson once lived, Detective Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately) and Detective Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox) must confront horrifying possibilities — Is Hobson connected to the crime? Could she be a killer? It's a case that will conjure ghosts from the past and may well deliver the fatal blow to the team of Lewis, Hathaway and Hobson.While I’m ultimately cheering for a Lewis and Dr. Hobson (Clare Holman) romance – they are a sweet couple with all their emotional baggage, aren’t they? – I felt the show had taken too great a leap forward with last week’s episode, Your Sudden Death Question. With a reticent, emotionally withdrawn character like Lewis, to go from the barest glimmer of interest in a woman to planning weekend trips seemed like too great a leap given how we’ve seen his character act in the past. In Falling Darkness, I feel like a much-needed correction, a reset, happened in the Lewis-Hobson relationship, and I loved the layers it gave these beloved characters.
A Laura-centric episode was long overdue, and frankly I never dreamed the quiet and rather demure Dr. Hobson ever possessed such a colorful past. This show is fond of proving the old maxim still waters run deep. This storyline may take the record for the sheer number of convoluted twists and turns that are a trademark of the program. When Laura was in college, she had four housemates – when one of them turns up dead, a stake through her heart and a bulb of garlic in her mouth (surreally appropriate for the Halloween timeframe), and a current student living at their old house is also murdered, the unthinkable happens. The always dependable and professional Dr. Hobson finds herself at the center of two murder investigations. Lewis and Hathaway find themselves in a race against time to discover who is digging into Laura’s past, and why – and more importantly, is it even remotely possible that Laura is somehow complicit in the crimes?
I loved the Lewis-Hobson dynamic in this episode. As I mentioned earlier, it was a much needed step back for the pair relationship-wise, so when Laura comes under suspicion you can see Lewis really struggle with his emotions. Could he have misread Laura that badly? The way both of them struggle to balance their personal and professional lives, and the harsh requirements that come with their jobs, was brilliantly played by both Whately and Holman. And I can’t lie, I loved Lewis’s barely suppressed jealousy of Laura’s relationship with Alec (Rupert Graves), one of her former housemates. That was fun to watch. Masterpiece fans will be seeing a lot more of Graves in the coming weeks as he makes an appearance in Wallander series 2 and plays Lestrade in Sherlock.
The genetic disorder FFI (Fatal Familial Insomnia) plays a crucial role in how this storyline plays out. This was probably the most fascinating part of the story for me, since just a few weeks ago I read an article in National Geographic on sleep that mentioned this terrible disorder. Prior to that article (which you can read here), I’d never heard of FFI, so to have it make a prominent appearance in one of my favorite mystery shows was kind of weird! Anyway, my understanding of FFI is based solely on the NG article, and from that reading I have to say the script of this episode took some liberties with the actual symptoms of this disease. First of all, it seems FFI strikes people in middle age, not their 20s, and it results in death in a few months to a year. While it’s not a stretch to think that would drive a victim insane, I think it’s not out of line to conclude that the filmmakers took some artistic license in how they portrayed this disease playing out on-screen. But it worked in service to the story - it was creepy, intense, and a tad over-the-top - basically everything I want in a Lewis episode.
This episode encapsulates everything I love about this series. The mystery is well-written, unexpected, and possesses the requisite creepy moments needed to keep me hooked, it twists and turns and throws out red herrings so fast I get whiplash, and there are plenty of humorous and gently sarcastic moments between Lewis and Hathaway. At this point I can say that for me, this partnership has proven it will never get old, I hope the show continues forever. If you've never watched this series, Falling Darkness is in my view one of the strongest episodes to date. Not a bad place to start if you're interested in giving the show a test run. :) Hopefully I've shared just enough to whet your appetite about the program - this mystery was too good, which is why I'm (trying) to hold back too many spoilers.Oh, I can’t forget to mention the most surprising bit of casting in this episode – Lucy Griffiths, a.k.a. Marian, played Madeleine, one of the students currently living in Laura’s old college home. I almost didn’t recognize Griffiths since for this role, she traded in her dark hair for a bleached blonde and wore goth-style clothes and makeup. Though her role was relatively minor, it was good to see her again on-screen. Hopefully more, and meatier, roles will come her way in the future.
While I'm sorry to say goodbye to Lewis and Hathaway for now, I am looking forward to Wallander series 2 and most of all, Sherlock!