After last outing’s low, Midsomer Murders returns with ‘With Baited Breath’, an instalment based around fishing. It certainly picks up and is a fun episode that feels like Midsomer, but mystery fans will be disappointed with quite how easy it is to identify the murderer.
After a sighting of a giant fish rumoured to lurk in the lake, fishermen flocked to the village of Solomon Gorge desperate to catch it. Their plans are threatened, however, after Ned Skye (Nitin Ganatra) diverts the course for his Psycho Mud Run through the lake, causing a clash between the runners and the fishermen. Things turn deadly when the course is sabotaged, and the discovery of a body’ the next day puts Barnaby, joined by old colleague Artie Blythe (Vincent Franklin), on the case. As the bodies begin to pile up, the detectives must work out whether either side of the argument is angry enough to kill – and, if not, what the motives for the murders are.
‘With Baited Breath’ is, in many ways, a bog-standard Midsomer
‘With Baited Breath’ is, in many ways, a bog-standard Midsomer. It looks stunning, and the lake setting is a refreshing change from the familiar village locations – Jennie Darnell’s direction really brought the place to life, and the incidental music is strong again. I didn’t actually know many members of the guest cast this week, but they were all solid characters – Franklin was an interesting standout as a foil of sorts to Barnaby. And, of course, it wouldn’t be an episode of Midsomer without a load of murders. They lacked the surrealism of ‘The Sting of Death’, but I thought they were solid and inventive (with one I can’t believe they showed before the watershed).
This is an enjoyable episode but, if you’re after a Midsomer to push your brain cells, ‘With Baited Breath’ is not for you. The puzzle is well constructed and comes together nicely at the end, but the identity of the murderer is obvious far too early – indeed, keeping an eye on Twitter, most people had it within the first half-hour. It hits a lot of familiar beats, especially if you’re a fan of the show (I had strong ‘Death’s Shadow’ vibes), but I thought it landed, especially after the bizarre plotting last week. There’s an overfamiliar trope that seems to be used every episode of the police arriving just in time to prevent another murder, but I thought the scene here actually worked, and even carried a bit of emotional heft.
I enjoyed ‘With Baited Breath’, and I think it’s a fine note on which to wrap up this very extended twenty-first series – it was good, if not great, but it contained all of the things people love about the show
Outside of the mystery, there’s a lot going on – Jeff Povey’s script feels very packed, and yet far more cohesive than last week’s offering. It takes its time, with the first murder not occurring until half an hour in, but I think that works to its favour, and things ramp up quickly when the crimes begin. Sadly, with so much happening, some of the characters and plot beats (of which there are many) fall by the wayside. There’s a grumpy old fisherman character who contributes nothing, and once the course saboteur is revealed, they vanish for about an hour. As Barnaby is working with Blythe, Winter gets a new colleague, PC Jade-Marie Pierce (Eleanor Fanyinka), with whom he shares an unconvincing partnership. The writers seem keen on stripping away all agency and interest from him, and I don’t understand why.
I enjoyed ‘With Baited Breath’, and I think it’s a fine note on which to wrap up this very extended twenty-first series – it was good, if not great, but it contained all of the things people love about the show. There may be a little more mystery about the lake monster than the murderer, but that didn’t take me away from a fun two hours of crime.