Death in Paradise. How Saint Marie Has Lost Its Sparkle What were they thinking?

My favourite TV show is Luther, it’s dark and delicious, Idris Elba for president, or even better James Bond. Compared to that even Sherlock is a second rate show. Some people call it a guilty pleasure, but television is entertainment, even the news and I’ve always enjoyed Death in Paradise but was amazed by what happened in season four. What were they thinking? [Spoilers up to the end of season 4 below]

Most detective shows take themselves way to seriously. Not so Death in Paradise. Still the whole thing doesn’t make sense. Why would anyone go to paradise and commit murder? The first two series saw a British inspector transplanted to the island of St. Marie – he hates it and misses London with its fog and rain – but still he manages to solve the most improbable murders. And because it is an island they never arrest the guilty party outright, they gather the suspects in some place and do a classic Poirot, at the end of which the murderer tries some flaky escape.

At the start of series 3 Inspector Richard Poole is killed and a new inspector is flown in to solve his murder. Ben Miller is literally killed of but the producers were smart enough not to replace him with a clone. Kris Martin – who plays DI Humphrey Goodman – is the opposite of his predecessor, he tries to blend in, rather unsuccessfully. Yes it was a shock to see Ben Miller go, but after two seasons the funny traits of his character became kind of annoying.

It took some time to warm to the new inspector but then something unexpected happened, he fell in love with Camille – she never knew, kind of hard to believe for a French woman – and most people stopped caring about the whodunit part of the show and were wondering if they were ever going to get together. Hints, clues and suggestive behaviour throughout the episodes that followed. There is a lot of on-screen chemistry and it works well. What also helps is that they are equals, except in rank. It is no longer a detective show about an expat DS lost in paradise, but about two detectives where Sarah Martins’ character carries most of the weight of the show on her shoulders.

All of that conjecture was smashed halfway series four, with Camille leaving for Paris, it’s all very abrupt. To add insult to injury DI Goodman has to sign her release form, which at first he refuses for selfish reasons.

Earlier Gary Carr, officer Fidel, left the show and a new – pretty – female officer was introduced. Halfway during the episode where Camille leaves for Paris, you see the future unfolding: the new female PC is her replacement. The next episode – Camille is on the boat to France – sees pretty female officer promoted to DS and abruptly changes her uniform for shorts and a top, probably left behind by Camille, and it still doesn’t feel like nothing is changed. Most fans are flabbergasted. Why were we viewers put on the wrong foot for so long, only for things to end so abrupt and totally unsatisfying?

Season four is one big miss (mess)

Camille’s replacement is a 1:1 copy – sans la chemie – and rather than create a new and inspiring character the writers update the outgoing female lead. That wouldn’t have worked when DI Poole was killed and it certainly doesn’t work this time. People care about the relationship between Camille and DI Goodman. When he falls of the balcony, she immediately runs to him and starts yelling at him. If that ain’t no tell tale. Still, all of a sudden all that is gone. The final Camille episode is terribly weak and unconvincing, lazy writers, lazy producers thinking the people will watch whatever they serve them. Unfortunate they’re right. But it is certainly below the BBC’s standards. With three out of four of the original characters gone the show feels like Midsummer Murders, not a good thing. A new police officer joins the crew and becomes a lodger at the B&B Camille’s mother runs. So what’s next for Death in Paradise, trouble perhaps? Right now, it doesn’t really matter.

Season four was the weakest by far. DI Goodman lost a lot of his clumsiness, there is little chemistry between the cast characters and nobody really ever cares for the whodunit part. By itself, that’s too bad because they’re interesting and creative riddles.

Everybody cheered for DI Goodman when he sent his wife packing, after she came to the island to make up for not following him there. People were worried they would get back together but luckily they didn’t. He realizes he loves Camille and now the producers commit an even bigger crime by letting Camille go.

The show is in tatters and it will be difficult to fix. The quality of writing is terrible. You see a lock on the floor and DI Goodman comments how it was forced. Really? Nobody likes a boring, uninspiring smart-ass. The relationship between the two officers in uniform is just as silly and the best you can do is record the show and fast-forward most of it.

What for season five?

When DI Poole got murdered, the producers should have promoted Camille to the position of DI and send over some twat who knows it all – magic by the books – from London as her clumsy side kick, that would have been a nice change, without altering the basic premises of the show.

The show needs an injection of some kind, meaning characters have to leave. Everybody’s preferred solutions is bringing Sara Martins back. What if there is some murder, perhaps of a fellow officer that DI Goodman cannot solve on his own and Camille returns to help him catch the killer and decides to stay. Or perhaps DI Goodman himself leaves the show – not good for the romantic interest, but overall, why not? Saint Marie is a dangerous island, people get murdered like clockwork, once a week on Mondays, Winter only. So how about sending DI Goodman home? Easy enough, his predecessor’s killer escapes and takes revenge on the officer who puts him behind bars, all friendly with palm trees and so on, Death In Paradise style of course. Camille returns, gets promoted to DI, solves his murder, stays on the island and solves murders with her team. Her bright female replacement becomes her right hand and a somewhat annoying brat is imported from London. It would be an interesting upgrade to the programme. The show has potential for so much more but unfortunately the BBC will probably stick to the easy viewing concept.

Featured image: the city of Saint Anne, Guadeloupe, the country where Death in Paradise is filmed. Photo by Hakan Tas on Unsplash and André Devecseri on Wikipedia. Images are edited and combined.

6 thoughts on “Death in Paradise. How Saint Marie Has Lost Its Sparkle

  1. It’s a TV show and I enjoy it, as to the jab at midsummer murders,that’s gone on for 17 seasons are u daf..Yep my only problem is, the women police officer always out of uniform. ..

  2. I agree with this review of the show and love your suggestions for the show! I just wish the writers and BBC are listening.

  3. Completely agree, even about Midsomer Murders. Once awesome and unique shows that alienated viewers by coddling to their mid aged Becky demographic, just like Supernatural. I stopped watching after they replaced beautiful, interesting, dark skinned Cammile with a typical, lighter than a paper bag, racially ambiguous and safe actress. I like Kris Humphries character but he wasn’t enough to keep me watching past season 4.

  4. Sara Martins is so fun to watch. Beautiful to no end and with a real sparkle in her eyes. She is amazing. I can not believe these writers would kill the show the way they have. Contract disputes, money issues, casting couch problems… Whatever, Sara is the real deal for this island show. The above recommendation is brilliant. Hope they in-screw this show.. Bring Sara back.. A love interest for her would be good too… Fix it people..

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