I skipped the 3rd and went right to the fourth episode of the Mr. Whicher series: The Ties That Bind.
This one starts out fairly well. A man hires Whicher (who obviously must need the money because this is not the kind of case he relishes) to follow his wife and gain evidence on her infidelity. I’m going to throw spoilers in here because I don’t recommend that you watch this. It starts good (a straightforward story) and then makes the error that most such detective shows do: they throw twist upon twist.
The problem with twist-upon-twist is that it means that nothing you ever see has any meaning because it’s not true. When a show is always twisting, you can never take it at face value thus why bother at all? This episode in the series falls to that excess. We never (as in the first episode) get to follow the investigation through the eyes of Mr. Whicher and become privy to, more or less, how he perceives the case. Instead, we’re left completely in the dark and watch as the Magic Detective’s omniscience somehow sees through every artifice, red herring, and lie. We're supposedly supposed to be tickled pink when we see the resolution of all the twists but at some point you just emotionally tune out and couldn't care less.
The first episode (based on a true story) was good if only because they had to (more or less, I presume) stick to the real story. This provided some discipline for the plot and it worked very well.
In “The Ties that Bind,” there is no end to plot-extensions. If a MacGuffin is a central device (with a strong cast of arbitrariness) that exists to move the plot along then there must be a thing called a MacPuffin. The air is let out of the previous plot conclusion (or suggestion) as another one is puffed up to replace it in an almost never-ending string.
The ridiculousness is too complex to go into (or simply to recall). But it turns out that Whicher was being set up all along. The husband and wife had agreed to a divorce if she takes the blame for infidelity. This is all well and good but this is mentioned much later in the episode after the plot had already been huff, puffed, and blow hither and thither by other things — especially by other trysts (at least two…maybe more) that watered down the idea of following this original woman’s infidelity.
And even then, there is no real conclusion to this, no confrontation between Whicher and the man who used him. Throw in the artifice of incest as well near the end which, I suppose, could have been the basis of the story to begin with but is like a new story bolted on at the end so why bother with all that which came before? Yikes. And if that was a run-on sentence, you can understand what it is like watching one of these run-on plots.
Whicher himself is a 3/4 of a character. He’s a good actor and character to base a series on but he’s missing backbone. He’s so “sensitive” and “caring” (which is fine, per se). But never is there a real confrontation where there should be one. And the man never seems to care if he gets paid or not. There’s just the lacking counter-balance of other traits and behaviors in him. Why would this man pursue this career, for instance? Something’s missing.
Whicher has, I forgot to mention, quit the police force (since the beginning of episode two) and works as a private inquiry agent. (Few he encounters has ever heard of that term.) His estrangement from the police department is completely botched because he was completely vindicated (episode one). They let on between episodes one and two that he had some kind of mental breakdown. Why? He was right and was proven to the world he was right.
Very badly written. But Paddy Considine does do a great job of playing the detective as slightly wounded. It’s just that he’s way too much of a doormat in all this. And this fourth episode’s ending was so obvious in its coming that it was laughable. Too bad. This is a good actor and a potentially very good character. But the writers are complete hacks, offering nothing but mundane plot points and twists that we’ve seen far too often.
Again, do watch the first one in the series, The Murder at Road Hill House, but I can’t recommend that you go further than that.