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Ghost Canyon

'Inspector Lewis Complete Set: Pilot Series 1 & 2'
(Kevin Whately, Laurence Fox, et al / 8-Disc DVD / NR / 2010 / PBS)

Overview: Inspector Robert Lewis (Kevin Whately) is back on familiar ground-Oxford, England-though not all is as it was. Five years after the death of his long-time partner, the legendary Inspector Morse (John Thaw), Lewis is trying to prove himself to his dubious new boss while rebuilding his life following the hit-and-run death of his wife. To do that, he must confront his past, his future, and his new younger partner, the brilliant and distant Detective Sergeant James Hathaway (Laurence Fox).

DVD Verdict: I loved, loved all the Inspector Morse episodes and was soooooo happy to see that Inspector Lewis has been 'born' for our TV viewing pleasures. Hence, what we have here is an 'Inspector Lewis' collection, inclusive of the pilot and complete first and second seasons (11 episodes, in total).

And, straight from the off, it's not that he strives to live up to the legacy of his late long-time partner, the legendary Inspector Morse (John Thaw), but moreover can't seem to escape him here in Oxford. And, for the record, and much like Midsomer, how such complicated murders keep happening, and how anybody still lives in these two areas safely is beyond me!

Anyway, in the pilot (2005), Lewis is fresh of the plane from a few years spent in British Columbia heading up their task force (to get away from the death of Morse and then his wife in a hit and run accident), and into the waiting arms of DS James Hathaway (Laurence Fox). And, as paid comment to above, his first case (still clothed for the sunshine) is an old, unfinished Morse case!

Laurence Fox as DS James Hathaway is simply brilliant as Lewis' "bag man," and carries his performance high on shoulders of granite; his vocal tone both alluring and uber intelligent.

Now, as much as this collection is the first and second seasons, well, it's a little more complicated than that re: the way they were released in the UK! Indeed, following the pilot in 2005, a first series of three further episodes was broadcast in February/March 2007. A second series of four episodes aired in early 2008. A third series of four episodes was aired on ITV1 and ITV-HD from March/April 2009. A fourth series aired throughout the UK from May 2, 2010, and a fifth series has been confirmed by ITV which will air in 2011. Here in the US, the show has also been broadcast on PBS in the United States but as, as we know, 'Inspector Lewis' and shown as part of Masterpiece Mystery.

OK, are we all caught up ... good, so let's tell you about the episodes, shall we. 'Whom The Gods Would Destroy' is first up and Lewis and Hathaway are soon investigating a murder involving a group called the Sons of the Twice Born - named after an epithet of Dionysus relating to his birth, whose activities are shrouded in Greek codes, quotes from Nietzsche and a Dionysian fondness for drugs. Come the final plot twist, well, it's all a little neat but works well.

In 'Old School Ties,' when an ambitious Oxford student is found dead in her hotel room after inviting a reformed computer hacker to speak at the Union, Lewis and Hathaway are called in to investigate. Lewis dislikes the speaker from the off, even though they are both Geordies, but he knows best; as always! We also learn more about his partner, Hathaway: who is shown to be a speed reader and he plays guitar in a church band. "I'd like to nick that Professor," says Lewis. "What for?" inquires Hathaway? "For being a pompous idiot!" Also, stay till the very end as it plays out with a very 'cute' scene between the two officers!

In 'Expiation,' Lewis and Hathaway investigate the alleged suicide of a housewife living in Summertown. And wow, we get it straight off the bat and not some 10 mins in this time! It's the tail of two married households playing partner swapsies! Lewis gets his first kiss since his wife's death, but he still can't get her horrid death out of his head. The actual whodunit is obvious, but the way they get to it is clean and breezy.

In 'And The Moonbeams Kiss The Sea,' Lewis and Hathaway investigate the death of a maintenance engineer found shot in the head in the basement of the Bodleian Library. This is a slow paced episode, beware, but it is not without its quips: "You know what we've got here, don't you," Hathaway asks Lewis "A body in the library!" A search of the dead man's house reveals some valuable books having been 'borrowed,' with further probing exposing a scam involving two Oxford academics - of course. But at least this comes with a truly unexpected twist ending!

In 'Music To Die For,' Lewis and Hathaway are called in to investigate a boxing scam, a close link to Lewis' old boss, Inspector Morse, and a love triangle linked to the German Stasi. Here, another quick death gets us off and running and soon we are knee deep in the world of Morse again! This is a complex episode that even I had trouble keeping up with detail wise! "Sometimes I worry about your taste in music," Lewis quips at Hathaway. "Sometimes I worry about your taste in women," he retorts!

In 'Life Born Of Fire,' when the investigation circles around a devout young Christian; who is seen desecrating a church before committing suicide on its altar, when he arrives, Hathaway recognizes him as Will McEwan, an old school friend. With the running theme here of whether or not Hathaway is gay, it gets a little bogged down in that, but still manages to spin out a great episode. "This is Oxford. Something always means Latin in Oxford!" muses Lewis. The ending is great and includes a great reveal before the true ending comes creeping up upon us!

In 'The Great And The Good,' following the rape of a teenage girl, Lewis and Hathaway stumble across the curious private dinner party of high school computer technician Oswald Cooper - who ends up being brutally murdered and castrated after supposedly entertaining several highly respected society figures. Featuring, albeit it for not very long, the brilliant actor Jason Watkins ('Being Human') as Oswald Cooper, the episode goes very deep. "Chippy copper antics have no place in Oxford," states Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent (Rebecca Front) to Lewis, as he tries a few off-the-map in-roads to find clues. The ending is, well, VERY emotional, trust me!

In 'Allegory of Love,' a Czech barmaid is found slashed to death by an antique Persian mirror, paralleling an incident in a newly published fantasy novel Boxlands. And when the author's fiancée finds her life under threat from a shadowy stalker, Lewis suspects that the first murder was a case of mistaken identity. The original mirror killing is gruesome to watch: "I assume she was killed by the mirror?" Hathaway asks Dr. Laura Hobson (Clare Holman), to which she retorts, "On reflection, I'd say so!" A slow mover of an episode, a lot of pieces have to come together before the twist ending.

In 'The Quality Of Mercy, ' a preview performance of a student production of The Merchant of Venice is cut short when the actor playing Shylock is stabbed to death. Lewis and Hathaway are working their way through a lengthy list of suspects when another person connected to the play is killed. "Do you have a lot of flings?" Lewis asks a female suspect. "This is Oxford," she shrugs. "About average, I'd say!" But, this episode is more to do with the fact that a separate investigation involving a con man reveals the driver of the car that led to the death of Lewis' wife in the hit and run! "I've had to put up with a lot of Oxford bollocks on this case," he spits at the end, but deep inside knows that he is finally free of one previously-unknown burden.

In the final episode, 'The Point Of Vanishing, Lewis and Hathaway look into the murder of a man found drowned in his VERY HOT bath tub! The man is first identified as a man who once attempted to murder Tom Rattenbury, a celebrated atheist, but instead crippled Rattenbury's daughter, Jessica. But, as is the case in most all these episodes, not everything is what it initially seems. Also, a 31 year-old female office is given the title of Inspector above Hathaway, which rankles him, but (as it turns out) he is more invested in her as a person than the thought of her over-stepping him in the job! A Renaissance painting, The Hunt in the Forest (also known as simply The Hunt) by the Italian artist Paolo Uccello, is a key clue in the mystery. [RT]

These are all Full-Screen Presentations (1.66:1), but, and sadly, come with no Special Features.