In the middle of winter, we can always be sure of a little Caribbean magic thanks to the team behind Death in Paradise. It’s now been 12 years since we first saw a British police inspector head to the island of Saint Marie to investigate impossible crimes, and it has continued to be a ratings hit for the BBC. Now boasting Ralf Little in the lead role of Neville Parker, the 12th run of Death in Paradise has just concluded, so what better time to reflect on this run of eight episodes and see whether this series has captured that same mix of sun, mystery and heart?
(Spoilers for the series do follow.)
The show continues its customary run of cases of the week, each of the eight instalments finding the team investigating murders disguised as suicides, locked-room mysteries, and a whole other variety of impossible crimes, and cracking them after solid policework and a few sparks of genius on the part of the inspector. After that, it’s time for a friendly drink at Catherine’s bar, and it’s been the site of many scenes examining the personal lives of our characters. In particular, Neville has been enjoying a series-long romance with Sophie (Chelsea Edge), while the other detectives reckon with their professional futures.
after this came a run of three that failed, in my eyes, to be particularly compelling
Let’s start by discussing the cases themselves, which have been a mix of clever and a little bit lame. Tales of impossible murders among astronomers and a prepper commune were quite interesting (even though just based on politics, it’s painfully obvious who the villain will be in the latter). But after this came a run of three that failed, in my eyes, to be particularly compelling. The solution to the murder of a con artist on a boat, a set-up that begged for trickery, was just that there was someone else on the boat, and they were lucky no-one noticed as they swam away. The next two cases, which used mistaken identities in their solutions, were also unexpectedly weak on resolution.
Things built to a major three-parter, pitting Neville against the absolutely slimy David Cartwright (Patrick Kennedy), a character whose life was then cut short by a murder apparently committed by our lead detective. Honestly, this was a bit of a shame, as I’d loved them to have butted heads a lot more. Many of the series’ dangling threads were resolved as the team revealed who killed Cartwright, albeit in a surprisingly underwhelming fashion. Anyhow, it then gave Neville a crisis of confidence upon his release, as he tried to solve an impossible poisoning that I quite enjoyed.
it transpired that the whole relationship was just a ploy for revenge
Where this series really shined is the ongoing character work. After introducing the character of Sophie as a love interest for Neville in the Christmas special, their relationship has been a sweet one to follow and one that has given Little some more to do outside of the hypochondriac shtick. And the investment in this series-long romance really paid off in the seventh episode, which led to one of the greatest rug-pull moments in the show’s history – it transpired that the whole relationship was just a ploy for revenge, and it was Sophie who framed Neville for murder. The dynamics this introduced, and the way the emotions were dealt with in the final episode in a confrontation between the two, were genuinely compelling.
It’s more than just a one-man show, of course, and many of the supporting cast have had their moments to shine. The ever-reliable Don Warrington continues to shine as the commissioner, and he’s had a good series – he’s shared some touching scenes with Little, he’s been the straight foil to the always-enjoyable Marlon (Tahj Miles), and the character has undergone a bit of a crisis upon the discovery of his daughter at the end of last series. Marlon, against all advice, pursued and failed his sergeant’s exam, and we learned more about Naomi (Shantol Jackson) as one of the cases took us back to her home island. It’s the kind of character work that benefits from likeable and compelling actors, of which the show has many, and the serialisation built up over years. For many viewers, myself included, it’s like catching up with your family.
And, fortunately, we’ll have more opportunities to see them, as the series had only been finished five minutes before it was confirmed that another two had been recommissioned, meaning we’ll have Death in Paradise until at least 2025. On the back of this run, an ambitious and character-driven series that mostly works, I’m thrilled to see what’s in the future for Neville and the team.