The third episode of Lewis was broadcast last night on ITV1 and I thought it ended the Inspector Morse spin-off's first series on a high. Guy Andrews wrote the script for Expiation and his central mystery was a real brain-teaser. The title was wel chosen, as the story was all about people seeking to atone for their sins and wrongdoings. The script featured two twists along the way, one surprising and one shocking, the latter of which made me gasp at its boldness. Lewis threw police procedure out the window, but its progenitor was never written as a procedural by creator Colin Dexter, nor did his novels turn procedural when adapted to TV.
Where Lewis came alive last night was the developing relationship between the title character and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Hathaway. They sparked off each other, bringing the best out of both characters. Actors Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox worked beautifully together, communicating a strong sense of their characters being comfortable in each other's company, just as Whately did with John Thaw in Inspector Morse. There was a wonderful moment where a headmaster mistakenly thinks the two detectives are a gay couple looking to enrol their child at his school. Hard to imagine the same thing happening with Morse!
The one-off Lewis special transmitted in January last year was the highest-rating drama on British TV last year, with more than 11 million viewers watching. Advance publicity for the show was massive, plus it had the Morse legacy to boost interest and it was more than five years since the final episode of Morse had been screened - all factors likely to boost ratings. The three-part series that concluded last night was never going to match that success, but the first two episodes still performed strongly, winning their timeslot and attracting nearly one in three of all viewers.
A second series of Lewis is already in development, with shooting scheduled for this summer for broadcast early in 2008. Oxford's most famous detective may be long gone, but the legacy of Colin Dexter's creations lives on in Lewis - and I can't wait to see more.
UPDATE: Overnight ratings estimate the last episode of Lewis got 8.4 million viewers, a big jump from episodes one (7.4 million) and two (7.3). The finale had a 37% share of the total viewing audience during the two hours it was broadcast - a great finish for one of ITV's most successful new launches in recent years. It looks like Lewis is here to stay, so long as Whately and Fox are happy.