The second season of Da Vinci's Inquest, recently issued in boxed set by Acorn Media, begins and ends on cases that will feed into the Vancouver coroner's advocacy of a controlled red-light district in the city. Both two-parters center on the murder of city working girls, and they provide two of the most compelling episodes of the series' sophomore season.
The second, featuring a skull-faced Matt Frewer as a sadistic accountant with serious self-control issues, reaches the sinister depths of the first season's concluding serial killer storyline and provides the former Max Headroom with a great vehicle for his typically idiosyncratic acting style. (I read on IMDb that Frewer has a role on Da Vinci's creator Chris Haddock's newest teledrama, Intelligence, but, to the best of my knowledge, that series hasn't yet shown up in the states.) Judging from its first two seasons, though, Haddock and his writers definitely know how to polish up their season bookends.
If the remaining nine season two episodes aren't as consistently gripping, they maintain the same blend of crime show procedural and social drama as the first. Haddock and his writers continue to share a healthy distrust of neat resolutions, resulting in a procedural world that's distinctly removed from the tidy realms of the C.S.I.s. Their characters' lives are nearly as messy.
Dominic Da Vinci (Nicholas Campbell) still wrestles with his alcoholism – in the season's sole comic episode, we watch him and detective Leo Shannon (Donnelly Rhodes) get blitzed in a bar and then sneak into an indigent dead man's place to retrieve a winning lottery ticket – and remains his engagingly opinionated self. His relationships with his ex-wife and daughter (Gwynyth Walsh and Jewel Staite, respectively) receive only minimal play this season, and, with the exception of Leo and his sometime partner Mick Leary (Ian Tracey), the rest of the show's ensemble isn't really given all that much to do either. I keep wishing that Helen, Da Vinci's secretary, had been given more moments in the show since actress Sarah (Men in Trees) Strange can do more with a look than many actresses can with a fully scripted, front-and-center scene. Perhaps in season three?
Unlike the first season, though – where the convening of an actual inquest was used more as a threat to move things along – the second season actually lives up to its title by featuring two episodes centered on full inquests. In the first, Dominic holds a hearing into the drowning deaths of three herring fishermen after their boat capsizes; in the second, the death by cop of a seemingly deranged assailant leads to inevitable questions of objectivity for the former cop turned coroner. With both cases, the politics behind each inquiry (family vs. fisherman's union vs. fishing company in the first inquiry) are parsed as distinctly as the facts behind each case. Not for nothing would this series ultimately morph into Da Vinci's City Hall.
Acorn's packaging also contains a brief segment of sound bites from the cast and crew about the series. No big surprises here (the cast enjoys working on a hit teleseries!), but I did like hearing Haddock talk about the process of chipping away softer moments in each script, so that the show can be "much closer to the British style" of procedural drama. From what I can tell, the less-is-more approach is working. In its second season, Da Vinci's Inquest remains one smart, hard-nosed crime drama.