Fans of whimsical but intelligent murder mysteries will be pleased to see the release of The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 7 on Blu-Ray. The New Zealand murder mystery series, produced by RLJ Entertainment, has become an international favourite for its humour, gentle touch, and compassionate approach to social issues.
Set in the bucolic backcountry of New Zealand Brokenwood’s three person detective squad tackles the surprising number of murders and suspicious deaths that crop up in such a small town. In fact one would begin to wonder if their little community might not just have one of the higher murder per capita ratios in the country.
Whatever the case, there certainly are enough murders to keep Senior Sargent Mike Shepherd (Neil Rae), Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland), and Detective Sam Breen (Nic Sampson) busy. In fact this season the series has been increased to six full length hour and half episodes from the previous years’ four – so there’s more murder and mystery to enjoy.
While fans will recognize any number of familiar faces from previous seasons, Series 7 of Brokenwood also sees a changing of the guard. After episode 2 Detective Breen is replaced by newcomer Detective Daniel Chalmers (Jarod Rawiri). Normally replacing a cast member midstream can seriously disrupt a shows chemistry, but Brokenwood’s producers have done a great job in finding both a character and an actor who make the transition as seamless as possible.
Of course it helps that the scripts are as impeccably written as usual. While the murders are serious, somebody is killed after all, each episode continues to have a delightful sense of the absurd. Episode 3, “Dog Morning Afternoon”, includes one of the most inept bank robberies ever seen on screen. It also has lovely references to Reservoir Dogs and Dog Day Afternoon contained in its visuals and its title.
However, as is keeping with the Brokenwood’s overall feel, the episode is nowhere near as dark as the movies. The absolute silliness of the four would be bank robbers mitigates the nastiness of the murder that happens during their clumsy attempt. Half of the fun of this episode is watching the four miscreants keep tripping each other up and falling on their faces as they attempt to deny doing anything wrong.
All six episodes are equally well done. While the seventh episode, with its murder happening during a 1970s theme party, might bring back memories some viewers would rather have forgotten, none of them contain the type of harshness so favoured by too many police procedurals. Violence is kept to a minimum, and on the whole the murders take place off stage.
One of the reasons the show works so well is the interplay between all the characters. From the three detectives to the various townsfolk with ongoing roles there is a wonderful naturalness of behaviour that makes you feel like you’ve entered into a close knit community. In fact, long term fans must feel like they’re almost residents, or at least frequent visitors, to Brokenwood as it is so easy to fall into the patterns and rhythms of the small town.
You would think that after seven seasons this familiarity would start to make the stories in The Brokenwood Mysteries become stale. However, the producers and writers have so far managed to avoid the trap of predictability too many ongoing shows fall into. Not only are the scripts still interesting but the characters continue to grow and develop as we watch each episode.
The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 7 is another season of great television from New Zealand. If you like well acted and well written TV mysteries, don’t miss this series.