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Series / McDonald & Dodds

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McDonald & Dodds is a British Detective Drama set in the city of Bath, created by Robert Murphy and starring Tala Gouveia and Jason Watkins as mismatched detectives DCI Lauren McDonald and DS Dodds.

The first series aired on ITV in 2020, followed by the second in 2021 (although the broadcast of the third episode of the latter was delayed until later in the year to avoid a scheduling clash with Line of Duty on The BBC). A third series was aired in 2022.

The show provides examples of:

  • The '80s: Invoked by the four main murder suspects in "The Man Who Wasn't There", all of whom are celebrities from that decade who are still riding high thanks to the profits of their heyday. Bonus points for one of them being played by Martin Kemp.
  • Accent Slip-Up: Dodds becomes suspicious after an otherwise posh lady pronounces a word the way a working class Northerner might say it. She is from Manchester and is living in witness protection under an assumed identity.
  • The Alcoholic: Jane, the Victim of the Week in "A Wilderness of Mirrors", is one of these.
  • Always Murder: Yes indeed, although in some cases the Victim of the Week's demise is initially assumed to be something else (suicide in "A Wilderness of Mirrors", for example) although it's not long before someone (Dodds, usually) works out that it was actually murder.
  • Balloonacy: Deconstructed in "The Man Who Wasn't There" as the murder happens when a hot-air balloon flight goes wrong — the suspects all claim that the victim actually jumped out in order to ensure that the balloon lost weight, thus saving their lives. A later attempt by Roy Gilbert to send Dodds to his likely death by launching him alone in a hot-air balloon is averted when several characters use their combined weight to stop the balloon from properly taking off.
  • The Bard on Board: "The Fall of the House of Crockett" references King Lear.
  • Batman Gambit: In "The Man Who Wasn't There", Roy Gilbert sabotages the hot-air balloon, figuring that one or more of Barbara, Gordon, Jackie and Mick will push Frankie Marsh out ... which is what happens. As Roy also happens to be the air accident investigator who gets assigned to the case, he's in a great position to remove crucial evidence from the crash site and use it to frame Mick, an experienced hot-air balloon pilot, as the saboteur.
  • British Brevity: Two episodes in the first series, three each in the second and third.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Five years ago, Dodds helped catch a teenage robber. Dodds barely remember the case and fails to recognize the thief when he runs into him in the present. To the young thief, Dodds ruined his life.
  • The Chessmaster: Max Crockett in "The Fall of the House of Crockett"; he has been manipulating his daughters and their spouses for years, and does his best to obstruct and derail the investigation into a murder that we know he had a hand in thanks to the partial use of the Reverse Whodunnit trope in this episode.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Dodds's lack of knowledge of modern technology means that, when McDonald mentions Spotify and Alexa, he has no idea about the former and assumes that the latter is a real person who lives with McDonald and her boyfriend. When McDonald mentions that she made said boyfriend give up his job as a barista due to a perceived lack of career development opportunities, Dodds is confused as to why she should have done this. Turns out, he is also unfamiliar with modern coffee-shops and so does not know what a barista is, and is therefore under the impression that she'd made him give up being a barrister (ie. a lawyer).
  • Da Chief: Chief Superintendent John Houseman, who isn't fond of DS Dodds and is frustrated that DCI McDonald actually works well with him.
    • Houseman is replaced in series 3 by Chief Superintendent Mary Ormond, who is much more supportive of both and clearly respects their capabilities.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: DCI McDonald towards DS Dodds
  • The Ditz: DC Craig can come across as this. At one point, he seems to seriously suggest alien abduction as a possible reason for how the Victim of the Week could physically get from where he was last seen alive to where his body was found in the short time-frame between those two events.
    • When it is pointed out in "We Need To Talk About Doreen" that Angela has the same birthday as Isambard Kingdom Brunel (which, as it turns out, is a significant plot point), she asks who he is, and wonders out loud if he was at the party the other night. It takes a lot of effort for her friends not to Face Palm.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind:
    • The murderer tends to be the one you'd least expect, or even someone you wouldn't have thought to suspect. Although the writers rather gave the game away with the title of the Series Two episode "We Need To Talk About Doreen", which perhaps inevitably focuses the attention of the viewer on that character — who turns out to be the murderer.
    • Played with in "A Billion Beats". Once the detectives run out of suspects, they discover a connection to the undercover policeman who has been assisting on the sides. They then realize that they are grasping at straws and re-examine their assumptions about the murder. It turns out that the real murder was the team owner who was a major character but always on the periphery of the investigation since he seemed to lack motive and opportunity to commit the crime.
    • Taken to the extreme in "War of Rose" when the killer turns out to be the very last person one expected: the person everyone thought was the victim.
    • Invoked by the killer in "Clouds Across the Moon" who confounds the police because there seems to be no connection that links the murderer to the victims and he can thus interact with the police without arousing suspicion.
  • Fanservice: Angela, the ditzy prime suspect in "We Need To Talk About Doreen", comes across as this. Especially when she's shown wearing a low-cut swimming costume in a spa.
  • Fictional Counterpart: The "West of England Police" is this to the Avon & Somerset Police, the regional constabulary that actually covers Bath. This is actually Fridge Brilliance as it gets around Jurisdiction Friction issues which would've arisen had the writers gone with real-life police forces. For example, the Mystery of the Week in "We Need To Talk About Doreen" is a murder that happens in the Box Tunnel, which is actually in Wiltshire (albeit a part of Wiltshire that's just ten miles from Bath) — a murder occuring there in Real Life would be investigated by the Wiltshire Constabulary, with the British Transport Police probably getting involved as well given that it's a working railway line.
    • In "We Need To Talk About Doreen", the "Bath Eagles" rugby team are this to the real-life Bath RFC.
  • Fish out of Water: McDonald, who has transferred to Bath from London. Most apparent in the first episode, "The Fall of the House of Crockett", in which her strong-arming of well-connected suspects (one of whom is a local councillor who is on the police oversight committee) does not go over well.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: A couple of these...
    • Frankie Marsh, the Victim of the Week in "The Man Who Wasn't There".
    • Doreen in "We Need To Talk About Doreen" is treated like this by Angela, although the latter insists that she's her "bestie". Although in actual fact, Doreen is the one treating Angela like this.
    • To a certain extent, Dodds is regarded as this by his colleagues; in the first episode, Houseman makes it clear that he has been assigned to a murder investigation because he does not fit in at HQ (where he previously had a desk job) and that he should be persuaded to take early retirement.
  • The Ghost: McDonald's boyfriend. Sometimes mentioned, usually in a way that makes him seem like a bit of a Butt-Monkey, but never seen.
  • Happily Adopted: Dodds was raised by his aunt and had a happy childhood. When given a chance to find out more about his birth mother, he declines. His aunt raised him as if he was her own son and was the mother he needed.
  • High-Class Call Girl: Gender-flipped in "The Fall of the House of Crockett" when Jack Valentine is revealed to be a male escort who hires himself out to men for £200 an hour, or £2,000 for the night. According to dialogue, he started doing this as a student to make ends meet, and it has become his family's main source of income, masking the fact that the business he runs with his wife is a failure. For her part, she acts as his pimp, and thinks he actually enjoys it (which he denies).
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: A downplayed case in the Season 3 opener. The team are persuing a knifeman and who disarms him? Dodds, with a swift kick to the kneecap after the guy gets up after Dodds tripped him. Justified as Dodds is a trained police officer and would have the ability to deal with the situation.
  • Indy Ploy: The murderer in "We Need To Talk About Doreen" always intended to murder Dominique in such a way as to make it look like Angela did it, but did not have a clear idea as to how she would do so trusting instead that an opportunity would present itself and that, being smarter than everyone thought, she would be able to make the circumstances work for her. Which it, and she, did.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Dodds's "rough terrain shoes", which he keeps in the boot of McDonald's car, look almost identical to his regular shoes.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: In "A Billion Beats", a race car driver was stabbed in the neck with the intent that he would die of the wound during a practice race and the subsequent car crash would hide the evidence. However, the driver instead died during a pit stop which meant that the police were left with clear evidence of murder.
  • The Mole: In "A Wilderness of Mirrors", Houseman suggests that McDonald uses DS Irene Ross as this by bringing her in as the "family liaison officer" for the addiction support group — all of whom are suspects. She's actually in league with them, though, which makes the decision to use her on the case a Contrived Coincidence.
  • Montage: Dodds gets one of these when carrying out library-based research into Max Crockett's past in "The Fall of the House of Crockett".
  • Mundane Solution: When the Victim of the Week's body is found in the Box Tunnel in "We Need To Talk About Doreen", Dodds spots a pentagram on the deceased's wrist and quickly concludes that this was an occult murder. An amused DC Craig points out that it's more likely to be a wrist-stamp from a Bath nightclub called Pentagram ... which is quickly shown to be the case.
  • Murder by Mistake: A complicated double subversion in "The Fall of the House of Crockett". It's not long before the police find evidence that makes it seem like the victim was mistaken for Max Crockett (the two men were of a similar build, and the victim was not only in Max's house but wearing one of his suits and hats). Evidence, in the form of photos which connect the victim to the murder, is then found which indicates that the murder was intentional after all. Eventually, it turns out the killer actually did make a mistake but had been manipulated into doing so — Max had intentionally goaded her into killing him, in addition to which he set up the situation in which the victim would be confused for him, as part of a scheme to both be rid of the victim and get leverage on the killer.
  • Mysterious Past: Dodds' history is vague. He had a wife who left him years prior to the series, how he ended up on desk duty is never explained and Houseman's dislike of him isn't either.
  • No Name Given: Dodds, who is only known by his rank (Detective Sergeant) and his surname.
  • Odd Couple: The title characters. DCI McDonald is a thoroughly modern, mixed-race, tech-savvy, smartly-dressed professional woman who's transferred to Bath from London in the first episode. DS Dodds is a local, set-in-his ways, details-obsessed middle-aged white man who dresses in dowdy clothes. Together, they fight crime.
  • Rail Enthusiast: In "We Need To Talk About Doreen", Dodds is revealed to be one of these; he's delighted to find a very detailed train-set in the house where the fatal party was held. Doreen is also much taken by it, although she has an ulterior motive for her interest.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: Partially done in "The Fall of the House of Crockett"; we know from the start that Max is in on the murder — not only is he the first person to find the body, he is seen to fake evidence for a break-in, in addition to stealing the statuette (to make it look like a robbery-to-order) and the victim's mobile phone (to hinder the investigation) before the police arrive. However, he has an unbreakable alibi for the murder itself, and the identity of the person who actually shot the victim is not revealed until the climax of the episode.
  • Scenery Porn: So very, very much. McDonald & Dodds is set in the gorgeous city of Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its Roman and Georgian heritage. This is emphasised by the use of many of that city's landmarks — the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey, The Royal Crescent, Pulteney Bridge, etc — for street scenes and lingering overhead shots.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: At play with the Crockett family in "The Fall of the House of Crockett" — Max, the head of the family, is a rich man who is well-regarded locally, and one of his daughters is a respected city councillor who's married to a top lawyer.
  • Shout-Out: Season 3 episode "A Billion Beats" guests stars Paul McGann, Naoko Mori and Louise Jameson and has a few to Doctor Who, most notably Naoko's first line on entering the offices of Paul's character's business which is a dismissive "It looks much smaller on the inside".
  • Smarter Than You Look: With his dull dress sense and West Country accent, Dodds is an example of this rather than Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Smug Snake: Chief Superintendent Houseman — McDonald's boss — comes across as one of these in addition to his Obstructive Bureaucrat tendencies.
  • Special Guest: Or rather, a well-known British actor, and usually more than one per episode — Robert Lindsay, Hugh Dennis, Patsy Kensit, Martin Kemp, Rob Brydon, Sharon Rooney, etc.
  • Tattooed Crook: The victim in "The Fall of the House of Crockett" has the words "LOVE" and "HATE" tattooed on his knuckles, enabling McDonald to quickly deduce that he's probably done time in prison, meaning that his fingerprints will be on record and he can therefore be identified. She's right. Since this happens in her first scene in the show, it counts as an Establishing Character Moment for her, showing the viewer and the Bath police that this Fish out of Water from London knows her stuff.
  • Title Drop: The title of each episode is worked into the dialogue of that episode, usually at a key moment.
  • Urban Legends: Contrary to what Dodds says, it's not actually true that Brunel's birthday is the only day of the year when the rising sun shines directly through the Box Tunnel — although this is clearly a "fact" that viewers are meant to accept at face value as it turns out to be integral to the plot. In actual fact, the sun appears to do this at dawn on several mornings in early April around the time of Brunel's birthday (9th April), but not exclusively on that date.
  • The West Country: Bath is in Somerset note , so yes. Dodds speaks with a mild regional accent.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Most of the suspects in "We Need To Talk About Doreen" cannot remember what happened at the party at which Dominique was killed because they were all very drunk, having consumed some cocktails at a nightclub before going to the party where there was plenty more booze.