Series three of McDonald & Dodds has proven a mixed bag thus far, so what would ‘The War of Rose’ bring? Frankly, a
touch of the highs and the lows, with the episode demonstrating the show’s potential for excellent plotting and character
work, marred by a far too obvious culprit and some awkward attempts to imbue wider themes.
Social media influencer Rose Boleyn (Rosie Day) elects to have plastic surgery at a clinic run by the soon-to-be divorced
couple Al (Rhashan Stone) and Mariel (Sarah Parish). But what should have been a simple nose job soon turns tragic, with
Rose pronounced dead on the operating table after what appeared to be a heart attack. Toxicology results soon show that Rose
was poisoned – McDonald and Dodds are dispatched to the clinic to figure out how the influencer was murdered in a sealed
clinic, and which of the operating team was responsible. But as they dig further into Rose’s world and the exclusive world of
the surgery, they increasingly struggle to separate fact and fiction.
half-baked commentary on the impact of social media and gender dynamics
I enjoyed the mystery at the heart of this episode, albeit with a major caveat. I think that McDonald & Dodds really thrives
when it gets into the intricacies of investigations and puts forward some strong clues, and that’s true of ‘The War of Rose’.
There are some novel inversions on some classic detective tropes – a dog barking, a door being open – that writer Kam
Odedra deploys cleverly, laying things out cryptically but fairly for the viewers. A locked-room mystery of this sort needs to
be clever and fair, and this episode manages both.
That does, however, come with an issue that took a little fun out of proceedings. The mystery is set up with a cast of five or
six suspects, but it’s very swiftly apparent that only two of them are genuinely viable culprits for the crime – the script
essentially drops most of the characters quite early, and I’d forgotten one when we reached the denouement. The show does
have form in setting up good mysteries and then answering them far too easily – the show’s premiere episode and series
two’s ‘We Need to Talk About Doreen’ were the worst for this – and this episode feels like a disappointing callback.
I had fun with the two suspects, but I think it’s far too obvious who the villain is, and it attempts to fumble and hide this
with some half-baked commentary on the impact of social media and gender dynamics that doesn’t land that effectively.
Admittedly, it’s clear that one of these suspects (I won’t ruin their identity) is having a whale of a time in this role, and they
share some great scenes with Gouveia.
The premise of a great mystery is half-taken and half-wasted
Mentioning series two, it’s been documented that this episode was filmed for that series and then brought forward. In
practice, this translates to a number of awkwardly-inserted scenes featuring Claire Skinner’s superintendent (in place of
James Murray’s Houseman) adds very little. There was some great character work, as ever, between Watkins and
Gouveia, with some comedic scenes emerging from Dodds’ unseen meeting with McDonald’s boyfriend. I’m loving the
the dynamic between these two characters and next week’s plot summary suggests this may be tested, which is something I’m looking
For now, though, I have to think of ‘The War of Rose’, and I have to acknowledge that it’s a fun but flawed instalment that
ranks just below the series’ best outing. The premise of a great mystery is half-taken and half-wasted, and the strong work by
the central detectives and the two main suspects just about buoys this episode and makes it an enjoyable watch despite its