So, Inspector Lewis has left the country, having solved his 33rd and final mystery. It’s a wonder he solved any, really.
Back in the heyday of Inspector Morse, he was forever stumbling over some vital clue, his boss greeting these accidental displays of detection with a cry of “you’ve done it again, Lewis!” Lewis, of course, being completely in the dark about what it was he’d actually achieved.
So to give this perennial sidekick his own show did – at first – seem a bit tenuous. It was akin to the doltish Captain Hastings or the baffled Dr Watson being handed their own spin-offs. As if Lewis could crack anything on his own!
In fact, without James Hathaway by his side, the entire nine-series run of Lewis would have been one big, protracted case. A bit like The Killing but a decade long and with a greater reliance on M&S tailoring. Every academic in Oxford arrested, questioned and then released without charge as Kevin Whately sat nervously chewing his pencil to a stub and the police force ran out of those cassette tapes they use in interrogations.
But thankfully, Lewis did have Hathaway, the man whose nebulous background in theology meant that he somehow knew his way around everything from Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to, as we found out tonight, Borromean rings.
Something tells me that we haven’t seen the last of him. All those scenes in this final series that saw him tending to the needs of a newly introduced ailing dad and put-upon sister – surely it’s only a matter of time before Laurence Fox is rewarded with his own series? Morse fans need their methadone and the odd three-part run of the albeit excellent Endeavour just won’t cut it.
As for this last outing for old Lewis, it was perfectly serviceable if not exactly inspired. Robbie bowed out in much the same eyesore of a shirt as he was wearing when he first met Hathaway. He was headed for New Zealand, after belatedly realising that – contrary to the beliefs of Thomas Caryle – work alone isn’t noble. With him was the lovely Laura, the pathologist who’d finally stopped him from mourning sainted late wife Val.
Before an inevitably awkward parting from Hathaway (“we don’t do holding hands”, James had warned earlier), they’d set their minds to catching the killer of a smarmy academic (do they breed them any other way in Morse’s Oxford?).
Well, I say, ‘set their minds’, but in the world of Lewis, this really means gentle deductions over coffee or beer and the odd brainstorm under the Bridge of Sighs. But hey, if you want grit and angst, then Happy Valley will be back soon enough.
In truth, Lewis has been past its best ever since Robbie was pressganged out of retirement last year. There’s been an air of going-through-the-motions about these valedictory episodes, the intellectual heft of early Inspector Morse reduced to a veneer of often inconsequential clever-cleverness. It’s now basically become the murder mystery version of Eggheads.
So perhaps it’s best that Lewis quits before it runs out of puff completely, even though its passing means that – when it comes to TV detectives – we’re now left with the prospect of slab-faced tortured souls like River or swaggering urban superheroes like Luther.
Well, at least Midsomer Murders is still flying the flag for leisurely paced, vaguely bucolic whodunnits. Perhaps Hathaway could move over there and start working for Barnaby? In fact, that’s not such a bad idea. Don’t dilute the Morse formula any further, ITV – if all else fails, there’s always the option of doing a crime-solving crossover…