The third episode of the BBC detective series "Inspector George Gently" airs this Sunday, March 25 at 9 p.m. on KCET. And if you're keen to get to the bottom of this week's whodunit early -- or if you need to play catch-up once the end credits start rolling -- then this recap is for you.
First up, what's all this "key side" business I keep hearing?
Not "key side" but "quayside." While some of us Yanks might pronounce that word "quay" like "kay" or "kway," the Brits say "kee" -- and they say it a lot this episode. They're referring to the river and the immediate surrounding area.
Good to know. So who dies this week?
An eyeball. Well, the person who formerly owned the eyeball also dies, but it's the eye that shows up first, snagged by a fisherman just offshore. It's quite the scene. Once the rest of the body is dragged from the ocean, it's determined to be that formerly owned by Gunther Schmeikel, a German pharmaceutical tycoon visiting town. His back was broken, and Gently concludes that he was alive, but paralyzed, when his assailant tossed him into the water.
And is the deceased somehow a minority in Northumberland society?
Yes. Following the pattern begun in the first episode, where the deceased was a gay man, and continued in the second, where the deceased was an Irishman, this week's victim is a German and therefore not necessarily received kindly by the residents of Northumberland, many of whom fought the Germans just two decades earlier in World War II. (Isn't it curious how the show would take place in rural England but repeatedly focus on outsiders to English culture?)
Why would a German visit rural England, then?
Herr Schmeikel is an especially unusual case, because he was a prisoner of war in Northumblerand when his bomber plane was shot down nearby. He was then billeted at the home of a local pig farmer, where he worked hard and worked happily. Gently and Bacchus visit this pig farmer, Mr. Hardyment (Tim Healy) and his wife, Mabs (Gillian Hanna). As far as folksy old couples go, they're perfect -- stout and hardy like some wonderful British root vegetables. See?
I honestly think these actors should play every rural British couple ever. You can see what manner of hominess and hospitality would tempt Schmeikel to relive his days on the pig farm. As for the rest of the town, they mostly take the Hardyments' word that Schmeikel is good people.
Well, as we see in a flashback to the night he was murdered, Schmeikel bought round after round of drinks for bar-goers. Most saluted him. He politely brushed off the ones who made Hitler references. Some resent his wealth, and included among those is Bacchus, who's in debt and selling his prized car, the iris blue MG, for the suspiciously low price of £100. Gently disapproves. "A copper in debt is open to temptation," he decrees.
And who are our suspects?
Here's your rundown.
First it's Chick Shavers (Paul Broughton), the burly bartender who urinated in Schmeikel's drink three times, "once for every Reich." A former professional wrestler, Shavers had the ability to break Schmeikel's back. He even set out to harass Schmeikel after the latter left the bar to return to his boat to sleep, but he was spotted by a car. He hightailed it away.
Could it have been... Jimmy Hardyment (Kevin Wathen), the pig farmer's son? At the bar before the murder, Hardyment pocketed Schmeikel's wallet, but only to see if Schmeikel had a photo of his mother, Molly. She had been taken in by the Hardyments while pregnant with Jimmy, and then she killed herself when Jimmy was young. For years, no one knew for sure whether Gunther could have been Jimmy's father. Alas, Bacchus searches through Molly's old love letters and determines that the father was actually a British soldier who died at war. Jimmy, meanwhile, only stole the wallet to return it to the nightstand in the room where Molly committed suicide -- a grim family reunion of sorts.
Could it have been... Wilhelm Schmeikel (Christian Oliver), Gunther's son? He hates pig farming, he hates visiting Britain with his father, and he was so angry about his father disinheriting him that he had begun embezzling. When Gently's investigation zeroes in on him, Wilhelm splits in hopes of reaching Germany to avoid England's death penalty. Bacchus intercepts Wilhelm, however, and Gently's advice about policemen in debt turns out to be true when Wilhelm offers Bacchus a tidy sum to ensure that he gets extradited to his homeland. Bacchus agrees, ostensibly to use the bribe to show Wilhelm's guilt. (We're never completely clear on his motives with the bribe. He may not have been himself, honestly.) Gently, of course, is furious at Bacchus's latest harebrained scheme. Wilhelm swears his innocence all the while.
Wait, the murderer was none of these people?
Correct. In investigating Schmeikel's final moments, Gently interviews Robert Stratton (Kevin Doyle of "Downton Abbey"), a birdwatcher who initially claimed that he didn't know who Gunther Schmeikel was. Later, Gently learns that the Hardyments introduced Schmeikel to Stratten. As the investigation progresses, Bacchus learns that Stratten was a celebrated war hero who killed German soldiers with his bare hands. This would seem to conflict with man Gently interviews: a meek sort who spends his day caring for his invalid second wife and his autistic daughter. Soon enough, Bacchus ends up at Stratten's house, where he finds the wife dead -- smothered with a pillow. Stratten has taken his daughter up on the hillside, where he's giving her the old "Of Mice and Men" treatment, distracting her with happy thoughts while he's preparing to mercy kill her in order to spare her a life in an institution.
Gently, however, talks him out of it.
You're serious? He was going to snap the neck of his developmentally disabled daughter? This show is a lot darker than you'd expect from something with the word "gently" in the title.
What motivation would Stratten have to kill the German guy?
Schmeikel was a bomber, and the cash-strapped Stratten just couldn't handle seeing a wartime adversary come so far in life. So after a brief altercation following the Hardyment's introduction of Stratten to Schmeikel, Stratten lied in wait and killed Schmeikel on the dock. He specifically paralyzed the guy so he would drown. It was an act of revenge for the fact that his wife and child died during a German bombing -- trapped beneath masonry in a basement where a water main burst. They too drowned.
That is... bleak.
It's heavy stuff, for sure, but take solace in the fact that those amazingly benevolent Hardyments elect to take in Stratten's daughter. She'll have a good life after all.
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Martin Shaw stars as commander George Gently, an uncompromising cop whose reputation for honesty and relentlessness makes him almost as feared among his colleagues as he is among criminals.