An Early Look at Masterpiece Mystery!’s Case Histories

The new Masterpiece Mystery! series Case Histories gets underway tomorrow night at 9, and introduces us to Jackson Brodie, a former police investigator turned private detective who’s a bit different from most of the “types” in this genre. Based on the popular series of Kate Atkinson novels, Case Histories is very appealing – Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs shines in the starring role, the writing’s witty, and the cases are intricate enough to hold viewers’ attention and provide an entertaining pay off.

Take a look at this scene from the first episode to get a feel for the tone of the show and ,if you’re feeling brave, click through for some of my early (spoiler free) thoughts!

Having never read this particular series of novels, I can’t speak to whether or not this is a particularly faithful adaptation of the books. Hopefully someone who has read them can chime in and let us know!

But, there’s a lot to like about Case Histories. Namely:

Jason Isaacs Is A Nice Guy (And Kind of a Ladies Man). It’s a bit jarring, if only for a moment, to watch Jason Isaacs playing a Good Guy. (Mostly because everyone hates Lucius Malfoy, and also that Colonel from The Patriot.) But Isaacs is wonderful as Jackson Brodie – kind, dedicated, a little bit broody, and, yes, very easy on the eyes.  (He’s nice to old cat ladies! He teaches himself French in the car! He digs graves for dead pets! He’s a charming dad!) Women everywhere are going to fall all over themselves to love this guy, much as several do in the show. And I can’t believe I just wrote that about Draco’s dad.

The mysteries are intricate and the payoff is solid. The plot of Case Histories is set up in such a way that Jackson ends up working on multiple cases at the same time. (He loves looking for missing women, apparently.) It can be a bit confusing if you’re not paying attention, keeping track of all the various plot threads and characters who may or may not have an important role to play, but there’s something to be said for television that expects that you, as a viewer, can keep up. There really ought to be more of that. And, in the end, these mysteries are complex enough that you not only feel satisfied by their answers, but watching Jackson solve them is compelling.

The supporting cast of characters is top notch. Whitechapel star Phil Davis is a particular standout here, as a distraught father whose daughter has recently been murdered. But the entire supporting cast is strong, and manages to make you care about their lives in ways that have nothing to do with the specifics of their cases. 

Wow, Edinburgh is gorgeous. Full disclosure: I’ve never been to Scotland, but I definitely want to go now! Edinburgh is apparently crazy photogenic, and the entire series is beautifully shot.  It’s so pretty that I can even overlook the fact that, despite the setting, almost none of these characters appears to have an actual Scottish accent.

Final verdict: Case Histories is worth checking out, and I think our mystery fans are going to really enjoy it. Here's hoping for a second season!

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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