Thanks to the magic of Netflix, we’ve been enjoying our way through the nine series of Lewis. And – dare I say it, for it sounds very much like heresy – I enjoy it more than I do Inspector Morse. I mean, I love John Thaw as Morse: I love his love of music and his disapproval of freemasons, I can smile at his curmudgeonabliness, (I’ve been known to get a bit grumpy myself, just occasionally), I can tolerate his constantly falling in love with unsuitable women, many of whom have a habit of ending up dead. What I found increasingly annoying was the running gag of his stinginess, never paying for a drink and expecting Lewis to pay every time. Robbie Lewis is altogether a much more likeable character, and I especially like the developing dynamics of his relationship with Hathaway, which so often reminds me of me and my brilliant curate.
Last night’s episode was Series 5 Episode 2, Wild Justice. I think this may be my favourite episode ever. It has just about everything, recycling many of the well-worn themes and conceits of all these dramas ‘inspired by the works of Colin Dexter’. Set in St Gerard’s, a mad religious institution in Oxford, where the crazed ‘not monks, they’re friars’ are all ferociously reactionary and resistant to, especially, the idea of women priests. The sinister Italian Father Mancini reads from Dante’s Inferno (in Italian) to the dying nasty English millionairess. The first victim is a black American woman bishop, so suspicion naturally falls on the mad misogynistic friars. There’s the woman academic, a specialist in Elizabethan and Jacobean revenge tragedies, which provide the manner of death for all the four murders that reveal Oxford, yet again, to be the Murder Capital of the World. (“Four murders in five days, Robbie!” exclaims Chief Superintendent Innocent. She should surely be used to it by now?) There’s the bitterly contested college election for the post of Vice Regent, where the (male) forces of reaction are pitted against the (progressive) women candidates. There’s the former violent criminal transformed by the love of a good woman into a gifted best-selling writer. There’s the woman who, aged 10, committed a gruesome murder, now grown up and given a new identity, and astonishingly transformed into a gifted academic. There’s the posh wedding reception held in the stunning new atrium of the Ashmolean Museum. There’s a kind of reference to two paintings by Fra Angelico that were discovered in Oxford shortly before the episode was filmed. And perhaps best of all (because I don’t remember this happening anywhere else in the whole oeuvre)
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
it was the butler who did it! in revenge for the long-ago murder of his grandparents, by the now-rehabilitated child murderer.
Really, how could you not love all this? We may not yet have had The Kiss (that comes a bit later in the series); but I’m sure you can see why I love this one so much.