PBS // 2010 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // September 21st, 2011
Who killed Mary? See episode 4.
Based on the novels of author Colin Dexter, Inspector Morse was one of the most popular series for the BBC and, consequently, for American public television from 1987-2000. Seven years later, the BBC and Masterpiece Mystery! combined to present the adventures of Morse's protégée, Detective Inspector Robert Lewis.
D.I. Lewis (Kevin Whately, The English Patient) is an aging police detective in Oxford, England. Together with his partner, Detective Sergeant James Hathaway (Laurence Fox, Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Lewis spends his days trying to solve the myriad of murders that seem to occur with regularity in and around the college town. At the same time, Lewis fiddles with the idea of re-kindling his love life after spending the last five years pining for his deceased wife.
* "Old Unhappy Far Off Things" -- A death at Oxford's last all-girls' college brings back memories of the case Lewis was working on when his wife died years before, and Hathaway worries that Lewis' obsession with the old case is getting in the way of the current investigation after Lewis contacts his old partner, Ali McLennan (Saskia Reeves, Page Eight).
* "Wild Justice" -- The death of a female bishop leads to the investigation of a group of friars at St. Gerard's Hall who are in the middle of a vote for their next leader. But the election comes under duress when some of the contenders go missing.
* "The Mind Has Mountains" -- A student involved in a clinical trial for a new anti-depressant is tossed off a balcony, leading to serious questions about the drug's efficacy...until more deaths follow.
* "The Gift of Promise" -- It seems a simple matter of blackmail gone wrong when the director of a gifted-student program is found bludgeoned to death, but the longer the investigation goes, the more convoluted it gets, until even the uncooperative MI:5 becomes part of the story.
Tired of the same old police shows, with easy-to-spot villains, paper-thin red herrings, and convenient plot twists for the sole purpose of wrapping things up in under an hour? Your salvation has been on your local public television station for the past four years. Even better, it's available on home video, so you can go over each episode with the proverbial fine-toothed comb to figure out who did what and why. You will need said comb because Inspector Lewis: Series 4 will require every bit of your attention, from start to finish. Each ninety-minute episode features more twists and turns than a corkscrew. It's not impossible to figure everything out before the inspectors, but you won't beat them by much.
Great episodic writing means little, if the character writing isn't up to par, and Inspector Lewis delivers there as well. Aside from some minor (and sometimes necessary) concluding exposition to make sure everyone in the audience figures out what they just saw, not a word is out of place. Sometimes the words fit their context too well. In fact, you may want the unobtrusive subtitles turned on, for some of the more colorful dialects.
Neither Lewis nor Hathaway are much for explicit emotion, but both actors are superb at understated emoting. Whately's creased features give Lewis an instant worn credibility; he looks as if he's seen it all, and the subtle changes in the topography of his face as he expresses different emotions are effectively sincere. Fox keeps his angular face impassive for much of the time, making his rare outbursts of emotion all the more dramatic. It's his use of his body language that makes the character more than a lanky puppet on a stick. Hathaway betrays an inner restlessness; he seldom stands completely still, even in his rare moments of peace, and his hands always seem to be looking for something to do. The two have a quiet dynamic chemistry that propels the show forward.
There are a couple minor issues with the show. While there are overarching storylines that have developed over the course of the four seasons, they move too slowly to have much effect. Lewis, for instance, has been half-dating Dr. Hobson (Clare Holman, Blood Diamond) since Series 3, but their relationship does not seem to have evolved. The show also has what can best be described as Murder, She Wrote Syndrome: Oxford has a large number of murders for a town of its size. The average English county has around 1.3 murders per 100,000 people, and Oxford has about 150,000 people. One episode of Inspector Lewis often doubles their annual quota.
The 1.78:1, 1080i transfer looks fabulous during day shots, with bright, well-balanced colors, but suffers in the dark, with a surprising amount of grain. The 5.1 surround is likewise balanced in the front, with light work for the rear speakers. There are no extras, which is an unbelievable oversight, especially on a Blu-ray release
Inspector Lewis: Series 4 continues the series' excellent quality in writing and acting. If you like mysteries or police procedurals, you're not going to find much better. That said, if you're debating between standard definition and the Blu-ray, there's no reason to spend the extra cash.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated