Midsomer is a remarkably deadly place, a deceptively delicious chocolate box filled poisoned confections. Generations of loyal inhabitants risk life and limb to live in Midsomer's bucolic hills and dales. Its coziness has a macabre stain; like a lace doily blotched with tea, darkness lurks at the edges. In Midsomer County's dangerous environs, denizens inflict and suffer numerous creative malaises. DCI John Barnaby, a cousin of our original curmudgeon, is wonderfully played by Neil Dudgeon. And he has a dog companion, the emotive Sykes; England, this blessed plot, rife with delightful dogs and detectives. DCI John Barnaby is as gifted at detection as his cousin Tom. The Barnaby line is rooted in Midsomer's earth, they are dependable in never being surprised by bizarre occurrences. Nothing flummoxes a true Barnaby. Jason Hughes is intrepid as Detective Inspector Ben Jones, his wry humor is the perfect foil. With the exception of the first episode, these stories return to the offbeat, humorous alternative universe that Midsomer fans crave.
The U.K. boasts numerous fine (and often underrated) actors. You may want to catch Neil Dudgeon's unforgettable performance in a superb story (episode 3) in the BAFTA Award winning series The Street, the first season. He plays Brian Peterson, a teacher accused of being a flasher. Ultimately, who is the betrayer? His wife claims she has never known him, perhaps it is the other way around. As Brian Peterson gazes out of a taxi window passing street after fogbound street, you understand that each street is full of stories, each person's life with its moments of mystery. Be aware that The Street is gritty, rough, and harrowing, quite unlike Midsomer!
The Dark Rider This first episode is fairly preposterous, even by Midsomer's generous standards that encompass a broad width of deviant behavior. Written by Michael Aitkens (who foisted "Death in the Slow Lane" on viewers; an abominable intro to DCI John Barnaby), this is a poor indication of how good the rest of the collection is. Barnaby and Jones investigate a series of untimely deaths are linked to sightings of a headless horseman. The mystery revolves around the gentrified DeQuettevilles, who stage an historic battle re-enactment every year. Just get through it to the subsequent epsidodes. At least we get to see more of Barnaby, his wife (Fiona Dolman), Jones, and last but not least, the emotive Sykes. It gets better after this!
Murder of Innocence Written by Elizabeth-Anne Wheal, this moody Midsomer inveigles DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) with the protection a hated offender, released from jail, to lodge in a dismal cottage. A local barrister dies in suspicious circumstances, whilst past and present collide. The culprit claims to be innocent of the crime he was locked up for in the first place. Barnaby and Jones must delve deeper into previous events to identify the real murderer.
Written in the Stars Will we ever get a chance to meet Ben Jones' gran? She of the portents and folk-superstitions? Writer Steve Trafford delivers a plot that will keep you guessing! Up on this Moon-mad Midsomer Ridge, a crowd gathers to watch an eclipse, ignorant that a murderer lurks within their midst. An astronomer is bludgeoned by a meteor, and an astrologer claims to predict each subsequent murder. Rivalries and illicit relationships amongst stargazers are unearthed.
Death and the Divas This is a standout episode, classic Midsomer, wacky and weird; thanks to writers Rachel Cuperman & Sally Griffiths for satisfying loyal Midsomer fans. The Midsomer Langley Film Festival is underway, and it turn out our Barnaby is a fan of the main actress, and of these campy thrillers. Harriet Walter does a fine turn as an obnoxiously successful actor, returning to Midsomer to upstage her sister, the star of the festival and of the early films. During the festivities, a writer is murdered whilst a campy horror classic plays on the telly. The murder is ghoulishly like one that occurred in a cult 1960s horror film. This being Midsomer, further murders ensue, each one reenacting a cult-film classic. Enjoy!
The Sicilian Defense Who knew that the world of chess could be so fraught with danger? But this is Midsomer, after all, and writer Paul Logue keeps us guessing as to how a young girl wound up in a coma, and whatever happened to her boyfriend? When the girl awakes, murders ensue . . . Midsomer's classic formula features charming villages with a high body-count.
Schooled in Murder This is a classic, with a brutal murder of a dairy worker involving weaponized cheese, as can only (one would hope) occur in Midsomer, at the famous Midsomer Blue cheese factory. Writer Lisa Holdsworth delivers a great story. Thankfully, we are not inflicted by rubbish school kids, but witness a war between staff and school board, along with the cheese-mystery. Enjoy!