Spoilers Warning! Although, what would you be doing reading a review before you've seen an episode that you've never seen anyway?
Weddings abroad. More of a popular choice these days. Why get married in some stuffy old ceremony in a freezing cold church on a rainy British day? Tradition becomes more of an echo of the past as couples today look elsewhere to celebrate their nuptials. Where better than a picturesque sandy beach in an exotic country?
Darren Moore and Lisa Watson have the right idea. Not only do they get to wed in style, they also enjoy a holiday on the island of Saint Marie, meaning sunbed relaxing and plush hotels for themselves and their family. Pronounced husband and wife in a personal, dignified ceremony, it's back to the hotel for cocktails and canapés. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, quite a lot as an increasingly huffy Richard Poole is finding out. All the poor chap wants is a half decent cup of tea, and he can't even enjoy one without seeing a flying bride plummeting to her doom from an umpteen-storey high hotel. With an equally grumpy Camille in tow, there's no time to finish that cuppa as the two become embroiled in the mystery of poor, newly-wed Lisa Moore who's been found imitating one of the sausages on sticks in the hotel bar.
Getting speared with a whopping great harpoon isn't the best of ways to start married life. It's not the easiest or practical suicide method, so Richard and Camille are looking at murder. As with many of these cases, there's a long list of motives hiding behind those falling tears of Lisa's family: Jealousy. Paranoia. Money – in fact, this is one of the strongest candidates, given that Lisa stood to inherit a princely sum that could have allowed her to buy the hotel, or even the hotel chain.
The second episode is more of a traditional one than the first, which was there to establish the status quo. With Richard attempting and failing to acclimatise to life on Saint Marie, previous turncoat Lily has now been replaced by Camille. At the end of the first episode, they were clearly unimpressed at having to work with one another, and at the start of the second, relations are at an all-time low.
Poole's tea deprivation isn't helping the initial preliminary investigations to go well, resulting in him sniping and snarking at Camille. Tired of being barked at, she decides to give him a piece of her mind in a brilliant scene. It's actually worth quoting her rant, since a description doesn't quite do it justice:
“I am a detective sergeant in the Saint Marie Police Force. I graduated top of my year. I have three commendations for bravery. I have been shot twice and I could almost certainly beat you in a fist fight. Whereas you... you are a rude man! You are ignorant, full of your own self-importance, expecting everyone to follow you around and hang on your every word? From now on, you treat me with a little more respect, or I'll be forced to forget I'm a police officer. OK?”
Unsurprisingly, it's a turning point for Richard's and Camille's relationship. Clearly rattled, Poole is never as abrasive or as unpleasant to Camille again. One thing that Camille is not short of is guts. She speaks her own mind, stands up to injustice and gives as good as she gets. I think Richard recognises this, and that his pompous lack of flexibility just won't wash with Camille. Whether or not the more unassuming Florence would have put up with Poole's behaviour is a mystery. I'm sure there's some good fan fiction out there that can provide the answer.
This is an episode that gives Camille quite a lot to do, and it's a very good showcase for the talents of Sara Martins. By turns feisty, authoritative, playful and brave, Camille is far more than just the bog-standard sidekick of some of the other murder mystery dramas out there.
Her mother's a right hoot, too. Catherine runs the local restaurant/bar, and is there to provide frequently needed advice to Camille. She's one of those characters to also squabble with Richard, whether it's over the right cup of tea or the merits of chicken soup. Like all good drama shows, a key strength of Death In Paradise is that it extends its core group of characters. Catherine's bar also provides a cool sanctuary for the team. Somewhere to go and chill out in between or after each case. Elizabeth Bourgine also provides solid support as Catherine – she'll be one of the longest serving members of the show at the time of writing.
In only its second episode, Death In Paradise proved that it was more than capable of attracting strong guest actors. Many TV shows stand or fall by their choice of guest actors. Get the right actor or actress, and he or she can turn a good episode into a great one, or can help to lift the fortunes of a so-so instalment.
The second episode of Death In Paradise features a number of familiar faces to telly. Matt di Angelo from EastEnders and Hustle. Robert Pugh, who's been in everything from Game Of Thrones To Doctor Who.
Two of the best ones in a strong cast are Frances Barber and Paterson Joseph. Barber's Diana is an interesting one: a grieving mother figure one minute, and a sly, money-obsessed control freak the next. Barber skilfully alternates between the two, and she also delivers one of the most piercing screams ever heard to come out of any TV speaker. Just for good measure, her blood-curdling shrieks are repeated about five times as each of the family recalls the moment in which Diana first discovered Lisa's lifeless corpse. Not one to watch with headphones plugged into the telly.
Joseph plays William, the impassive butler of the hotel. It's a masterclass in why underplaying a role is so much more effective than overplaying. William is an enigmatic, still presence, always on the sidelines, taking everything and everyone into account. It's only in the final act that that mask slips away as it's revealed that...
Spoilers again. Shoo. Watch the episode first.
...Lisa's death was a tragic case of mistaken identity. Since William's unrequited love for Margaret the maid wasn't returned (she's too busy mooning over surfer boy Stefan), he shot her with a harpoon gun. Or so he thought – since carrying out an act of murder on a boiling hot day isn't a very good idea – especially when the sun's in your eyes. Poor old Lisa is a classic case of wrong place, wrong time, and it's only that rage-filled second shot at Margaret that seals the theory for Richard.
All of a sudden, William's impassive facade breaks, as Camille taunts and goads him about how his control freakery is maybe over-compensating for something. Joseph's use of subtle facial expressions and that still kind of quiet fury pay dividends here, making William one of the most unnerving killers in the show's history. Like I said, playing it subtle works so much better than moustache twirling pantomime villainy.
The second episode builds on the success of the first to deliver another triumph. It's well-written, ingeniously plotted and excellently acted. It also starts to try and thaw out the frosty personality of Richard. There's clearly a long way to go, as he's still quite stuffy and blustering to Camille after the case is solved, refusing to go for a paddle in the sea with her.
But at his shack, could the tide turn? To the sounds of Madness' Return Of The Los Palmas 7, he decides to give it a go. Only to be stung by a jellyfish or some other wretched sea-dwelling creature, causing the hapless DI to jump around in pain, while screaming like a girl.
Like I said, long way to go.