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‘McDonald & Dodds’: We Need to Talk about Doreen

We’re down to Earth this week in McDonald & Dodds, but the party vibe continues in ‘We Need to Talk about Doreen’. There’s certainly a lot to talk about in this second installment, which capitalises on the show’s strengths but still maintains some of its earlier weaknesses, resulting in a fun if uneven watch.

A party of Glaswegian ladies come down to Bath for a birthday weekend, and birthday girl Angela (Joy McAvoy) gets a little cosy with the French rugby player Dominique Aubert (Tomos Gwynfryn). The next morning, Dominique is found dead at a railway tunnel, having ingested a lethal quantity of a date-rape drug. McDonald and Dodds investigate whether Dominique was the target, or whether the fatal cocktail was meant for one of the party instead. But, as they attempt to crack open the case, Dodds keeps butting heads with one of the ladies – Doreen (Sharon Rooney), who is considered a bit dopey by her friends but knows a lot more than she is letting on.

I like McDonald & Dodds because it toes the fine line between light throwaway fun and genuine cleverness

I want to talk about the case because I had two very different reactions when I watched this episode. The case is really intricate and cleverly written, and I thought some of the deductions were very impressive – I like McDonald & Dodds because it toes the fine line between light throwaway fun and genuine cleverness – with some brilliant observations about the rising of the sun, cocktail glasses, and photo evidence. I also loved the show drawing on its local culture and history, highlighting the importance of rugby and the Box Hill Tunnel.

And yet, the strong writing is bizarrely complemented with the fact that the villain was too obvious right from the start. I spent much of the episode thinking it had to be a double bluff, but it wasn’t – there are only really two suspects, with many discarded or simply forgotten after they make limited impact on the narrative, and it’s exactly the one you initially think. Somehow, the revelation is both incredibly obvious and underprepared – much like last week, the motive felt very flimsy, and it stripped away a lot of the impact from the final scene.

Much of the episode is comprised of tangents, some that eventually contributed nothing, wasting the viewer’s time. Certain degree of red herrings are essential in a crime show, but they shouldn’t feel hollow. In one scene, McDonald confronts Dominique’s fellow players at the rugby club, and makes a big deal of their potential involvement in his death. It feels as if it should go somewhere, but that is the end of it. Similarly, Dominique’s shifty agent Deborah (Natalie Gumede) is implicated in a dodgy deal, and then disappears completely from the episode (funnily enough, after McDonald tells her she isn’t going anyway). The less said about the randomly antagonistic police boss Houseman (James Murray), waltzing into the middle of an active investigation to tell everyone they need medical check-ups, the better.

I enjoyed ‘We Need to Talk about Doreen’ a little less than last week’s episode – it maintained much of the same charm, but the overall feel was a little looser, more unfocused with a lot of dead ends

This was a shame because I really liked the cast here. Sharon Rooney was the standout, in part because she has a lively and always entertaining screen presence, and because she was one of the few actors with much to do. We saw some familiar faces, including John Thomson as the owner of the rugby club, and McAvoy made Angela a suitably unappealing person. I really enjoyed the developing dynamic between Gouveia and Watkins – there are a few scenes in the episode where McDonald goes to bat for Dodds, and they work really well.

I enjoyed ‘We Need to Talk about Doreen’ a little less than last week’s episode – it maintained much of the same charm, but the overall feel was a little looser, more unfocused with a lot of dead ends. The lead duo continue to be a nice match, the visuals are stunning and the show is certainly escapist fare, but I wished it had cut a bit of the chaff along the way.

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