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Talented piano student Zoe Stock has won a place at the Devington
winter school taught by celebrated pianist Sir Michael Fielding. By the
river in the grounds of the manor she sees a woman abandon a baby on
the banks and jump in. Zoe tries to help but the current is too strong.
The woman drowns and her body vanishes.
With no body and no baby, just gut instinct, DCI Barnaby is convinced Zoe saw something. His suspicions are confirmed when a hooded figure tries to kill Zoe at a nearby abbey. Soon after, Barnaby does have very real dead bodies as he struggles to solve what will become the most disturbing case of his career, and prevent others falling victim to the killer.
Well, what a story! I was beginning to think the series has lost it, but this sort of episode proves there's life in the old dog yet! All the producers need to do is hire the right script writers and the series can go on indefinitely! Unfortunately though, one brilliant episode once in a blue moon doesn't bode well for the series.
Master Class, by Nicholas Martin, is packed full of intrigue, twists and turns, subtle humour (not pantomime as has been the case recently) and a solution to the mystery that is genuinely horrific. Also, there are some brilliant actors in this one, who after reading the script must have really wanted to be a part of it. Lydia Wilson, who plays Zoe, i suspect is a name to watch out for. She's a star in the making.
Not only one of the best for years but one of the best ever.
Note to producers: Keep Nicholas Martin as a regular writer. He's a genius! And get rid of the dead wood!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite the notoriously high number of murders in Midsomer the series
is usually fairly whimsical and seldom touches on anything really
unpleasant; most murders seem to be based on the petty jealousy of
members of one hobby group or another. When this episode opened I
assumed that it would be the same, especially when we saw Joyce Barnaby
helping at the auditions for a master class to be run by pianist Sir
Michael Fielding. It looked like the first death would be Zoë, one of
the aspiring pianists, when she started bleeding profusely from her
nose but it turned out it was just a symptom of a panic attack. Despite
only playing the opening bars of her piece she was invited to go
forward to the next round of the competition. While here she saw a
woman drowning in the river and tried to save her, the police were
called but found no sign of a drowned woman; strangely though Barnaby
recalls that a woman did drown at that spot almost twenty years before.
Zoë and two other students are selected to go on to the final round and
when one is murdered it looks as though the most likely suspect is a
student who felt hard done by for being rejected. We soon realise that
he probably didn't do it when there is a second murder followed by a
car crash involving Zoë's parents.
This was a better than average episode of a series I nearly always enjoy, it made an interesting change to have an episode with a darker tone. Instead of petty jealousy we have a family keeping a very dark secret involving a case of incest and a clear intention to commit that crime again with the daughter of the original victim making it even darker the whole family was involved. As well as the regular cast guest stars Lydia Wilson and James Fox put in notable performances as Zoë and Fielding.
At a music school, a gifted piano student, Zoe Stock, thinks that she
sees a woman drown after leaving her baby on the bank. She jumps in but
doesn't see the woman, and there's no baby. Barnaby & Jones are called
in, and though there is no proof that anything happened, Barnaby
vaguely remembers an actual, similar drowning that took place about 18
years earlier. Back then, the body was found by a Catholic priest,
Zoe is competing to participate in a master class run by the world-famous Sir Michael Fielding (James Fox); the school is administered by his daughters Miriam and Constance (Sylvestra Le Touzel and Frances Barber). Only three students from the current crop will be chosen, and when they are, Zoe is one of the three, along with Orlando (Matthew James Thomas), and Francesca (Katharine Press). The winner of the Fielding Prize is assured an international career.
When an attempt is made on Zoe's life, Barnaby investigates further, and then the bodies start falling. Is it the rejected student, who is still hanging around, responsible? Or is it someone else? The denouement of this story is bizarre, and you'll be trying to figure it out through the film. A dark story and an excellent one, with some well-drawn characters and excellent performances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Midsomer Murders: Master Class is set in the small Midsomer village of
Devington where eighteen year old pianist Zoe Stock (Lydia Wilson) has
won an opportunity to attend a prestigious music school run by Sir
Michael Fielding (James Fox), Zoe is to perform for the ultimate prize
of international recognition & a professional contract against two
fellow students Orlando (Matthew James Thomas) & Francesca (Katherine
Press). While taking a walk by a river Zoe sees a woman dressed in
white carrying a baby, then moments later Zoe sees the woman fall into
the river & drown, DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) investigates but no
body is found & no trace of the baby is discovered either. However
Barnaby has his suspicions & remembers an incident where a woman drown
in the same spot eighteen years earlier, suspecting something is wrong
Barnaby soon finds himself investigating a murder when Orlando is found
hanging & that's just the start...
Episode five from season thirteen this Midsomer Murders mystery was directed Renny Rye & is surely one of the most ridiculous & silly the series has to offer, once all is revealed & all is explained at the end I just couldn't take Master Class seriously at all & found it hard to stop shaking my head in amazement. For a start the script is extremely slow going, apart from the mystery of the drowning woman it's over an hour before anything really happens with the first murder, that's just too long to wait & far too much exposition & padding to wade through with nothing to really maintain your interest or hook you. However where Master Class becomes ridiculous & in a way one of the series most memorable episodes is at the end when the motives for murder are revealed, I mean a guy who wants to have sex with his daughter & granddaughter to pass his genes on & produced the ultimate pianist is just such a silly concept, who came up with it & did they think that anyone watching would be convinced by it in the slightest? Then there are Zoe's parents who knew a lot of the background to what was going on so why did they let Zoe audition & then stay at the music school in the first place? The two eventual killers don't even get to say anything at the end as they just led away, as an over the top Hollywood thriller Master Class might have been fun but as a straight laced, serious British crime drama Master Class is just one of the most ridiculous things I've seen in ages. I don't really know how Zoe would have remember something so vividly she never even saw properly when she was a one year old baby either, in fact you could pick Master Class apart bit by bit with character motivation & decisions that make no sense.
Despite the flashback being set in 1993 the woman seen seems to be wearing clothes from the 70's for some reason, I understand the makers wanted to emphasise the events took place in the past but it doesn't look right. The kills when they eventually come are standard fare, a hanging & a slit throat. Well filmed as usual though & there's plenty of classical piano music featured if that's your sort of thing but I'm very much with DS Jones when he says it's not his sort of music. Master Class looks nice enough & has that unique British appearance, Dorchester Abbey in Oxfordshie was used as Saint Cecilia's Abbey while St. Katharine's Convent was used for the location of Devington Hall. The acting is good from a solid cast.
Master Class is both one of the silliest & therefore most memorable Midsomer Murder episodes, I can't say I liked it that much & found too many holes in it. Not one of Midsomer Murders finest two hours.
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