They step out of their crime-scene van at a hotel and pose audaciously, with a light wind blowing Kat Stewart’s hair in slow-mo. There’s a sly glance between them and a whimsical soundtrack.
Fasten your seat belts. This obviously isn’t meant to be taken seriously…
Not unlike Dexter, these two are crime-scene professionals, except they’re not here as blood-splatter forensics, but cleaning experts. Of all the entry points into a procedural set-up, this one is cheekily novel.
We quickly learn that Nicola (Stewart) has a penchant for solving mysteries and her cheerful husband Charlie (Micallef) obliges her curiosity with questions and gentle encouragement while they are on the job.
The job, in episode one, is the murder of a sports star in a hotel suite. There’s a room service attendant found at the scene of the crime (holding a bloody knife no less) a female escort and a short-tempered hotel manager.
An overly relaxed Detective Peter Vinetti (Jonny Pasvolsky) is mulling over some of the clues in the room when our unassuming heroes quickly come up with more questions and inconsistencies than he can ever muster. As law and order goes, this bloke isn’t very sharp.
It isn’t long before Charlie and Nicola are digging deeper quizzing suspects and checking into the hotel where a “mind melding” conference is underway. Nicola’s niece Jess (Lucy Honigman) is soon enlisted as a hotel maid to go deep undercover.
Soon there are suspicions and theories about who killed the dead star. Was it the wheelchair bound wife, the hotel maid (Alison Bell), the conference delegate (Anthony Hayes) or the service room attendant (Hugo Johnstone-Burt)? Even Ruby Rose has a cameo.
The show’s best moments are the chemistry between Micallef and Stewart. There’s a spark between them as they finish each other’s sentences, and play with a domestic dialogue all of their own. Rather than laugh out loud at their relationship, you’ll chuckle at their rapport. Stewart is particularly likeable, in a role that contrasts her more overt roles in Offspring and Tangle.
But the plotting of the procedural elements is less successful. The set-up is too theatrical (with some supporting cast giving very large performances) without enough investment in the victim. The plot by writer Kirsty Fisher moves through the detective work, but it would benefit from grander stakes.
If this is serious drama, why are the police so ineffectual? If it’s whimsy, should the gags be funnier?
Most concerningly, there is a lack of jeopardy for our central characters, too often kept on the periphery of the action rather than ever being in genuine peril.
With this in mind Mr and Mrs Murder doesn’t burst out of the gates, and in the current TV it arguably needs to.
That said, I’m all for more Micallef and Stewart on screen together and look forward to peeling back the layers.
Mr. & Mrs. Murder premieres 8:30pm Wednesday on TEN.