McDonald & Dodds is a new British mystery series available in the US via BritBox. Detective Chief Inspector Lauren McDonald (Tala Gouveia) is paired with Detective Sergeant Dodds (Jason Watkins) to solve murders among the wealthy, deadly denizens of Bath.
It’s an obvious odd couple. McDonald is a young, ambitious black woman who is eager to advance up the career ladder. Her aim is to get a confession from the killer. It will save the courts time and money; plus, it would look good on her record. DS Dodds is an older white man whose career has stalled. He is just happy to have a place to go everyday (work) and has no plans to retire. He’s your quiet, observant puzzle solver who uses the library – he actually opens books! – to track down clues. If McDonald is the hare, Dodds is the tortoise.
McDonald and Dodds do have one thing in common; they are both fish out of water. She’s a transplant from London – where she was known as a go-getter. However, Bath is not London and her new boss appears to take every opportunity to try and knock her down a peg. For all of his years on the force, Dodds does not have a lot of field experience. The department has shuffled him around for years – from desk to desk – in hopes that he will take the hint and leave. Dodds is an outsider in that he is “at” the work but not “in” with the higher ups. As they begin working together, McDonald even wonders if Dodds was assigned to her to deliberately hamper her. Both of them are earnest and want to do well – they only need the chance.
Chief Superintendent Houseman, their boss, is the type who always takes the side of rich or politically connected suspects. I get the feeling that hiring McDonald may not have been his idea. Houseman hasn’t been able to get Dodds to retire and wants McDonald to help push him out of the door. Thankfully, McDonald wants to advance by solving cases, not doing dirty work for superiors. We never see him interact with other officers, so we don’t know if he’s hard on everyone or especially tough on McDonald.
Season 1 only has two episodes and the mysteries are twisty and fun. When you think you know who the killer is – a new clue tosses the theory out of the window. A light sprinkle* of racism and sexism pops up from time to time. McDonald tends to ignore it; Dodds doesn’t play into it.
From time to time, our heroes are tripped by their inexperience. McDonald asks suspects uncomfortable questions (how dare she not consider their delicate feelings!) – which often lead to a finger wag from Houseman. The usually quiet Dodds has a habit of “talking to much” to the wrong person. Still, they make a great team and come through when everyone else has written them off.
I hope next season we get a look into their private lives. McDonald is under a lot of pressure and it would be nice to see her decompress after a hard day. At one point in the first episode, she wondered if the whole situation at the Bath precinct was set up for her to fail. Obviously, she’s pushing through the obstacles placed in her path by Houseman and suspects as well as her own fears/doubts. It would be nice to see her getting a bit of happiness or joy outside of solving the case. It doesn’t have to be a lot – maybe a physical hug from her boyfriend (only mentioned in passing in season 1 or tossing darts at a picture of Houseman.
Dodds is also a mystery. We know he was married for a moment, he’s lived in the same house nearly all of his life and he carries a rosary. Also, McDonald may be the only person to ever tell him that’s he’s done a good job.
I enjoyed the season, the characters, the mysteries** and am looking forward to more.
*It has to be only a touch of the isms because this is a fun, mystery – not a drama. Plus, some sensitive viewer can’t even stomach this little pinch and think the show should focus on Dodds only. Of course, if there were no McDonald, Dodds would be stuck at a desk and wearing a coat. Yes, Houseman is literally trying to freeze him out.
** I did side-eye the resolution of the first mystery. To say why…would spoil it.