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Masterpiece Mystery!

Inspector Lewis, the Final Season

A preview, and a eulogy

August 3, 2016
It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since the pilot episode of Inspector Lewis aired on Masterpiece Mystery in 2006. A spin-off of the popular Inspector Morse series (1987–2000), Lewis features Robert “Robbie” Lewis (Kevin Whately), Inspector Morse’s (John Thaw) former detective sergeant. Lewis has been promoted to detective inspector of the Oxford Police, and in seasons one through six, he works with his own detective sergeant, James Hathaway (Laurence Fox). In season seven, Lewis, who had temporarily retired, returns to work with Hathaway, now promoted to the rank of detective inspector. But in season eigh, after many years and close to 100 murders, it’s time to say goodbye to Inspector Lewis. This will be its final season. 
The character of Robbie Lewis is the longest running detective character on British TV, spanning two series and 30 years. The final season, which includes three 90-minute episodes, begins Sunday, Aug. 7, and concludes on Sunday, Aug. 21. For a Lewis super-fan like me, this is a bittersweet moment. While I am grateful to have had the pleasure of his company for so many years, I am already grieving the loss of the series. There will be a big hole in my mystery series line-up without Lewis and Hathaway and I am quite numb with shock that this indeed the end.
However, we do have three episodes to enjoy before the final case is solved. Here is a brief description of what we can look forward to from the good folks at PBS.      
“One for Sorrow”: (Aug. 7, 2016) –  Identifying the remains of a body discovered in a well appears to be an insurmountable task for Inspector Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately) and D.I. James Hathaway (Laurence Fox). Lewis, recently out of retirement, has to prove himself to a new boss and Hathaway finally gets to know his estranged father. Meanwhile, the death of a young artist begins to look like murder. Is there a connection between the dead body in the well and the murdered artist?
“Magnum Opus”: (Aug. 14, 2016) - An Oxford college dean is found bludgeoned to death in the woods following a heated debate in a pub. An alchemic image purposefully left at the crime scene leads Lewis and Hathaway to anticipate that three more murders will follow. An unusual tattoo on the dean’s body and the bodies of two more victims leads to the discovery of a secret esoteric society and a frantic effort to prevent a fourth murder. Meanwhile, Hathaway is struggling to accept his father’s illness.
“What Lies Tangled”: (Aug. 21, 2016) - An eminent mathematician is killed in a gruesome bomb attack. Lewis and Hathaway discover that the victim had many enemies, several of whom could have killed him. When another bomb is discovered at the home of the victim's brother, the case moves in a new direction. When a chemistry professor is murdered, a clue is uncovered that helps solve the case. Meanwhile, Lewis’s long-planned trip with his girlfriend, pathologist Laura Hobson (Clare Holman), is put in jeopardy as he worries about whether his job will be waiting for him when he returns.
The new season does not disappoint. The writers have given Lewis and Hathaway three great mysteries to solve, and they have concluded the series with just enough loose ends to keep us guessing. After all, it wouldn’t be Lewis without the writers teasing us with a few unsolved subplots. 
Remembering Inspector Lewis
It is difficult to write about the final season of a beloved series like Inspector Lewis without getting mawkish. I feel as if I am writing a eulogy for a dear departed friend. It has, however, given me the opportunity to pull out DVDs of earlier episodes and revisit the characters, observe their development and appreciate the consistent quality of the series from day one. 
Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whatley) carries James Hathaway (Lauren Fox) to safety in “Life Born of Fire.”
There are so many great moments over the course of ten years and 33 episodes. Here are a few of my favorites: 
“Life Born of Fire” – Will the suicide of Hathaway's old school friend test his relationship with Lewis and his romantic ambivalence? Drugged and unconscious, laying in the bed of his cross-dressing lover, he almost became another Oxford murder victim before Lewis rescued him. 
 “The Dead of Winter” – While investigating a murder at Crevecoeur Hall, a lavish Oxford estate where Hathaway spent his boyhood, Lewis uncovers ugly family secrets including (in a gentle nod to the board game Clue) that Miss Scarlet, with a candlestick in the chapel, might be the prime suspect. 
 “Beyond Good and Evil” – Lewis' reputation is jeopardized when the very first case that he solved as a detective inspector is reopened for appeal and new murders are committed with the original weapon. Talk about being haunted by your past! A detective’s work is never done, especially when old cases are reopened and evidence is overturned. 
James Hathaway (Laurence Fox), Richie Maguire (David Hayman), Esmé Ford (Joanna Lumley), Franco (Anthony Higgins) and Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately) in “Counter Culture Blues”
One of the great qualities of this series is wonderful guest characters that appear in each new episode. The producers have assembled the crème de la crème of British actors over the course of the series. The list of acting legends featured is too long to include, but here a few that were standouts for me.
 “Allegory of Love” – A cameo role by Laurence Fox’s father James Fox allowed us to see father and son acting together in a scene. Fox (the younger) looks a bit nervous in his father’s presence, and Fox (senior) is in full command. The cast also included Art Malik as Professor Hamid Jassim. Malik and Fox (senior) had co-starred in David Lean’s 1984 movie A Passage to India. Also rounding out the cast was Tom Mison as Dorian Crane, who would go on to portray another more famous Crane called Ichabod in the US television series Sleepy Hollow. 
 “Counter Culture Blues” – My favorite episode, in terms of the cast, and one of the funnier of the series was written by Guy Andrews and based on a story by Nick Dear. The lineup included comedic genius Joanna Lumley as Esmé Ford, the lead singer of a 60s rock band whom everyone thought had committed suicide 35 years earlier—that is, until she materializes and wants to reorganize the group. The band members were spot on. Just visualize any of the 1960s–70s British rock bands such as The Who, Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones, and think about what they look like 30–40 years later after surviving the toll of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. David Hayman as drummer Richie Maguire, Anthony Higgins as lead guitar Franco, and Hilton McRae as bass guitarist Mack Maguire were all so eccentrically excessive that it bordered on silly. But who cared? This was not a serious mystery, but more of a psychedelic haze of an Inspector Lewis mystery turned comedy. In addition, actor Simon Callow, who played their band manager Simon Oxe, was so flamboyant and over-the-top that I will never be able to think about men’s sock garters again without giggling.  
There are so many unforgettable moments from Inspector Lewis that I could go on and on. Overall, what I will remember most are the clever red herrings, the literary metaphors, Oxford’s manicured quads and dreamy spires — and of course Lewis and Hathaway’s witty banter.  
Hathaway: Amy's body was in the garden, two floors below the room she was sleeping in. The cause of death is a blow to the head or the head hitting a rock. 
Lewis: Suicide? 
Hathaway: [Dryly] Dr. Hobson is consulting the cadaver even now. 
-from “The Mind Has Mountains”  
Savor every moment, Inspector Lewis fans, and pray for an Inspector Hathaway spin-off in the future! 
Lewis: You know what I’m doing? I’m going to think like Morse.
Hathaway: [with sarcasm] Does that mean we are going to the pub?
 —from “Counter Culture Blues” 
James Hathaway (Laurence Fox) and Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately) sharing a pint.
Images courtesy of ITV Studios via Masterpiece PBS © 2006-2016  


Laurel Ann Nattress

Writer, blogger, and editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Laurel Ann Nattress is a champion of Georgian civility, British culture and Masterpiece PBS. Visit her at and follow her on twitter as @Austenprose

More stories by Laurel Ann Nattress

There are 4 comments

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We had to mourn the end of Morse, plus that actor's death in real life. and now we have to say Goodbye to Lewis and his sidekick, Hathaway. Both great actors we have come to love and watch once a week. surely TV history says Hathaway should now have his own program?

love this blog and i am praying for a Hathaway series!! thanks for keeping me up to date. i
have been rematching all the old shows and i loved Counter Culture Blues so much.
i am crying to see it end.
you have done a good job with this blog. i hope i can keep in touch

I'm sad about the end of Lewis, too. I have especially loved watching the development of Robbie's relationship with Laura (& her friendship with James, too). It worries me that you don't even mention her in this post, except thru the quotes. Her professionalism, humor & good sense have always been a tonic in the world of Morse & Lewis.

I have to correct you on "Life Born of Fire". The character introduced to us as Zoe is neither a cross dresser, nor James' lover. "She" is a homosexual man who underwent gender reassignment surgery in order to stay with his male lover, who was so wracked with guilt (fueled by a Christian group called The Garden) that he eventually committed suicide.

Note that "Zoe", although he has been living as a woman since his multiple surgeries (not just genital, but cosmetic feminization of the face, throat, & chest), is *not* transgender. And not a cross dresser. He is not a man who enjoys wearing women's clothing. And he is not a person whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth (or whose identity does not fit the gender binary). The episode gives us no indication that "Zoe" wanted to be female at all: he just wanted to assuage his lover's tortured guilt, in the hope that they could be together. It is a rather gothically sensationalized plot device that bears little if any resemblance to the lives of actual transgender people (or actual cross dressers). In fact, it's a pretty offensive proposition, especially to the trans people who desperately wish for gender affirmation in their bodies, but can't afford the very expensive surgery (which is only just starting to be covered by some insurers & employers).

It's a shame that some great lines about Hathaway's sexuality, & some very serious exploration of both his faith & the ways in which some interpretations of religious tenets can do serious damage to people, had to come wrapped in this hot mess of gender identity misrepresentation. The writers had to make James not recognize "Zoe" from their university days, & somebody must have said, "hey, what about a sex change?" Heavy sigh.

Finally, just to pick a nit: "Zoe" was not James' lover: he flirted with him, kissed him, drugged him & tried to burn him alive. They were never lovers (unless something happened at Cambridge that they're not talking about).

I join you in celebrating all the great times we have spent with "Inspector Lewis". I will miss these characters, & these actors!

I must say I am not sad to see the end of Lewis. I watched this programme recently, only because of Hathaway. I could not understand why Lewis had to be brought back when Hathaway had become an inspector. I felt that this was disrespectful to Hathaway. If Lewis had been brought back only occasionally, and only as a consultant, I would have enjoyed his presence more. Let us hope that the authors of this show write another with Hathaway as the lead actor. He is a fine actor and should have had more of the spotlight.

I really enjoyed Morse and was extremely sad when that series ended, and more sad to learn of John Thaw's demise. Rest in Peace.

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