Series: Father Brown

A 2013 BBC television series adapted from the Father Brown mystery stories written by G. K. Chesterton, starring Mark Williams (who you might recognise as Arthur Weasley, Brian Williams or, further back in time, part of Paul Whitehouse's team on The Fast Show) as the titular mystery-solving Catholic priest.

The series takes some liberties with Chesterton's original stories. Where the originals were written and set between 1911 and 1936 and had the good father turn up all over the world, this series is set in the 1950s and positions Father Brown as the kind-hearted and insightful parish priest of the fictional small town of Kembleford in the Cotswolds. It also gives Father Brown a regular supporting cast, including Inspector Valentine (Hugo Speer), a long-suffering policeman who finds Father Brown interfering in his investigations more often than not; Mrs. McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack), the holier-than-thou parish secretary; Susie (Kasia Koleczek), a Polish refugee who works as Father Brown's part-time housekeeper; Lady Felicia (Nancy Carroll), a wealthy socialite with a wandering eye and a frequently-absent husband; and Sid (Alex Price), a local handyman and petty crook whom Father Brown tries to keep on the straight and narrow.

The first season aired over two weeks in January 2013, composed of ten episodes; half were loose adaptations of Chesterton's original stories, and the other half were wholly original. A second series was commissioned and aired over the course of two weeks in January the following year, with each of the ten episodes airing on the weekdays between January 6th to January 17th. A third series was shown in January 2015.


Tropes:

  • Affably Evil: The murderer in "The Daughters Of Jerusalem". As he prepares to kill Father Brown , he says "I'm looking forward to all this being over. Popping the question... maybe a kiddie or two"
  • Amateur Sleuth: Father Brown.
  • Arch-Enemy: Hercule Flambeau.
  • Backwards-Firing Gun: In "The Lair of the Libertines", one Victim of the Week is killed when the killer removes the safety catch from is pistol. This causes the firing pin to shoot out backwards when he fires the pistol, hitting him between the eyes.
  • Becoming the Mask: The man performing the Dead Person Impersonation in "The Truth in the Wine" comes to thoroughly believe in the dream of the late colonel, and does his best to live a life worthy of the dead man.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Oona in "The Grim Reaper". She bursts into tears in her first scene, and that's before Father Brown believes she's writing poison pen letters, people think she's an adulteress and spit at her in the street - and, oh, her husband has confessed to murder.
  • Canon Foreigner: Aside from Inspector Valentine, who is based on a character who appeared in the early stories, all the supporting cast are original creations.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Subverted in the first episode, which features members of the Church of England, but on the whole the series tends to feature and revolve around Catholicism, and most of the main characters are Catholic. Of course, since the show openly and clearly revolves around a Catholic priest, this is justified.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Befalls Susie after the first series.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: The scene of the murder in "The Standing Stones".
  • Clear My Name/Clear Their Name: In "The Owl of Minerva", Inspector Sullivan is framed for murder. After breaking out of gaol, he is forced to team-up with Father Brown and his associates in order to clear his name.
  • Cold Reading: Father Brown accurately pegs this as part of the methodology of Kalon, the leader of the cult-like Church of Apollo. Unfortunately, it manages to work on Suzie, who has been feeling particularly vulnerable, prompting Father Brown and Sid to try and extract her from Kalon's clutches.
  • Cramming the Coffin: In "The Curse of Amenhotep", the killer attempts to dispose of Father Brown by sealing him inside a sarcophagus.
  • Cricket Episode: In "The Last Man", the arrest of the new cricket captain of Kembleford's cricket team for the murder of the team's fast bowler, and a suicide the year before in the cricket pavilion and a match against a rival village to determine the ownership of the cricket ground finds Father Brown consoling the victim's mother, solving a murder involving blackmail, playing cricket and watching Lady Felicia as the last man of the innings.
  • Curse Cut Short: Surprisingly, Father Brown utters one of these at the end of the Series 2 episode, "The Mysteries of the Rosary". After finding the titular rosary, he produces the small silver case in which he'd kept it from the lockbox in order to present it to Professor Ambrose. In its place, however, is a note from mercenary-slash-thief Flambeau. Cue the priest exclaiming, "The thieving-"
  • Curtain Camouflage: In "The Man in the Shadows", Sid is forced to hide behind a curtain when he is snooping around outside the archive and the door opens unexpectedly.
  • Cut Phone Lines: In "The Lair of the Libertines", the phone line to the hotel is cut. Father Brown discovers this just after he finds the first body.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: In "The Truth in the Wine", a sergeant took over the identity of a colonel with whom he shared a hospital room. Realising he was dying, the colonel asked the sergeant (who had no family) to take over his identity and return to England to fulfill his dream of turning the family estate into a vineyard. Not having been home to England in decades, he was confident no one would spot the substitution and coached the sergeant on everything he would need to know.
  • Detective Mole: In "The Standing Stones", the local policeman who is assisting the investigation turns out to be the killer.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The first Body of the Week in "The Lair of the Libertines" is a prostitute who does not get any lines.
  • Down to the Last Play: In "The Last Man", Kembleford is playing a vital cricket for ownership of the local cricket ground. With three balls left and six runs needed to win, the opposing team engages in some Unnecessary Roughness to knock out Kembleford's star player with a cricket ball to the head. Kenbleford already being a man down, Lady Felecia goes in as last man, and hits a six on the final ball.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: The killer in "The Lair of the Libertines" is ultimately revealed to be this.
  • Eureka Moment: Not surprising in a mystery series. One notable moment is in "The Grim Reaper", when Oona realises there was no chaff in her husband's clothing, which means he couldn't have pushed Albert Tatton into the threshing machine.
  • Evil Counterpart: Kalon in "The Eye of Apollo" is this for Father Brown. Both are devout men of faith, but where Father Brown believes in reason, is kind-hearted and sincere, puts the well-being of his parishioners first and cares only about Suzie's well-being throughout the episode, Kalon is a blind fanatic, is smug and duplicitous, is devoted to his church to the point where he is willing to sacrifice others to protect it, and lusts after Suzie and wants her for himself.
  • The Exiles: Edward and Jia-Li become these in "The Prize of General Gerard". After Jia-Li murders Gerard rather than submit to being his mistress, she and Edward, who had fallen in love with each other, flee Britain with forged passports. Father Brown, having satisfied himself that Jia-Li was truly repentant for killing Gerard, turns a blind eye to their escape.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The murderer in the episode "The Face of Death" is definitely this.
  • Fed to Pigs: How the killer disposes of the bodies in episode "The Shadow of the Scaffold". This is discovered when a finger bone with a ring on it is discovered in the stomach of a pig being prepared for tripe.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: In "The Time Machine", one victim was killed by having strychnine placed in the bowl of his pipe.
  • Genre Savvy: Sister Boniface in the "Bride of Christ" just loves being in involved in a murder mystery. She's even holding a copy of Agatha Christie's "Sparkling Cyanide" when the police come to interview her.
  • Giving Them the Strip: After being pinned to a target by a crossbow bolt in "The Lair of the Libertines", Father Brown escapes by taking off his cassock.
  • Gold Digger: The Victim of the Week in "The Curse of Amenhotep" is the much younger second wife of Sir Raleigh Beresford. And by much younger, we mean she is younger that Sir Raleigh's adult son. She admits to her lover that she only married Sir Raleigh to get her hands on his money.
  • Hat Damage: In "The Lair of the Libertines'', the doctor shoots the fez off Cryus's head, which serves to show the viewers how heedless of others safety the doctor is. For the rest of the episode, Cyrus's fez has a neat bullet hole in it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In "The Lair of the Libertines", the Egomaniac Hunter who is stalking Father Brown falls victim to one of the many mantraps they had scattered over the grounds of the hotel.
  • Holier Than Thou: Father Roland in "The Daughters of Jerusalem" is incredibly pious and tends to look down on Father Brown because of it. It turns out to be over-compensating for guilt due to his love for a woman he met while a missionary.
  • Human Mail: In "The Paradise of Thieves", the murderer gained access to the bank vault by having himself shipped in inside a crate supposedly containing pieces of art.
  • Human Sacrifice: In "The Standing Stones", a group of villagers plan to sacrifice an innocent in order to end an outbreak of polio.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: An Egomaniac Hunter does this to Father Brown at the end of "The Lair of the Libertines".
  • Inspector Lestrade: Inspector Valentine. Sullivan is a somewhat lesser example of this. While he does make arrests and attempt to progress the investigation, his knowledge almost always lags behind that of the "meddling" Father Brown.
  • If Jesus Then Aliens: Raised in "The Eye of Apollo", where members of the sun-and-astral-spirit worshipping cult challenge Father Brown that, as a Catholic priest, he should be open-minded towards the possibility of otherworldly phenomenon of the type they preach. Father Brown points out that there is a distinction between what is possible and what is probable.
  • Intoxication Ensues: In "The Lair of the Libertines'', the hostess at the hotel feeds Father Brown a fruitcake laced with opium. This makes father Brown very woozy and he quickly passes out.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: In "The Owl of Minerva", Sullivan and Sid pose as window washers in order to break into the police station.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In the first episode, the loutish Norman Bohen is taunting the Catholics present at the Anglican vicar's party about their religious differences, and makes dismissive reference to the pomp and ceremony of Catholicism. While Father Brown's parishioners react with great offense, Father Brown himself has a look on his face that suggests that he thinks Bohen has a little bit of a point.
  • Laxative Prank: In "The Time Machine", a girls spikes her sister's water bottle in an attempt to cause her to lose a race. Unfortunately, this act coincides with her sister keeling over from a dose of strychnine.
  • L Is for Dyslexia: Lucia and Lady Margaret Galloway in the Series One episode "The Face Of Death". It's the fact that Lucia inherited the condition from her mother that leads Father Brown to solve the mystery.
  • Light Is Not Good: Kalon, the sinister cult-leader in "The Eye of Apollo", wears beautiful and pristine white robes, in contrast to Father Brown's scruffy black cassock.
  • Locked in a Freezer: In "The Paradise of Theives", Father Brown and Sid get locked in a bank vault and are in danger of suffocating. In working out how to escape, Father Brown also works out the solution to the Locked Room Mystery.
  • Locked Room Mystery:
    • "The Curse of Amenhotep". The Victim of the Week is found alone in a room that was locked from the inside. It turns out that she was poisoned earlier. The poison caused hallucinations that made her lock herself in the room where she succumbed to the poison.
    • In "The Paradise of Thieves", the Victim of the Week is found locked inside a bank vault. Suspicion naturally falls upon the only person with keys to the vault. Father Brown believes him to be innocent and sets up to discover how this seemingly impossible crime could have been committed.
  • Mercy Lead: The Egomaniac Hunter gives one to Father Brown in "The Lair of the Libertines": giving him the time it takes them to finishing loading their rifle in which to run.
  • Mythology Gag: Sid is so named because he's broadly similar to Bert, a Canon Foreigner in the 1954 movie, who was played by Sid James.
  • Naked People Are Funny: When Father Brown, Lady Felecia and Mrs Mccarthy are stranded in the middle of nowhere, Mrs McCarthy is shocked when a man wearing nothing but a fez wanders past and greets her politely. He turns out to be a naturist staying at a local hotel.
  • Obfuscating Disability: The killer in "The Shadow of the Scaffold". Father Brown discovers this when he realises that they could not have seen they claimed to have witnessed unless they were standing up.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Gerald Firth, shot in the head by a sniper during the war. After managing to survive and make a recovery, albeit suffering from delirium in the process, he gives himself a name by which he's known for the majority of the episode in which he features: Kalon.
  • Pinned to the Wall: In "The Lair of the Libertines", the killer prevents Father Brown from leaving the hotel grounds by using a crossbow bolt to pin his cassock to a target.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Father Brown pulls this in "The Man in the Shadows" with a slight twist as he does it to save a life. Knowing that a Soviet agent has put cyanide in her tea so she won't be taken alive, he asks her for some sugar and then switches teacups with her while her back is turned.
  • Plot Driving Secret / Red Herring: With Father Brown being a crime mystery series, it's safe to assume that both of these pop up frequently. However, in "The Deadly Seal", the culprit - Natasha, Lady Felicia's goddaughter - decides to abuse Father Brown's status as The Confidant in order to throw investigators off the scent of the murder. By telling Father Brown in a confessional that Bishop Talbot was to be assassinated the following morning, Natasha forces the Catholic priest into a religious dilemma. Being unable to break the "seal of the confessional" and explain the situation, he elects to attempt to avert the assassination. While he succeeds, the episode reveals that the false confession was a ruse to hide the true plot; for her to kill Talbot's chauffeur/bodyguard on behalf of his wife, who in turn made a pact to kill Natasha's father who had abused her as a child, somewhat mirroring Strangers On A Train.
  • Politically Correct History: Generally averted. A notable example is when a good character actually blackmails someone over the fact that he is homosexual. She will give the money to a good cause, but even so...
    • In several instances, Father Brown's own political and spiritual attitudes can a bit closer to the twenty-first century than you might otherwise expect from a 1950s Catholic priest.
    • The episode "The Last Man" touches on attitudes towards gays and Indians.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Discussed by the show-runners here and here. Essentially, a lot of the main changes between the original stories and this adaptation are for reasons of cost and to adapt the show in such a fashion that it fits into the modern television landscape.
  • Put on a Bus: Following his promotion to the rank of DCI in the London Metropolitan Police, Inspector Valentine makes way for a successor, Inspector Sullivan.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: After hearing the confession of Norman Bohen's brother in "The Hammer Of God" and the reasons why he committed the crime and doesn't feel guilty about either the crime or the possibility that Elizabeth could hang for it, Father Brown yells, "God! Is not! Your scapegoat!!" The fact that this is pretty much the only occasion over the course of nearly two dozen episodes in which the sleuthing priest raises his voice in anger/outrage, it isn't just the punctuation that emphasises the line.
  • Race Against the Clock: In "The Shadow of the Scaffold", Father Brown has three days (as authorities wait for the results of her pregnancy test to come back) to solve a murder before the woman convicted of the crime hangs.
  • Recurring Riff: The show's main theme is used in various forms and tempos as dramatic incidental music during many of the episodes.
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: Used by the killer in "The Lair of the Libertines" to ignite a Vapor Trail that destroys a motorbike and nearly kills Lady Felecia and Mrs McCarthy.
  • Shaming the Mob: Father Brown does this in "The Standing Stones", delivering a speech to a group of villagers who were planning a human sacrifice in an attempt to stop an outbreak of polio. While it does not sway the leader, it gives most of them pause, and make one of them switch sides and cut Father Brown's bonds so he can escape.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: In "The Prize of General Gerard", Father Brown compares Edward to Hamlet, suggesting that like the Melancholy Dane, Edward was pretending to be insane as part of his plan to avenge his father. Edward believed that his uncle Gerard killed his father and seduced his mother. Turns out he was right.
  • So Much for Stealth: The 'stepping on a twig' version happen to Inspector Sullivan in "The Owl of Minerva" as he is sneaking up on a secret meeting being held by Father Brown. Fleeing, he runs straight into the murderer.
  • Touché: A silent one during the verbal duel near the end of "The Eye of Apollo". After Father Brown insists the falsehood of a central tenet of Kalon's religion, the cult leader's immediate comeback causes Brown to adopt a facial expression that could only suggest this.
    Father Brown: "There are no astral spirits!!"
    Kalon: "Says the man who believes in virgin births."
    Father Brown: *lengthy pause, with a touché look on his face* "...sorry."
    • There is a double meaning to this example, however, since Father Brown also says this before delivering Kalon with conclusive proof that his religion actually is based on nothing more than the delusions of a fevered and damaged mind: Kalon's religious symbol, which be believes to have been delivered to him by the aforementioned astral spirits, is in fact based on nothing more than his confused reaction to a doctor's stethoscope while under medical treatment.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: A one-sided version; Inspector Valentine gets very irritated with Father Brown's nosing into his job, but recognises that the priest often knows what he's doing. Valentine's replacement, Inspector Sullivan, arguably has a dimmer view of Brown's involvement. In the eight episodes in which he's led the police side of the investigation, from "Maddest Of All", up to the penultimate episode of Series 2, "The Grim Reaper", he's done little else but insist that the sleuthing be left to the pros. In the last episode of Series 2 "The Laws of Motion",he actually arrests Father Brown.
    • Valentine's successor, Inspector Sullivan, has his own instance of this in "The Eye of Minerva". Having been made the scapegoat in a conspiracy initially involving a journalist and being charged with - and almost convicted for - murder, Sullivan makes his way back to Kembleford for two reasons: the town is the only place where he can prove his innocence and, whether he likes/approves of it or not, he knows that Father Brown's tendency to meddle will work out as more a help than a hindrance.
  • The Reason You Suck: Father Brown delivers one of these speeches at the end of "The Curse of Amenhotep". It's pleasingly effective.
  • Turn in Your Badge: In one episode Father Brown is told by his unamused bishop that he is going to lose his parish.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: In "The Owl of Minerva", Father Brown and Inspector Sullivan are cornered by the murderer and another member of the conspiracy, only for the other member to turn out to be an inspector from Special Branch who arrests the murderer.
  • Underside Ride: Inspector Sullivan does this to escape in "The Owl of Minerva"; clinging to the underside of the van that is supposed to be transporting him to prison.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: In "The Last Man", a vital cricket match comes down to three balls left and six runs to win. The opposition bowler deliberately bowls a ball at Kembleford's star player's head to knock him out.
  • Vapor Trail: In "The Lair of the Libertines", the killer punctures the petrol tank of the motorcycle being used to leave the hotel. When is runs out petrol and stalls, the killer ignites the trail of petrol with a Reusable Lighter Toss. The bike explodes, barely missing incinerating Lady Felecia and Mrs McCarthy.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: The Victim of the Week in "The Laws of Motion" has the brake lines of her car cut while she is participating in a hill climb.
    • In "The Judgement Of Man", Sid makes the seemingly inconsequential announcement that the sparkplugs from the Rolls Royce have been stolen. It isn't until later in the episode that things become clearer. Although never depicted on-screen. it's safe to assume that Chip, aka Flambeau, stole the sparkplugs so that he would be able to befriend Lady Felicia to the extent that she would invite him to the Belvedere Gallery.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: For two people who make a big show of how much they don't like each other, Mrs. McCarthy and Lady Felicia do seem to spend an odd amount of time hanging out together.
  • Whodunnit to Me: In "The Prize of General Gerard", Father Brown was evidently poisoned by cut-up tiger whiskers in his fish soup, and insisted on finishing the murder investigation, declaring that he was beyond hope and at least he can could function until he died. Turns out he didn't eat the fish soup; he was faking being poisoned because he reasoned that the killer was a person of conscience because he(or as it turned out, she) had researched a possible cure for the poison and even offered it to Father Brown.
  • Wife Husbandry: "The Prize of General Gerard"; Gerard made it clear to Jia-Li, his Chinese-born adopted daughter, that he only brought her to England so that, once she was old enough, she would become his mistress, and even planned to have his nephew Edward committed to an asylum when he found out the truth. Jia-Li and Edward by this time were in love with each other, and Jia-Li murdered Gerard rather than submit to his desires.
  • Wrench Whack: In "The Laws of Motion", the Victim of the Week is done in with a blow to the head from a lug wrench. The killers then plan to make it look like she died in a car accident.