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DVD Review: The Last Detective – Series 4

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Things couldn't be better for Detective Constable Dangerous Davies (Peter Davison) in Series 4 of ITV's The Last Detective. He's moved back in with Julie (Emma Amos) and his oddball friend Mod (Sean Hughes) now lives in his house. Despite all of these positives however, he still feels passed over in his job as a detective.

The cases aren't really the thing with this show. As usual in a detective series, the main character ends up getting cases that appear uninteresting on the surface. He trudges through all the suspects and spouts the usual questions of "who, what, why, and when?" Then after either a few more bodies or clues are discovered, the case reaches a conclusion as the detective finds the individual (or individuals) who committed the crime.

The Last Detective's greatest asset is its own vulnerable yet intelligent leading character, Dangerous Davies. Peter Davison, popular for his TV runs on All Creatures Great and Small and Doctor Who, delivers a certain innocence to the character adapted from a series of books by Leslie Thomas. He can be a bit of a lovelorn fool in the way he lets his wife berate him at times, and he has a habit of trying to make Mod out to a be bigger loser than he is. At least he isn't an alcoholic like Morse.

Even though I mention that the cases are standard issue, they are nonetheless entertaining. The episodes I list are ordered according to quality:

  • "Dangerous Liaisons"
  • "The Man From Montevideo"
  • "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Willesden"
  • "Once Upon A Time On The Westway"
  • "The Dead Peasants Society"  

The "Westway" episode, which focuses on a recently released diamond thief who finds himself murdered while being investigated over a recent robbery, features Camille Coduri as the wife of the diamond thief. She's gotten a lot sexier since her time as the annoying mother of former Doctor Who companion Rose Tyler. In saying that, I would have loved some kind of verbal tie-in to Doctor Who considering Davison's history with the popular BBC science fiction series.

The "Funny Thing" episode felt a little too depressing to me. I didn't really care for the comedy team storyline and felt the people who were suspects were so unlikeable that I would have thrown them all in jail a la Seinfeld. You might not see it that way, but tell me you didn't want to shoot yourself when you found out who the suspect was and why the murder was committed. 

The "Liaisons" episode is one of the best. It's kind of like 8MM, but with Davies investigating a snuff film rather than the insane Nicolas Cage. It's one of the darker ones. Unlike "Funny Thing", you get some sense of relief at the end.

The "Montevideo" episode is the second best of the set as it is decidedly creepy, especially given that the cab driver went from being a crabby-looking old man to a relatively younger man who acted and looked like a millionaire. The conclusion was a bit head-scratching in the reason department — but still a good episode nonetheless.

The "Dead Peasants" episode was a bit on the weak side with the plot. The whole business of a secret group engaging in insurance fraud was cool, but it seemed to fix too much on the person who was murdered as opposed to the actual fraud itself. Maybe I read the episode wrong — it just seemed misguided.

The interplay between his boss and co-workers (Rob Spendlove, Charles De'Ath, Billy Geragthy) is less caustic in this new season. The writers might have felt that it would be old hat if Davies kept fighting back and forth with them. There's even a bit of irony put into these stories now and then. One scene I found hilarious was when his co-workers and boss go on a bust and find themselves fooled (it involved department store dummies). You would have to watch it to get the idea.

Series 4 could very well be the final series of The Last Detective. Still, this box set is worth every penny simply to watch a fresh take on a tired genre.

If you still long for more Peter Davison, go grab some Netflix rentals of his time as Doctor Who. If you happen to have a mate in the UK or poke around YouTube sometime, you might find his 10-minute reappearance in the newest Doctor Who titled "Time Crash". 

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