People often complain about their day. “That day was murder”, they might lament. However, for retired detective Alexa Crowe (played by the marvellous Lucy Lawless), her life truly is murder, specifically the murder of the denizens of her hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. Alexa would rather be cooking, dancing, or hanging out with friends at the local restaurant.
Instead, police officer Harry Henare (Rawiri Jobe) invites her to lunch and hands off the latest in a series of weird murders for Alexa to investigate. Thus is the audience introduced to the basic set up for My Life Is Murder. Season three of this detective series continues the long tradition of non-detectives solving crimes with a clean-up rate the police would be envious of. Think Murder she Wrote, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, or Shakespeare & Hathaway.
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In keeping with the latter entry on that list, the suspension of disbelief in My Life Is Murder is less torturous than most when it comes to investigating crimes. Alexa is, at least, a retired police detective so a current police officer could, conceivably, reach out for a second opinion.
Alexa usually receives her assignments over a table at a local restaurant, and season three is no different. Folders of potentially bizarre crimes are passed across the white linen tablecloth with an explanation of the who, what, why and the where – be it a dancing studio, a retirement village, school, or a catwalk.
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A good detective never goes anywhere without their sidekicks and My Life is Murder follows the established formula by sporting not one but two sidekicks: data analyst Madison Feliciano (Ebony Vagulans), and friend Reuben Wulf (Joseph Naufahu) and, of course, pet police detective, Harry.
This season we see more family drama in the shape of Alexa’s brother Will (Martin Henderson), newly released from prison, aiming to redeem himself in his sister’s eyes and find a way to get on the straight and narrow; a task he doesn’t always manage successfully. He’s played as a loveable rogue, someone who gets in trouble by accident rather than design.
The season plays it decidedly safe across its ten-episode run. The formula is tried and true and even the reveals of additional family members with difficult pasts are easy to spot for anyone who has watched these types of shows before. Everyone plays their role straight down the line, with no big risks taken with the story telling.
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Each episode stands alone with little connection to the one before. Even when there is tension, such as Alexa’s kidnapping by a killer where she’s held at knife point at the end of the episode, the sense of threat or suspense just isn’t there. The tension doesn’t hold any weight and there is never any feeling that Alexa is in any real danger.
The most exciting part of each episode usually happens off camera before the audience is ever clued into the crime – the death that sets the scene for Alexa’s investigation. Christmas lights, poison, even lightning are all causes of death this season, but in most cases they’re only seen in flashbacks, which lessens the impact of the crime and leaves the audience less reason to care about the outcome of the investigation.
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My Life is Murder is beautifully shot, with bright colourful outfits, scenic backgrounds and occasional locations that stand out, but unless you are native to Auckland this could probably be shot anywhere. Most of the locations are interior shots which give little sense of where the series is based, and whilst pretty enough, do little to show off New Zealand.
All that said, if you’re looking for a show that won’t challenge you, if you like gentle murder mysteries that don’t require too much effort and follow tried and true formulas, then this does exactly what it says on the tin.
My Life Is Murder Series 3 and 1 – 3 Box set arrive on DVD and digital on 20th November.