Jonathan Creek: Why Season 4 is Better Than Season 3

The major challenge with Jonathan Creek is how to create a mystery show that doesn't rely on deux ex machina explanations.

The whole idea behind a magic trick is that it is a deception. The patter misleads the audience into believing the set-up is legitimate when it isn't. But in a mystery, if it turns out that the entire set-up was a deception (the mystery never happened the way it was explained in the first place), the audience feels cheated.

My immediate response to Jonathan Creek was, "How are they going to avoid the problem of the narrator lying?" After all, the best way to get around most of the mysteries is for Jonathan simply to declare, "The person telling us all this is a huge liar."

I was impressed by how competently the first two seasons dealt with this problem. The mysteries are truly clever with truly clever solutions.

However, in Season 3, reliance on deception/false set-ups becomes too large a component. The end result is complicated, even Gothic narratives that Jonathan uncovers versus clever tricks that he unveils.

The same is true of Season 4. However, Season 4 has two things going for it. One, I quite like Julia Sawalha (I quite like Caroline Quinten too; it's always a toss-up when a replacement comes up, and Sawalha does more than an adequate job; in fact, I think the dialog exchanges between her and Davies are stronger than between Quinten and Davies).

The other thing that Season 4 has going for it is Adam (played by Stuart Milligan). The stunts Adam pulls in Season 4--and the subplots involving Adam--are totally hilarious. Stuart Milligan does a fantastic job playing a complete egoist who is, nevertheless, rather sweet and unpretentious. Oddly enough, I think Stuart Milligan does a better job than Anthony Head would have done even though, in many ways, Milligan is playing "Giles." But Anthony Head, although good as Adam, gave him a creepier edge than Milligan does. Milligan's Adam is really completely guileless with absolutely no dark side.

Milligan does good spots in Seasons 1-2 (he is almost entirely absent from Season 3). He takes over major plotlines in Season 4 and, on more than one occasion, utterly steals the show.

The entire series is worth watching, but if you watch Seasons 1-2, then skip to 4 (like I did because the library didn't have Season 3 at that time, so I ended up watching it later), don't worry, you aren't missing (as much) with Season 3 (although watching Davies is always worth the effort).

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