So I got lots of Baxendale in this one, and I’m a bit happier. Well, quite a lot happier actually – lots of lovely Bristol too, especially Wills Hall where I once went to a party (or maybe several parties – I lived next door for a year, but don’t remember it well).
Last week I was concerned at the “possibleness” of the plot. This week, things started out even worse – following the format of a low grade ITV whodunnit (perhaps that’s the true pedigree showing through, it is made by ITV after all). In the books there was very little mystery around the identity of the murderer (so these are only minor spoilers): Gordon Way was killed by an electric monk, Geoff Ansty by a seven-foot green monster with a scythe. It’s how the former links with MacDuff’s sofa becoming stuck on his stairs (and the impending end of all history) and how the latter connects with Janice Pearce being turned into a vending machine by the god Thor that is important. The Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things, in fact. Sometimes there’s a clue to this (“the question is not so much what he did, but how it relates to everything else”) but the story travels along more pedestrian lines. Dirk Gently may be a charlatan but he’s shouldn’t be a second rate Sherlock Holmes. Sadly lines like “if there was a God – which we as men of science cannot accept” seem to be hinting at a rather constraining rationalism. Where’s the Dirk who rejects the impossible?
While I’m complaining about the failure to pin down the Dirk of the novels, this version certainly appears to have less charm or wit as is evident in his exchanges with Susan (“what the hell is she doing here?”) Fortunately, there seems to be a bit of a revival with the emergence of Dirk-in-love later in the episode. By this time I’m enjoying the story a great deal more. Initially I had been concerned that the resolution would be the AI building we’ve seen so often before. But every scene with Mangan and Lydia Wilson is electric, and the chips in the library exchange scene is a magnificent masterpiece. Dirk’s reaction, when he discovers the truth about Max, is wonderful. And Lydia Wilson stilted, limping delivery is perfectly pitched.
“I was going far away. But then I discovered salt. And vinegar. And chips. And then I met you. I very much enjoyed our kiss. And so, I stayed.”
So although it’s by no means perfect, it does get better and better. By the scene where Dirk sees Jane onto the bus (incidentally in front of Bristol cathedral) it had fully redeemed itself. Much better than last week, and maybe even as good as the pilot. Let’s hope the next one, the last in the series, can match up.