Still catching up? Read Steve’s review of McDonald & Dodds episode 1 here.
McDonald & Dodds is likeable & silly, knockabout & watchable.
Much like an enthusiastic greengrocer, last week’s debut episode of this lighthearted ITV crime drama set its stall out very early indeed. It was clear from the start that writer Robert Murphy’s (DCI Banks) new Sunday night show was no mean ‘n’ moody True Detective-style examination of the darker side of humanity. It was quite the opposite.
These two feature-length episodes ably filled the 8pm until 10pm evening time slot left vacant by the likes of Vera and Endeavour. In tone, think Midsomer Murders. For the set-up here in episode 2, think Agatha Christie.
A woman’s body is found in her room at an addiction recovery centre. It’s suicide, apparently. Except, of course, it isn’t. Our murder suspects, we quickly learn, also all live at The Mara Retreat. There’s Joanna Scanlan’s Kelly, the course leader, CEO George (Hugh Dennis), his nephew Miles (White House Farm’s Freddie Fox), slots fiend Mary (Michele Dotrice), anxiety-afflicted Maheeda (Kiran Sonia Sawar) and sex addict Alison (Caroline Catz)…
Who’s the killer? Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
The plot here was, to be fair, a little daft. The acting, in parts, was theatrical almost. Some of the twists could be quite contrived and the clues downright bizarre (pine seed in a vodka bottle anyone?). Trying to keep up with it all and guessing the killer here was no mean feat. By the time The Big Reveal came around, the identity of the killer seemed almost irrelevant. Their selection almost seemed random. Arbitrary. But…
All of that doesn’t really matter. True, this was a whodunit of sorts, but McDonald & Dodds is no great crime mystery. It’s far more about the journey than the destination. The hurried explanations and contrivances of the final twenty minutes tie up the plot, but the fun here is in the build-up.
Tala Gouveia seems more relaxed here in this second instalment, her character – DCI McDonald – less one dimensional and more fleshed-out. The ‘odd couple’ set-up seems more convincing here than last week too, with Jason Watkins still – far and away – the show’s greatest asset.
Plot development may not be this knockabout crimer’s greatest strength from a writing perspective, but the script is razor-sharp. Genuine wit and laugh-out-loud one-liners pepper the dialogue.
The music deserves a mention too. Composer Blair Mowat (Torchwood) weaves his catchy theme tune with the traditional orchestral musings throughout to great effect. It’s never intrusive, genuinely helps build tension and, best of all, cleverly features subtle little flourishes here and there. The idea of dropping in wedding music as our two leads strolled down the aisle of a church was genuinely brilliant. It’s rare a TV score makes you chuckle on its own.
By the end, the plot ties itself up in knots (quite literally at one point). As with episode 1, we were left with a rather outlandish explanation rather hastily explained, that relied quite heavily on the near-supernatural detective skills of DS Dodds. A man who’s supposed to be a laughing stock within the Avon and Somerset Police and yet possesses frequently vital puzzle-solving and code-breaking skills that make the Enigma Machine look like a Commodore 64. Yet still, it didn’t affect our enjoyment of the thing.
This double bill played out almost like an audition. If we worked in casting at ITV, we’d give McDonald & Dodds the part. Maybe with a few notes on how to brush up for the role, mind. But we’d happily see this charming Sunday night show return to the set.
Did you tune in for McDonald & Dodds episode 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!