Saturday, February 24, 2007

Lewis: Whom the Gods Would Destroy

Someone kindly loaned me a copy of the first episode of the new Lewis series "Whom The Gods Would Destroy", written by Morse regular Daniel Boyle. Starring Kevin Whately as the eponymous Lewis, and Laurence Fox as his sergeant, Hathaway, this episode focuses on a middle-aged Oxford graduate, an artist, who was found murdered near his houseboat. Lewis and Hathaway find themselves investigating a murder case that risks implicating some of Oxford's most esteemed social and academic figures, such as the potential candidate for the Vice Chancellor's job at the University of Oxford. Both the victim and the potential Vice Chancellor belonged to a small group of men known as "The Sons of the Twice Born", who are named after an epithet of Dionysus - relating to his birth. The group's activities are shrouded in Greek codes, quotes from Nietzsche and a Dionysian fondness for drugs. The title is part of a quotation from Euripides: "Those whom the gods would destroy, they first send mad."

This was a good episode - the writers have clearly developed Lewis from the man who was always a steadying influence on Morse into a man with a darker side and I was impressed with then writers and with Whately himself. Lewis is no longer Morse's moral centre, following his wife's death as a result of a hit and run accident three years earlier. Instead he gets angry - and I mean scarily angry - I actually thought he was going to punch Hathaway at one point when he was raging about a character who had been involved in a car accident when he was high on drugs; the character got himself a good lawyer and got off, and whilst he was left in a wheelchair, the other driver was killed outright. The character shows great contempt for Lewis and Hathaway when they visit to talk to him about the murder and it's after this that Lewis gets really angry. But his anger is understandable and I sympathised with him, which is very important. I think the series wouldn't work if they had made Lewis into an unsympathetic character. You might not condone his anger, but you understand it.

I must say I'm puzzled by accounts of negative reviews of this episode in the media - apparently one reviewer commented that "Lewis" aspired to mundanity, which made me wonder if they'd watched a different episode to this one !

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