I’m not big on cop dramas, but I wanted to check out Death in Paradise (2011 to present), streaming on Netflix, because I heard Kris Marshall talking about it on the radio. (I’d seen Marshall perform in the West End in 2007.) I also wanted to see it because Danny John-Jules is in it. I watched the first episode of season 1 and the first episode of season 3. It’s a cliche situation you see in a lot of these cop dramas: a copper from a whole different background comes on the scene to investigate a murder. Friction between the local way and the new copper’s way causes tension and humor. We’ve seen it done a million times, whether it’s different size towns like Broadchurch or different time periods like Life on Mars. In this case, it’s Croyden copper Richard Poole (Ben Miller) sent to Saint-Marie to investigate the murder of the British cop stationed there. Poole is a London-spoiled complainer. It’s too hot. There’s no forensics on this island. There’s a tree growing in my house. Whaaaa.
Of course, this obnoxious man, probably sent from London to get rid of him, happens to also be a brilliant detective and seemlessly slips from awkward moron to Colombo, gathering everyone together to unveil the killer. This cliche is joked about in season 3 when Camille (Sara Martins), Poole’s police partner, tells the new copper that he must explain how the killer did it, Agatha Christie-style.
Jumping over 15 episodes, (SPOILERS!) season 3 starts with the murder of the local British cop, just as season 1 had, except, if you remember, this time the local British cop is Richard Poole, our protagonist from the last two seasons. Not much has changed from season 1 to 3: the lighting and setting are still very good. The characters are all the same–Gary Carr, Danny John-Jules, Sara Martins, and Don Warrington all playing police officers of varying ranks. But Poole, who the others have grown to like, is dead, making room for a new British cop to get stationed there: Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall). Humphrey is clearly another of these coppers London couldn’t wait to get rid of. He doesn’t complain as much and he’s extremely sensitive to the fact that they just lost their friend, but he’s disorganized, clumsy, and rambles on too much. Officers Dwayne and Fidel can’t stop joking about how upon his arrival, he fell backward out a window. The fear for the viewer is that Humphrey will get caught in the same vicious cycle and be the next British officer bumped off.
I don’t know if I’ll watch more. The show gets more conscious of its cliches as it goes on, which is a good sign. The characters are endearing. The killers are not obvious: the clues are there, but I didn’t guess it in either episode I saw. I guess if you like cop dramas, why not choose one on a beach?