McDonald & Dodds season 1, episode 1 recap – “The Fall of the House of Crockett”

March 2, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
TV, TV Recaps
2

Summary

Not half as clever or funny as it thinks it is or needs to be, McDonald & Dodds has likable enough leads to drag an unfussy audience through a formulaic West Country whodunit.

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2

Summary

Not half as clever or funny as it thinks it is or needs to be, McDonald & Dodds has likable enough leads to drag an unfussy audience through a formulaic West Country whodunit.

This recap of McDonald & Dodds Season 1, Episode 1, “The Fall of the House of Crockett”, contains spoilers.


It doesn’t take much sleuthing to spot all the ways in which ITV’s new two-part unlikely buddy-cop series McDonald & Dodds takes inspiration from other, better primetime British crime fixtures. Set in Bath, with all the lovely shots of historical architecture and broad West Country accents that entails, “The Fall of the House of Crockett” is basically a formulaic whodunit in the picturesque style of Midsomer Murders, and this first feature-length episode does little to distinguish itself beyond that.

DCI Laura McDonald (Tala Gouveia) is a high-flying Big City transplant, while DS Dodds (Jason Watkins) is a meek country bumpkin content to have spent most of his career behind a desk; together they’d make an unlikely pairing were this not a British crime drama, in which the only kind of pairings you ever get are the strong-willed careerist with the mild-mannered boffin and other combinations to that effect. Naturally, Dodds is secretly a dab hand at puzzle-solving, library research and various other requirements of crime-fighting, which makes him a useful ally to McDonald when a mystery man is found gunned down in the country house of wealthy local entrepreneur Maxton Crockett (Robert Lindsay).

Crockett’s vast fortune has been promised King Lear style to one of his three daughters, but only one, and the murder is inevitably tied up in matters of this legacy and Crockett’s broad egomania – much of the fun in McDonald & Dodds Episode 1 is in how he keeps claiming to be the smartest person in a given room when we know that the assuming bumbler’s knowledge of Latin and birds is going to thwart him. Thus there’s never really a sense of wondering who did it; we know Crockett is guilty and that he somehow finagled the entire affair, even if he didn’t pull the trigger himself, and we know that Dodds, given enough time in the library, will figure it all out.

McDonald & Dodds season 1, episode 1 recap - "The Fall of the House of Crockett"

This lack of tension wouldn’t be a death knell if the show trusted us to play along, but the overlong “The Fall of the House of Crockett” is littered with red herring suspects in three spoiled daughters, two sons-in-law, and a daughter-in-law, all of whom have reason to benefit from Crockett’s secretive inheritance and cause to dislike the man in general. Going through the motions like this only serves to highlight the archetypal nature of the characters and line-of-succession mystery plot, and when it amounts to the rather obvious conclusion that Crockett had manipulated his daughter’s girlfriend into killing his illegitimate son in a case of mistaken identity, it’s at once both too ridiculous to feel real and too clear-cut to be satisfying.

Obvious padding elsewhere doesn’t help matters; there are altogether too many scenes of by-the-book policing getting in McDonald’s way, Dodds painstakingly figuring things out while the script demands we be surprised each time, and a tokenistic implication that McDonald’s status as a woman of color is going to stymie her career in a way that the show never quite has the mettle to go anywhere with. Regular references to classic literature and cultural history seem to be present only to imply that McDonald & Dodds is much cleverer than it ends up being; the overall effect is of a time-locked rustic England that might just as easily be a complete fiction as Bath or anywhere else you’d recognize.

By the numbers as McDonald & Dodds Episode 1 ends up being, there are some scant pleasures in the central odd couple; relative newcomer Gouveia gives an appropriately steely effort with a few scenes of comedic melting down for the sake of range, and Watkins, while obviously unchallenged, is such a dependable everyman that you can’t help but relish his dorky presence whenever he’s on-screen – which luckily is most of the time. It won’t be anyone’s favorite drama of the year, and perhaps not even this month or week, but it’ll probably pick up some traction as a laidback, unchallenging Sunday night attraction.


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