The mismatched pair (and when were they ever not mismatched in this kind of detective show) of Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel (Warren Clarke) and Detective Inspector Peter Pascoe (Colin Buchanan) are back in season two of Dalziel and Pascoe. Dalziel (pronounced "dee ell") is overweight, grouchy and politically incorrect. Pascoe is young, tolerant, and very much more pleasant to be around. But somehow they manage to work together, along with Sergeant Wield (David Royle) and newcomer Cadet Singh (Navin Chowdry) to solve a succession of murders and other high crimes, and perhaps even come to respect each other.
The second season is broken up into four ninety minute episodes, one more than in season one. All the stories are based on novels by Reginald Hill, and season two avoids having a dull episode, which gives it an advantage over season one. What sets Dalziel and Pascoe apart from a lot of other detective shows, even the ubiquitous British sort, is that it spends a lot more time looking at the interpersonal relations of its characters, and not just as window dressing or a nod in the direction of characterization. In particular, Pascoe's relationships, and even more particularly that with his wife Ellie (Susannah Corbett), are developed in depth. It is important to the show that we know that Pascoe and his wife don't share the same politics, or that his father-in-law is starting to show the signs of dementia, or that he does have a grudging respect for his slobby superior Dalziel, who he ends up making the godfather of his daughter, born in season two. These kinds of details, and the time it takes to smoothly reveal them, are at least as vital to the show's success as interesting plot twists and inventive murders. Each of the four episodes is described briefly below.
In Ruling Passion a group of friends comes together at the country house of one member for a relaxing weekend of fine food and trap shooting. Pascoe and Ellie arrive a little late, only to find three of their friends shot dead, and the other one missing. The pair are merely witnesses in this case, and Pascoe has to deal with the loss of his friends at the same time as he tries to track down a burglar that targets small antiques and has recently turned murderous.
In A Killing Kindness, Dalziel and Pascoe try to track down a serial killer who's strangling young women (and one woman who's not so young) and laying them out with their hands clasped across their chests. A young woman is found in a canal next to the horse fair, and suspicion naturally falls on the gypsies camped nearby, and intensifies when a young fortune teller is killed soon thereafter. Dalziel is accused of bigotry (no stretch there) and police brutality, and the crusading attorney that decides to represent the gypsies to thwart him doesn't help matters.
Deadheads does not, in fact, feature any fans of the Grateful Dead. "Deadheading" is the practice of cutting dead roses from the bush to allow the other buds to bloom. Patrick Alderman (Jonathan Cullen) is a middle aged businessman, obsessed with roses, whose career seems to have been aided considerably by the aptly timed deaths of a number of people. But were they murdered, or not?
In Exit Lines an elderly man is beaten to death in the bath, and another old man is run down by a car that Dalziel may have been driving, drunk no less. Cheating fiancées, heroin smuggling, and a few thousand military suspects make this more complicated than usual, not to mention the fact that Dalziel is sidelined on "vacation" until he's cleared of the drunk driving suspicions.
Season two is an improvement over season one, mainly in that the episodes are more consistently enjoyable. It's got action, thrills, drama, inventive problems for the police to solve and a heavy dollop of humor. And even though Dalziel is offensive, rude, small minded and vulgar, somehow Warren Clarke manages to make him likeable. The same goes for the rest of the cast, particularly this go round with Navin Chowdry as the rookie Singh, who often gets more leads and finds more clues than his more seasoned superiors. Season two of Dalziel and Pascoe is an enjoyable British mystery, which doesn't place too many demands on the viewer. Recommended.