Critically-maligned but loved by audiences, Death in Paradise is a ray of sunshine in the January/February schedule. The show has just finished its eighth series, but what better time to look back at the run, its ups and downs, and ask where the show can go next? Some spoilers will follow, so please watch the series first if you don’t want some of the character moments ruined.
The crux of the show is ever constant – a British inspector and his team investigate murders on the Caribbean island on Saint Marie. Our lead detective this series is DI Jack Mooney (Ardal O’Hanlon, best known for his role in Father Ted), a widower who took the region to heart. He is joined by DS Florence Cassell (Joséphine Jobert), Officer JP Hooper (Tobi Bakare) and a new recruit, Ruby Patterson (Shyko Amos), the niece of the island’s police commissioner.
I like crime shows with solutions that don’t leave me feeling cheated, and Death in Paradise is really good at that
Despite its tropical setting, the show really belongs to an old-fashioned detective tradition – the locked-room mystery, with a small cast of suspects and a seemingly impossible crime. To give you an example, the opening episode features a man found stabbed on the back of a bus, and none of his fellow passengers went near him – so who did it, and how? The clues are normally fair, but their meaning is not immediately apparent and piecing them together requires some thinking. I like crime shows with solutions that don’t leave me feeling cheated, and Death in Paradise is really good at that.
On the downside, if you can see through the answers to the puzzles the episode poses (most episodes feature Mooney listing them for his officers), it could potentially impact the enjoyment of the show – I think both episodes two (a zookeeper is shot with a tranquiliser dart) and three (a young TV presenter drowns) suffered from fairly obvious solutions.
However, Death in Paradise is a show that thrives on its characters even more than its mysteries, and they’re all so pleasingly likeable. There was much concern about original mainstay Danny John-Jules leaving the cast – he was a fan favourite, giving his replacement a lot to live up to. Amos’ Ruby is a very different character, and took a few episodes to settle in, but the dynamic between her and JP is now one of the most consistently amusing parts of the show.
Death in Paradise just works, and so there’s no need to make any drastic changes
Character really comes into effect in one of the show’s rare two-parters. A running thread throughout the series was Florence’s engagement and impending marriage to Patrice (Leemore Marrett Jr.) – he becomes good friends with the team, and it gives Jack a chance to extol lots of fatherly wisdom. The first episode of the two-parter sees Jack investigate the murder of a girl who worked for Patrice – Jack arrests the killer, but a suspicious phone call hints at more to the case. Florence follows Patrice, and is shot, in a cliff-hanger that lit up social media. As it turned out, Florence survived, but Patrice had been killed – the resulting episode was much darker than we’re used to, and saw Florence leave the island.
Where does the show go from here? Really, Death in Paradise just works, and so there’s no need to make any drastic changes. The final two episodes saw an internal affairs investigation conducted by Madeleine Dumas (Aude Legastelois), who then became part of the team – we haven’t learned too much about her, so it will be interesting to see what she’ll bring to the equation. Jack’s daughter Siobhan (Grace Stone) also appeared at the end of the last episode, after some emotional trouble in the UK – I don’t know if she’ll stick around, but it would be nice for her to be mentioned every once in a while (and, on that note, a finale that doesn’t involve the detective contemplating a return to the UK would be great).
Death in Paradise is good, entertaining fun and it’s really pleasing that so many people enjoy it. I highly recommend it to you (with the good news that it has been recommissioned for two more series) – it will be a long time before next January and a return to the sunny shores of Saint Marie.