Midsomer Murders - Series 14, Episode 2 (ITV1). The murder of an obnoxious jobsworth from Causton Social Services leads DCI John Barnaby and DS Ben Jones to a colony of freethinking artists and to the darkest secrets of the Bingham family. And Barnaby's wife, Sarah, rejoins John in Midsomer.
It's business back as usual in Midsomer County after the "race row" initiated by the controversial and uninspired words of Midsomer Murders producer Brian True-May (1), and last week's departure from the series format for the series premiere with Neil Dudgeon as the new DCI Barnaby. Michael Aitkens, who wrote The Sword of Guillaume (introducing John Barnaby in Series 13) and Death in the Slow Lane, concludes the cautious and astute transition process from a Barnaby to the other with Dark Secrets. And John's wife Sarah (played by Fiona Dolman) rejoins her husband, and the cute dog Sykes, as the new head of Causton comprehensive school.
With a more urban setting and no panto, Death in the Slow Lane made Midsomer Murders look like Lewis minus the Oxfordian intellectual refinements, but this week's episode is a return to something more "traditional" for DCI John Barnaby and DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). The guest cast is stunning, with Edward Fox (in a brilliant performance) and Phyllida Law as the eccentric and reclusive old Bingham couple, Beth Goddard, Nick Brimble, Abigail McKern, Simon Dutton, and an informal Drop the Dead Donkey reunion with Neil Pearson, Jeff Rawle and Haydn Gwynne.
Given the nature of the Bingham family's terrible secrets and the way some deal with them, to not be part of the Midsomer County population is actually a favour done to those who live elsewhere. Midsomer is not "the last bastion of Englishness" or England should sue the producer for the comparison. It's a television fantasy, the most murderous place in the world, the postcard idea of an English village where the hobby of the locals is to experiment on each other 1001 ways to die. One of the two murders of the episode even recalls an episode of The Persuaders called A Death in the Family.
In the Barnabyverse, people who didn't exist previously can die in a fictional beautiful countryside. DCI Barnaby catches the murderer and Jones saves the day from evil characters plotting mayhem sitting on huge piles of newspapers. This is not your humble servant's cup of tea but viewers in more than 230 countries find that fun and that's why Midsomer Murders is among ITV's most popular dramas - like Poirot. Unless the suits get suicidal and decide to alter the globally successful formula, you have more chance to find social realism in Scooby Doo.
This episode is directed by Simon Langton. Midsomer Murders is produced by Bentley Productions (an All3Media company).