It’s a strange fish this drama. It’s certainly not your usual Agatha Christie murder mystery – all pretty scenery, costumes and drawing room reveals.
Within a few minutes of the second episode our hero (David Walliams’ Tommy Beresford) was witness to a gangland execution. And not just any old gangland execution – a really horrible one.
Yes, a cockernee criminal who was seeking to blackmail Tommy was hoisted by his own petard after Walliams’ character (not doing a great bit of undercover work, it has to be said) suddenly found the gumption to turn the tables on him. Said crim was then dispatched by an enforcer with a quick bit of strangulation followed by a clinical neck-break and Tommy was safe. Whatever would Geraldine McEwan’s Miss Marple have to say about that?
Of course the Queen of Crime always deals in death but usually it’s more refined and sanitised. Bad things happen, but we don’t tend to have our noses rubbed in them.
Then in the next scene, Partners in Crime got all coy and 1950s on us. Jessica Raine’s Tuppence was at home with her husband in their quaint rural cottage, barely able to mention the fact that her husband was operating undercover in a brothel. Or as he put it (in a bid to save her delicate sensibilities): “One of those Soho places”. We can see a vicious murder, but we daren’t mention prostitutes, dearie me no.
For the most part, it was as cartoony and silly as the first episode. Walliams posed as criminal Clement Drennan as he sought to uncover a dastardly Soviet plot to kill the US Secretary of State. Raine’s Tuppence was undercover in a maid outfit trying to find out quite what Alice Krige’s haughty opera singer was up to.
The plot is more preposterous when made flesh. Quite why the British spooks didn’t just raid the house where Tommy reported that young Jane Finn was holed up is anyone’s guess. Instead he went back without telling anyone in an attempt to try and flush her out. On his own. As you do.
All the while, Fleet’s character has developed his own catchphrase – “leave it to the professionals” – while Walliams’ Tommy has nailed down “this is a job for a man”. Well, we’ll see what Tuppence has to say about that.
And yet… If you don’t ask too many questions, it was all rather delightful. It looks stunning and if you can go along with the absurdity, you can wallow in it. The changes of register clash like a bag of spanners tumbling down stairs, but so what? It’s Jessica Raine! In a blonde wig! And David Walliams in a Trilby! What are you complaining about?
When you have a drama that doesn’t mind that it is so silly just… let it be silly. And move on. It’s not The Wire.
Partners in Crime continues on BBC1 on Sundays at 9pm