After 4 episodes we are half-way through Dublin Murders on Starz. As I mentioned in my episode 1 review, for those of us who have read Tana French’s books In the Woods and The Likeness, watching this series will be a different experience than for those who haven’t. And what I’m hearing from the latter group is that they are confused. Well who can blame them? By episode 4, we have 4 mysteries to solve: Who killed Katy Devlin? What happened to those kids in 1985? Who is this murdered doppelganger of Cassie’s? and What causes partners DS Rob Reilly and DG Cassie Maddox to blow apart? As a reader, I’m not confused, but I can still feel the bloat of too many sub-plots.
Sorting the Mysteries
For me, the most compelling mystery is Rob and Cassie. Man, those two have such amazing chemistry onscreen! And Cassie’s boyfriend is so dull that I keep forgetting his character’s name. I could almost fast-forward through all the scenes without Rob and Cassie-that’s the pull they have on me. As for Katy Devlin, that case plods along with the usual red herrings being set up. (Was it her father? Her sister? The guy with the ponytail? The sensitive fellow from the dig? The jerky guy from the dig? Track-suit man? Someone else entirely?). As for the 1985 mystery, it will be interesting to see what the show does, because in the book it doesn’t get solved. Rob never recalls the events of that day, which makes him nuts. But the show seems to be edging toward a solution. We’ll see. The Lexie/Cassie case is still unclear. The events of The Likeness do not occur simultaneously with the Katy Devlin investigation, so in the book Cassie spends a long time with the other 4 students, building relationships that haunt her when the case is over. I sense that in the show she will be dropped into the group for a weekend only.
Making the best of a bad decision
This brings me to my thoughts on the adaptation. I completely objected to the decision to wedge the two books into 1 season on TV. And I still do. However, I think that Sarah Phelps is doing a fantastic job merging the books. She has really covered her bases on why Cassie is being pulled into this other investigation at such an inopportune time, and Cassie and Rob never break stride when they discuss it. That being said, I’m not buying the through-line that Cassie’s emotional damage from her past undercover case is the same as Rob’s from the 1985 trauma. And I really hate the alter-ego Lexie coming to comfort Cassie at the scene of her parents’ death. (And shown twice, no less!) I understand why they are building that backstory, but it’s clunky and unnecessary.
As of now, Dublin Murders is still appointment TV for me, and I look forward to seeing it every Sunday. I just wish I knew why they insisted on jamming two completely different books into 1 season. If they felt they didn’t have enough in either book to complete a season, why not go the BBC route and do a 4-episode season? Release them back-to-back? I hate to think that they sacrificed an almost perfect show just to fit into some kind of preconceived time slot. I’m super curious to see whether they stick to the books for the second half of the series. I’m not convinced they will, and that could be fun.
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I’ve read both books but quite a few years ago so I don’t remember a lot of the details. I am in full agreement that this would have been better to do two season–one for each book. I’m not liking the melding of the two books. That being said, the acting is great and I am looking forward to seeing how they wrap things up.