sun 14/07/2024

Lewis, ITV1 | reviews, news & interviews

Lewis, ITV1

Lewis, ITV1

Bodies pile up as our twin 'tecs go on a sleuthing safari

Kevin Whately as Lewis (left), with his brainy sidekick Hathaway (Laurence Fox)

Although its steepling body count is almost enough to rival the trail of carnage in The Walking Dead (which rose from the grave on 5 last night after its original appearance on FX last year), at least Lewis never underestimates the value of a good education. This episode, "Wild Justice", was a crossword puzzle of literary clues, all taking their cue from a lecture delivered at St Gerard's college entitled "Justice and Redemption in Jacobean Revenge Drama".

There were recurring appearances by John Webster's The White Devil, and a nod to Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, from where this week's murderer had borrowed the idea of a starved and partially buried corpse. The episode title was a quote from Francis Bacon. That only left the mystery of Fulworth's The Devil's Friar, cited as a source of death by suffocation, but a work so obscure that not even Google has heard of it.

No matter. It was all part of the sinister warp and macabre woof of the goings-on at St Gerard's, a strange institution bearing a semi-detached relationship to Oxford's other colleges. It had been privately funded for generations by the Goffe family, currently represented by Adele Goffe (played by an actress billed as Sîan Phillips, pictured below, who must have been on an epic cosmetic surgery binge), and was largely run by hooded friars.

As regular viewers will know, Lewis's irascible sidekick, DS Hathaway (Laurence Fox), trained for the priesthood before joining the rozzers, and it was he who gave us a capsule definition of friars: "Monks stay in and chant a lot, and friars get out and about."

lewis_Phillips_trimOne of them had been getting out and about with lethal vigour. The trail of dead which began with the death by poisoned chianti of visiting American bishop Helen Parsons (Pamela Nomvete) took on an ecumenical bent by encompassing a retired policeman (a rare sighting of Christopher Timothy, pictured below), another friar, and the son of a college professor. Multiple motives and sundry digressions ensured that picking the killer was impossible until a long and elaborate back story had been sprung on us. With hindsight, we could see that screenwriter Stephen Churchett had worked a little too hard to build up the significance of the college election in which a successor would be chosen for the current Vice Regent, Friar Mancini (Ronald Pickup).

But the pirouettes and curlicues of the plot are merely Lewis's window dressing, and it's the relationship between Lewis and Hathaway that makes the thing worth watching. In fact, it sometimes seems more interesting than the slightly ponderous master-and-servant routine Lewis used to go through with Morse, in which the latter's name-dropping of opera conductors or poets to his uncomprehending, footsore underling eventually became pointless.

Lewis_Timothy_trimThe Hathaway-Lewis balance works because while Hathaway is an academic who judges fools harshly, Lewis is the boss and he knows he's good at his job even if he can't summarise Proust. Hathaway's mouth tightens irritably at the sight of a misplaced apostrophe, and he delivered an acidic put-down of Lewis's attempt at Italian pronunciation, yet his ascetic intellectualism fits neatly with Kevin Whately's blokeish, instinct-and-common-sense approach.

The pair of them also found common cause this week in their respective doubts about their careers. Lewis is beginning to hear the siren voices of advancing middle age, and encroaching grandfatherhood, telling him it's time to hang up his badge. Hathaway still isn't convinced he should ever have become a policeman at all, and is sorely tempted to go native when he finds himself rubbing shoulders with university professors. In an episode which ended with a laughably histrionic denouement, these were things you could believe in.

The pirouettes and curlicues of the plot are merely window dressing, and it's the relationship between Lewis and Hathaway that makes it worth watching

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With reference to the article, "Mrs Lewis" is evidently speaking to him from beyond the grave as she died in a car accident! I think the other "Lewis" in question is the daughter who is pregnant with Lewis' grand-child.

The difference between the Morse and Lewis scripts is that the former were peppered with secret, in-joke references - literary, musical, classical - which you either recognised with great glee or you didn't and which I always assumed flowed from Colin Dexter's own impish sense of humour! I miss that in the Lewis scripts!

You're absolutely right of course, DB. Apologies for idiotic error, now amended. I think Colin Dexter still has an overseeing role with Lewis, but it obviously doesn't bear his hallmark in the way Morse used to.

'That only left the mystery of Fulworth's The Devil's Friar, cited as a source of death by suffocation, but a work so obscure that not even Google has heard of it.' Google hasn't heard of everything. '...played by an actress billed as Sîan Phillips, pictured below, who must have been on an epic cosmetic surgery binge.' Is this uncharacteristically rude, or am I missing something?

Google may not have heard of everything, Stephen C., but it was my roundabout way of suggesting that you'd made that bit up. As for the plastic surgery, well... just look at the picture.

Would I make up a thing like that? Honestly, writers... I do agree with you about the Lewis/Hathaway relationship, which is the most rewarding thing to bring to life. I do think it's ungallant of you to remark on the wonderful Sian Phillips' appearance, though.

She is indeed wonderful. I shall say no more.

An enjoyable episode, but a very similar 'childhood back story' was used in a previous episode of 'Lewis'. I can suspend belief as good as anyone, but twice is pushing it, I thought. Details needed to be tightened as well. Would Christopher Timothy really have accepted an anonymous gift from the Friary, knowing what he did about one member of it? ...or, when trying to make a murder look like suicide, would they really use heavy duty Duck Tape over the victim's mouth knowing that when removed, forensics would be able to pick up the residual adhesive traces and thus show a 'non-suicide event'? The interplay of the characters in Lewis is fine, but the plots need more work.

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