Episode 5 from season 4 this Midsomer Murders mystery saw a return to the series for director Jeremy Silberston who had made some of the finest episodes including the very first one The Killings at Badger's Drift (1997), after the previous two big disappointments that were The Electric Vendetta (2001) & Who Killed Cock Robin? (2001) I was hoping that Dark Autumn would mark a welcome return to form for the series & while Dark Autumn is better than the two previous aforementioned episodes it's still not up there as one of the show's best. The script by Peter Hammond starts off well enough with someone getting their throat slashed open before the opening credits have even played but then for the next hour or so Barnaby just wanders around Goodmans Land interviewing people about the affairs Cutler had. To give it some credit there's some nice plot twists but it turns out the murder didn't really have anything to do with anyone connected to Cutler & the entire first hour or so feels padded & surplus to requirements. Dark Autumn isn't that well paced either, it's rather dull going for the first half although things do pick up when the twists & turns kick in towards the end. I sat there watching this thinking I had it all worked out & I knew who the killer was, well I was totally wrong & the person I thought it was ended up as a victim of the real killer which show's how much I know! The other thing that didn't really impress me about Dark Autumn was the motives, the killers motives here are really weak & weren't strong enough to convince me that someone would murder four people because of them. This is one of those Midsomer Murders mysteries where you can catch the first ten minutes, go away & watch the final twenty & still more or less 'get it'.
Dark Autumn sees the character of Sgt. Troy get more on screen development than usual as he tries to embark on a relationship with Jay, this episode also brings out one of Barnaby's hidden talents as he turns out to be brilliant at the pub game of Aunt Sally! A game where wooden batons are thrown to knock a wooden dolly off a stand, apparently it's a game only played in Oxfordshire so forgive yourself if you've never heard of it. He kept that one quiet didn't he? As usual there are some impressive photography capturing the English countryside, Great Haseley in Oxfordshire was used while the windmill in this episode is from Turville in Buckinghamshire & was also seen in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). There are four murders in this one, there are a couple of corpses seen with slashed throats but otherwise nothing too graphic. The acting is very strong as is usually the case.
Dark Autumn is an OK Midsmoer Murders episode, a lot of it is very forgettable & the motive for murder here is one of the weakest & most unbelievable the entire series has thrown up & that's saying something in itself. I still thought it was OK & an improvement on the previous two episodes but far from a classic.