Midsomer Murders Set 19
Recurring character(s): Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles), Detective Sergeant Ben Jones (Jason Hughes), Joyce Barnaby (Jane Wymark), Dr. George Bullard (Barry Jackson), WPC Gail Stephens (Kirsty Dillon), and introducing Neil Dudgeon as Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby
Original air date(s): UK: 02/10/2010, 05/12/2010, 09/08/2010, 09/22/2010
DVD Date: 02/28/2012
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 400 minutes
Note(s): Episodes in this series are based on characters created by crime novelist Caroline Graham.
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Review: Midsomer Murders is one of the few series that manages to stay fresh season after season even though the principal characters do not (often) change, the supporting cast in each episode is different yet somehow familiar, and the storylines manage to explore new facets of crime fiction while confined to the same environment.
Set 19 of the series consists of four episodes that originally aired in 2010 as the first half of the 13th season (series) in the UK. This season is notable as it is the final one to feature John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby.
This DVD set opens with "The Made-to-Measure Murders", which is not one of the stronger episodes. It is a prototypical village murder mystery, set on a feudal estate, but it is thinly plotted, relying too heavily on misdirection for most of the story and then springing the resolution on the viewer as a sort of fait accompli.
The second episode is "The Sword of Guillame". Whereas the previous episode seemed to lack much of a plot, this one is a bit overplotted, with so much going on and moving in so many directions that it's often a little hard to follow. One of the more graphic episodes, with the heads of the victims — severed with the titular weapon — on display, it's also one of the few that takes place largely outside of Midsomer County … and for a very good reason. Barnaby's cousin, John Barnaby, is a Detective Chief Inspector in Brighton, where one of the murders takes place. As we now know, DCI John Barnaby will take over for DCI Tom Barnaby in the next season of the series and this episode serves as an introduction to the character. If the producers were going for someone who bears a familial resemblance to Tom Barnaby, but who has a complementary approach to solving crime, then they most definitely achieved this with John Barnaby. He seemed a natural fit to the storyline. US viewers won't have a chance to see him again until he takes over for Tom Barnaby when Set 21 is released. (Midsomer Murders airs under the title Barnaby in many international markets, hence it was important for the lead character's name to remain the same for the purposes of the series' identity.)
"Blood on the Saddle" is the third episode and is a "themed" one, this time of the American Wild West. There are a number of original elements to this episode that make it clearly the best of this set and possibly among the top ten of the series as whole. A multi-generational dispute over land ownership is the backdrop for the murders … but it's all a bit more complex than that (of course!).
Finally, the set closes with "The Silent Land", another strong episode that includes a supposedly haunted cemetery and an abandoned institution for the mentally ill. The scenes of Joyce — Barnaby's wife — being a tad histrionic are a little overdone but fortunately Cully — Barnaby's daughter, who we haven't seen much of since she got married — is around to provide balance.
I don't often mention Barnaby's side-kick, Detective Sergeant Ben Jones, but he plays in integral role in every episode, sometimes just to make us smile at the situations he finds himself in. The series wouldn't be the same without him and he really does deserve more credit than he probably gets.
All in all, another solid set of episodes for this fine series. It is highly recommended.
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