MPI // 1996 // 500 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees (Retired) // February 23rd, 2005
"One of these days you'll realize you need more than your well-known intuition in order to get results." -- Superintendent Mullett
Grumpily endearing Inspector Frost returns for a fourth season of the popular British mystery series. This season boasts five 100-minute episodes on three discs.
* "Paying the Price"
Frost and WPC Claire Toms (Colette Brown of the stellar British vampire miniseries Ultraviolet) investigate a woman's kidnapping in which even those nearest to the victim seem to be likely suspects: Both her embittered sister and her ne'er-do-well fiancé would benefit from her disappearance. But when the kidnapper begins to take a personal interest in thwarting Frost, the investigation takes a new turn. At the same time, Frost finds himself homeless after a domestic mishap sets his house on fire.
This is a tense, gritty episode, so psychologically raw that it's a bit
difficult to watch at times. The acting seems a touch more histrionic here than
in other episodes, so it's all the more of a relief to have the soothing
presence of Colette Brown as WPC Claire Toms; she evokes Frost's derision
because she's taken training courses in victim management, but her bedside
manner helps ease the tension.
* "Unknown Soldiers"
After a young drug pusher holds Frost at gunpoint, guns suddenly seem to be everywhere: in the shooting death of a young soldier during a military exercise; in a series of armed robberies of delivery vans; and especially in the hands of young thugs. Frost's interest in the soldier's death prompts him to invade the military base, where he makes himself unwelcome -- but he eventually gains an ally on the inside who helps him discover a web of blackmail. At the same time, Frost determines to reduce the availability of illegal guns.
This episode starts out in a scattered fashion, showing glimpses of many
different plot threads through the eyes of many different characters, and
consequently it takes some time for the viewer to get oriented; of all the
episodes this season, it's the most difficult to follow. On the positive side,
this episode deals powerfully with the prevalence of guns and the hot topic of
gays in the military. The consequences for Frost of being held at gunpoint
resonate strongly through this episode.
* "Fun Times for Swingers"
Frost is accompanied by a dour Scot, Sergeant Prentice (Russell Hunter), in his investigation of a gigolo's connection to a suicide. The younger men on the force find it a humorous case, but Frost gains some unexpected insight into the men who sell sex and the women who buy it. At the same time, a series of mysterious vandalisms at a posh cricket club arouses Superintendent Mullett's concern -- since Mullett is a member of this exclusive establishment.
This episode stands out by virtue of moving beyond stereotypes and
expectations about male escorts and their patrons. Frost comes to realize that
even an attractive, loyal wife may have her own reasons for paying for male
companionship on the side, and the scenes he has with this particular character
are quite moving. The multitude of surprises offered by the plot also keep this
episode from becoming predictable, and the very, very dry humor of Sergeant
Prentice adds enjoyable flavor.
* "The Things We Do for Love"
The brutal stabbing of a pretty physical therapist leads Frost and a young London copper, Detective Sergeant Frank Nash (Neil Stuke), to investigate Jonathan Meyerbridge (Michael Kitchen, Enchanted April), a prominent churchman with a seemingly ironclad alibi. When Frost digs a little deeper and discovers that Meyerbridge was having an affair with the murdered woman, powerful attorney and minister Edward Gull (David Ryall) rallies to Meyerbridge's defense and sets powerful roadblocks in Frost's way.
The title of this episode points to one of its main strengths: It
compellingly depicts many of the destructive (including self-destructive) things
that people will do out of love. Michael Kitchen, who has gone on to helm a
mystery series of his own (Foyle's War), turns in a standout performance
in this episode. Kitchen's ability to present a bland façade that hints at
hidden secrets works to great advantage in his characterization of a
multilayered character. The solution to the mystery is genuinely surprising and
creates a thought-provoking ending to the episode.
* "Deep Waters"
An attack on a beautiful college freshman seems at first to be connected to her oily psychology professor, who practices a very hands-on teaching technique, but the case begins to reveal some parallels to the unsolved murder of a young woman of similar appearance. Frost is also busy trying to crack a stubborn murder suspect, whom Frost knows in his heart is guilty of armed robbery and murder. With no external evidence to support an arrest, Frost finds himself butting heads with the suspect's lawyer.
This episode combines two strong plot lines and features a nice supporting
performance by Damian Lewis, who has since gone on to do impressive work in
The Forsyte Saga and Band of Brothers. The university mystery has
some intriguing twists and a tense denouement, but the strongest part of this
episode is Frost's confrontation with lawyer Simon Marsh (Simon Coates). Both
men are completely convinced of their rightness, yet the system is on the side
of the lawyer and his client; when Marsh states that suspects need protection
against the assumptions of men like Frost, it's a slap in the face -- but a
valid point. Both the need to protect the innocent and the frustration police
experience with a system that ties their hands come to the fore in this scene;
it's a powerful treatment of a thorny issue.
Followers of Frost know that the curmudgeonly inspector's private life always provides a counterpart to his professional investigations, and in this season the domestic side of Frost's life is dealt a body blow when his house burns down. Throughout the season, he is thus making do with different temporary dwellings (even, at one point, a jail cell), and the running theme adds a note of humor to these episodes; when Frost takes refuge at the station house, for example, he immediately begins to make a nuisance of himself by pilfering from the communal refrigerator. Even when Frost finds a place to call his own, unexpected interlopers disrupt his domestic world.
Regular viewers will also know that one of the series's strengths is its honest presentation of the drawbacks and complications of a policeman's life, and this season takes a close look at two such issues in particular: the legal barriers that prevent Frost from arresting a man he knows is guilty of murder, and the personal and domestic stresses that bedevil policemen. The depiction of the Nashes' marriage in "The Things We Do for Love" shows how the working life of a policeman can take a heavy toll on a relationship; ultimately Nash decides that he must actually choose between his work and his marriage. Frost, as a widower, is free to devote himself to his work, but as we know, his attempts at having a personal life have met with failure. It's a bittersweet theme that enhances the sense of realism and honesty that makes this series distinctive.
The biggest and best surprise of this season is that MPI has finally included an extra -- and it's a substantial one: a feature-length commentary on the episode "The Things We Do for Love." In this commentary, Sherlock magazine editor David Stuart Davies interviews Jason, and their discussion ranges over many, many facets of the series: the series' conception, to which Jason was crucial; Jason's influence on the way the series is filmed and the way his character has been adapted from the source novels; the rehearsal and filming process; the show's focus on real-life issues and an honest portrayal of police life and work; Jason's emphasis on the use of humor and humanizing touches to keep the series entertaining; and much more. I learned an astonishing amount about the series, and it made me respect Jason even more to learn how much he has had to do with the way the series is crafted, even down to the smallest details. He shows a real sense of responsibility to the audience, such as by choosing to eschew explicit violence and sex (both of which he rightly holds to be unnecessary to the emotional impact of the show) and by working hard to avoid exploitative treatment of controversial topics, as in an episode from Season Two about children with Down syndrome. Davis is a perceptive interviewer, pointing out details of the show that are worth remarking, and Jason is just as charismatic in his own persona as he is when playing Frost. The commentary has a few slow spots, but overall I was extremely pleased with it.
Audiovisual quality has also experienced an improvement. The previous two seasons were dingy-looking, and Season Four shows much brighter and truer color. The audio track is very fine, making good use of ambient sound effects to establish atmosphere, and rendering dialogue with greater clarity than in previous seasons.
Overall, I'm pleased to say that Season Four represents an increase in value over releases of the previous seasons of this strong series. The presence of an extra episode and the commentary, plus the uptick in audiovisual quality, sets this season above its fellows. Frost fans should be extremely pleased with this release, and it would serve as an excellent introduction to the series for new viewers.
Review content copyright © 2005 Amanda DeWees; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 500 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentary by Actor David Jason and Sherlock Magazine Editor David Stuart Davies
* TV Tome Show Page