12 Days of Lesley Manville – 5: Midsomer Murders – Fit for Murder

Who else but Lesley Manville would be an appropriate central figure for Tom Barnaby’s final case in Midsomer Murders?!

“Something terrible has happened – again”

Not being a regular watcher of Midsomer Murders, I somewhat enjoyed dipping into its air of Sunday evening comfort for Fit for Murder, the final episode of Series 13. It also meant that I failed to fully appreciate the significance of this story as [spoiler alert], it proved to be John Nettles’ final appearance in his leading role as DCI Tom Barnaby, something alluded to by constant passing mentions of twinges in his arms…eek!

Suitably for the occasion, the episode boasts star quality with both Lesley Manville and Geraldine James at its centre, as estranged best friends Phoebe and Miranda entangled in a series of murders at the health spa that the former runs with husband Luke. Barnaby is initially there as a customer of the spa, a mandatory visit enforced by wife Joyce in advance of a looming police medical and those pesky twinges, natch but as he’s on hand, he starts sleuthing away.

Whilst aware of its general cosy undemandingness (is that a word? let’s make it a word), there were elements that I really wasn’t a fan of. Barnaby’s crochety attitude to all things spa could be forgiven in character I suppose, but I wasn’t buying his belittling of Jason Hughes’ DS Jones, who has to play the idiot even though he’s SIO due to Barnaby’s proximity to the murders. Maybe this is how their relationship has played out historically but it felt odd to me.

That aside, there’s plenty of fun to be had with lairy husbands going rogue in the ex-friend feud, Jason Durr and Shaun Dingwall eating the scenery nicely, and Manville and James getting to stretch their acting muscle a bit in evoking the depth of their previous friendship and the impossibility of the current situation. The case unfolds neatly (especially given the focus of this set of reviews…!) and even if I didn’t buy it, it’s nice that there’s an attempt to give Barnaby some psychological depth in his final case. It’s a low-key finale but then would you rightfully expect anything else from Midsomer Murders?

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