After three series of Detective Constable “Dangerous” Davies (Peter Davison) solving difficult crimes while being disrespected by his colleagues, and having life continue to throw one indignity after another at him, most notably his estranged wife (Emma Amos) finds new ways to emasculate him and take advantage of him.
In the first three series, his relationship with his boss (Rod Spendlove) improved considerably, and in the third series, he built up the courage to have an honest and direct conversation with his wife that seemed to point towards a reconciliation.
In the fourth series, Dangerous has moved back in with his wife and the two are doing quite well. There are mysteries to be solved and the fourth series give us five cases each weighing in at a little over an hour. The mysteries are each ingeniously plotted, and the episodes are impeccably cast with a variety of both serious and comic characters. The series kicks off with the investigation of the murder of a popular mobster, the second episode turns to a pornographer killed in a case involving a snuff film, the third episode is about the murder of an elderly comedian, the fourth episode features the murder of a limousine driver, and the final episode features the murder of a member of a secret society.
I don’t think there’s a weak mystery among the five, although the fourth episode was my favorite. There were so many angles to the case and it took a lot of surprising turns. Given this turned out to be the final series, I wish that it had the episode had turned out to be the finale rather than the actual finale.
The series’ big challenge is that the Last Detective reached a dead-end in character development. Dangerous had a compelling character arch in the first three series as he became a bit more assertive and showed his strength as a detective and to at last stand up for himself with his wife. In series four, he’s pretty much arrived. He’s peaked at work. While his boss has some more respect for him, their personalities are bound to clash. In series four, he’s a relatively old detective constable. Davies age was never stated in the TV series, but Davison was fifty-five years old when he filmed these episodes and his character is often still mocked and put down by younger, less mature but higher-ranking officers, though a little less frequently. Mostly, in terms of Series Four, we kind of get to see the guy we followed in the first three series get a happy ending. The final episode gives us a little cause for doubt, but not much.
The series’ best attempt to introduce conflict involves Davies’ friend Mod (Sean Turner.) who becomes a bit of a fly in the ointment for the Davies’ as a long-term houseguest. The problem with Mod is that he provides some nice comic relief but it’s hard to take anything about him seriously.
How much this change impacts your enjoyment will vary. For me, I loved the mysteries and it was nice to see that Davies got a happy ending. However, the existence of the fourth series violated the way modern television programs are typically made when they center around a particular character’s journey. Making the fourth series of The Last Detective, is akin to making the ninth season of Monk after the episode, Mister Monk and the End resolved all his major issues. You just don’t carry on with a series after your main character’s big problems are resolved unless you can come up with some new challenge that’s as big if not bigger than the problems resolved. So even while I was enjoying the series, I knew why there weren’t any further episodes made.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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