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Beyond Paradise season two review: Predictable, cosy and bound to be a hit

British telly is in the grip of a phenomenon that I like to call “the Doc Martin effect”. Take a gorgeously scenic location (bonus points if it’s in Cornwall). Then add a fish-out-of-water protagonist with the sort of job that lends itself well to case-by-case storytelling. You basically have two main options, police officer or doctor, although a private investigator or vet might work, at a stretch. And there you have it: the blueprint for your wildly successful TV drama.

Beyond Paradise, now in its second season, sticks closely to this formula. In fact, it’s an idea-strapped commissioner’s dream, because it’s also a spin-off of another classic of the detective-in-stunning-location genre, Death in Paradise. Kris Marshall spent four seasons as that show’s resident cop, DI Humphrey Goodman, attempting to deal with the improbably high murder rate in the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie. When Marshall left, his departure was explained away by his character’s desire to return to England with his girlfriend, Martha (Sally Bretton). Now, the couple are based in the sleepy, made-up Devon town of Shipton Abbott (it’s filmed in Cornwall, though, Doc Martin fans), where there are just as many suspicious, inventive deaths. It’s practically the South West’s answer to Midsomer.

It’s predictable, cosy and full of vaguely familiar British character actors doing accents. Much like Death in Paradise, it’s also incredibly popular: the first series was the UK’s most-watched new drama of 2023. In the season two opener, things take a turn for the meta. Humphrey and police sergeant Esther (Zahra Ahmadi) are roped into taking part in a murder mystery night, thanks to some persuasion from their colleague Margo (Felicity Montagu, best known as Alan Partridge’s eternally put-upon PA, Lynn).

Cosy crime: Kris Marshall as DI Humphrey Goodman (Red Planet Pictures/David Appleby)
Cosy crime: Kris Marshall as DI Humphrey Goodman (Red Planet Pictures/David Appleby)

Just to amp up the Agatha Christie parallels, the setting is an old-fashioned steam engine. Cue Humphrey waxing lyrical about his passion for 19th-century trains, and an extremely obvious visual gag. It’s hardly a spoiler to tell you that, yes, almost as soon as he gets in the engine room, he presses the wrong lever and sends the vehicle hurtling down the tracks.

Soon, the inevitable happens, and the performer playing the murder victim gets bumped off during a rehearsal, leaving Humphrey presiding over his very own locked room mystery, like a low-budget Murder on the Orient Express (“One of those people in there really is the murderer,” he declares, wide-eyed). The sensational circumstances surrounding the death soon turn it into a local cause célèbre, and the pressure is on for Humphrey and Esther to find their killer quickly. Not that this urgency seems to alter their policing techniques much: they still essentially rely on sending the wee English fella from Derry Girls (Dylan Llewellyn, playing permanently baffled junior officer Kelby) to interview old ladies, or making deductions based on a suspect’s off-hand comments about Plymouth Argyle FC.

There’s also a one-note sub-plot in which Humphrey’s mother-in-law Anne (Barbara Flynn) decides to try out online dating, using an app for OAPs called “Silver Heart”. Soon she’s lying about having a dog in order to seem more approachable and declaring that her suitors have given her “the ick”. That’s all wrapped up pretty quickly – and it doesn’t take that much longer to sort out the main mystery either.

Will you probably be able to work out whodunnit by simply looking at which of the potential suspects looks the most shifty early on? Almost certainly. Is following Humphrey and co’s investigation enjoyable enough despite this? Also yes. It’s a solid, easy-to-watch Friday night mystery – one that won’t be killed off any time soon.

‘Beyond Paradise’ season two episodes are released every Friday on BBC One and iPlayer