Top positive review
54 people found this helpful
A worthy successor to Morse
on 5 August 2010
As a follow-on series to Morse, probably the greatest ever tv detective show, Lewis seemed doomed to suffer in comparison and yet over 16 episodes (so far) the series has more than lived up to expectations. It maintains Morse's languid, elegant, slow-moving style that's at odds with most modern tv shows with their tight editing and camera work courtesy of wobblycam. It continues to attract numerous well-known actors, has high production values, unintrusive quality music, excellent scenery, and has murder mysteries that are so convoluted nobody can figure them out.
Having praised the show, some aspects of the earlier episodes are uncertain and it takes a while to perfect the format. Early on there's an understandable need to link in to Morse and so there are numerous attempts to shoehorn in items such as scribbled messages by Morse on crossword puzzles. Usually these homages don't work and thankfully when the show finds its feet references are used less often and with more effect. The oddest and most important of these links is the decision to morph Lewis's character into, well, him becoming Morse. In the earlier series Lewis provided an essential contrast to his curmudgeonly boss. He was happy, was devoted to his family, and he employed dogged police methodology that would eventually happen across the vital clue to the mystery while Morse was busy falling in love with the murderer and drinking beer.
This time Lewis's wife is dead leaving him morose, we see little of his home life other than to stress that he is lonely, and he solves crimes with brilliant deductive analysis. He even drinks lots of beer and listens to Wagner. At first this feels an odd change, as it seemingly ignores the Lewis character that built up over many years, but it does make sense as Morse's love of opera did gradually grow on Lewis during the earlier series. And Morse would have developed his interests and characteristics over many years and so here we, in a way, get to see how Morse developed into the man he ended up being.
Lewis's sidekick of Hathaway also initially feels wrong, presenting a mish-mash of quirky sidekick features: he's a brilliant, enigmatic, computer literate, ex-theologian with a funny walk. But the role quickly settles down and his relationship with Lewis is played effectively with frequent amusing exchanges and plenty of sparring when their contrasting viewpoints clash. The series also uses to good effect the various enigmatic aspects of his past such as the reason why he gave up on theology.
Making up the rest of the regular cast are Lewis's shouty boss Innocent, who takes over from Strange's role as the shouty boss. Innocent has little to do other than to complain about the press or budgets or whatever is necessary to take a contrary view to Lewis's to browbeat him some more. But the pathologist Doctor Hobson (reprising her role from the later Morse episodes) is given meatier scenes and more of a rounded character than any pathologist on the show has ever had before. Her friendship with Lewis is nicely believable with just the right level of hinted romance, especially as their scenes are usually played out over bodies where plenty of plot exposition can be delivered in a fun way.
As for the individual episodes, they are consistent and the later ones are as strong, if not better, than the earlier ones. Out of the 16 I'd suggest that only series 3's Counter-Culture Blues is a failure with its terrible acting, silly plot, and central idea that's been done far better elsewhere. The rest do well to introduce memorable characters while mixing in clues from literate sources such as Greek mythology, opera and art leading to revelations that are rarely the expected one that the most famous guest star did it. With a fifth series already commissioned I hope this annual piece of quality tv can continue for a while longer.