Well, we’re half-way through series 2 of Father Brown (they don’t hang around in Kembleford). Some things are the same as always. There is the obligatory daily mention of Mrs McCarthy’s prize-winning strawberry scones. Fans of the anachronism will like lines such as the posh lady spitting ‘Man up, St. John’ at her son. And Mark Williams’ Father Brown is still meddling in police business, probably to the detriment of matins.
But some things are different. No sooner are we used to his new musketeerish beard than Inspector Valentine is off to a new job in the Met. His dapper replacement Inspector Sullivan is even more hostile to priestly interference than Valentine, but to me looks more like a 50s police detective.
More striking is the series’ left-turn into darker territory. We kick off in spooky mode with The Ghost in the Machine. Charlotte McKinley’s sister disappeared some years ago. Opinion is divided – was she killed or did she elope? Charlotte believes the former, and moreover thinks she has come back to haunt her. Unwillingly – ‘there’s no such thing as ghosts’ – Brown conducts a very businesslike exorcism, but to no avail. That dark and stormy night Charlotte vanishes without trace from right underneath the noses of her family.
Episode 2, Maddest of All, stays creepy with a visit to a 1950s lunatic asylum (although it is, comfortingly, a ‘non-invasive’ one). Patient Felix Underwood wanders into Kembleford, disorientated, dressed in his pyjamas and dying. Underwood has walked out of Danvers Retreat, a nearby asylum run by the kindly Dr Henshaw and the rather more formidable Nurse Farrow. Underwood’s story isn’t quite over – there’s a big surprise in store. Brown realises he must get himself committed in order to solve the mystery. Cue a nod (possibly unconscious, given the series’ fidelity to the original stories) to The Innocence of Father Brown with a bout of soup throwing.
The Pride of the Prydes rewinds a few centuries to medieval times, with a proper wicked witch cursing her oppressors. Fast forward back to the 50s and we find the impoverished Pryde family about to lose their castle to death duties. Dotty old retainer Audrey Diggle gets shot in the back by a longbow – but was head of the family St. John Pryde the real target?
The Shadow of the Scaffold opens with a hanging. Violet Fernsley has been convicted of killing her husband Ivan, but Brown doesn’t trust the police and resolves to look into their investigation. This takes him into pretty grim territory – Ivan’s family of drooling Cold Comfort Farm rustics. All of a sudden we’ve got fingers in sausages and hints of cannibalism. Maybe that’s what happened to last series’ Polish cleaner Susie Jasinski, who has vanished without trace. Anyway, what better way to end an episode, than with a Father Brown stuffed fox, complete with glasses and a little black hat?
Episode 5, The Mysteries of the Rosary, begins with a chloroforming (Mrs Offences: ‘I think that’s probably the best way to be murdered’). Brown is up against an old adversary in a race to find a valuable relic. The biggest mystery of all, of course, is why does Father Brown go to sleep with his glasses on?
Overall, I think the show is getting into more interesting territory and has benefitted from an injection of black humour.
If you’ve been watching, you can tell me what you think using the poll I just decided to put at the end of this post…
The next five episodes are:
6. The Daughters of Jerusalem
Father Brown investigates when a woman of Kembleford’s WI dies in mysterious circumstances
7. The Three Tools of Death
Father Brown helps a woman whose father is killed just weeks after her mother’s death.
8. The Prize of Colonel Gerard
Father Brown is unconvinced when an ex-prisoner of war is suspected of killing his uncle.
9. The Grim Reaper
Father Brown must figure out who is sending a series of poison pen letters.
10. The Laws of Motion
Inspector Sullivan resolves to put an end to Father Brown’s meddling for good.
- Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.