Giving up Lewis by Angela Caldin
I’ve decided that I’m not going to watch Lewis any more. There was a time when I was a devoted follower of the workaholic, down to earth Detective Inspector Lewis and his enigmatic sidekick Detective Sergeant Hathaway. Throw into the mix the romantic tensions between Lewis and forensic pathologist Dr Laura Hobson, as well as the strains between Lewis and his boss, Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent who criticises Lewis’ investigative measures at the drop of a hat, and you have an attractive recipe.
Lewis is a widower whose wife was killed in a hit-and-run car accident. He is a stolid chap, but often displays sudden intuitions in solving murder cases. He is neither cultured nor erudite and shows a disdain for the arrogance and narrow-mindedness of the many Oxford academics who cross his path. Hathaway, by contrast, is highly educated and knowledgeable; his intellect combined with Lewis’ instinct make for an intriguing combination.
They have cracked some fascinating cases, often involving literary quotations and allusions which Hathaway always recognises and which pass Lewis by completely. The plots are intricate and convoluted: miss a mumbled remark and you miss a vital clue. We’ve had a scholar obsessed with Lewis Carroll’s poem The Hunting of the Snark found buried in the botanical gardens. We’ve had one of Dr Hobson’s old college roommates found with a stake through her heart and a garlic bulb in her mouth. We’ve had the murder of a student killed just before a performance of The Merchant of Venice, leading to quotes about the quality of mercy not being strained. We’ve had the deaths of a worker at the Bodleian and an art student linked through a reference to Shelley’s poem about the moonbeams kissing the sea. We’ve had provocative bondage, schoolgirl sex, a psychological researcher posing as a clairvoyant, twisted family relationships, government conspiracy and goodness knows what other perversions and turnings to the dark side. The intrepid duo always manage to solve the case, working their way through the many and varied suspects and the even more varied red herrings while the atmospheric music warns of tension and tragedy along the way.
It’s often hard to keep up with the investigations and I do have a tendency to fall asleep about ten minutes before the end. And now there are some earlier episodes on one channel and some later ones on another and I am tending to get them all muddled up. But the flitting back and forth in time has made me realise that my problem with the series is that these two protagonists do not develop, they’re stuck in the same relationship and nothing changes. Lewis is permanently sad and world weary, though I did catch a glimpse the other day of him and Dr Hobson with their arms round each other watching television. Hathaway is a complete mystery: we still don’t know why he left the Catholic seminary or why he can’t get a girlfriend or whether perhaps he’s gay. He’s certainly not about to confide in Lewis. I’m not sure he’s entirely suited to police work and neither, it would appear, is he. He says that he ‘used to think people were basically good’, but really it would be hard to maintain that opinion amidst the mayhem that he faces on a daily basis.
I’ll be sorry to leave them, battling the murderous tendencies of town and gown in Oxford and I’ll often think of them forever walking around the streets, with the same banter, the same grudging mutual respect; Lewis all stooped shoulders trudging along with his careworn face, Hathaway all lanky legs, flapping jacket and tortured expression. Sometimes they break into a run, determined to arrive in time to prevent some ghastly and bloody butchering, but I won’t be running along with them in future. I hope that Lewis finds true love with Dr Hobson and that they can both stop being workaholics and retire happily. I hope that Hathaway can face his demons, sort out his strange hairstyle and find a cheerful partner of either sex to jolly him along a bit. He could probably do with a bit of career counselling as well.
As for me, I’ll be tuning in to Dave and watching endless episodes of Mock the Week, Have I Got News for You, QI and 8 Out of 10 Cats.