Des (2020) s01e02

While David Tennant is baring his broken soul to biographer Jason Watkins, DCI Daniel Mays is trying to identify Tennant’s numerous victims so they can properly charge him. There are also more attempted murders, with people coming forward.

And even though Tennant says he’s got fifteen victims—and the morgue says possibly twenty—and there are the seven confirmed attempts, Scotland Yard is threatening to shut Mays down. They don’t want to keep paying for the missing person identifications. Gives Mays a lot to mope about. He’s in an especially bad mood when Tennant asks him to find about his dog, then tells Mays he killed a famous missing person.

Said famous missing person is a Canadian tourist and Mays reopening the investigation pisses off Ron Cook because Mays didn’t ask him. Why didn’t Mays ask him? Unclear. Cook starts his yelling saying he would’ve okayed it or something so… it’s just Mays not doing things right. While Luke Neal’s script is ostensibly trying to show Mays’s diligence, all we find out about him this episode is he ignores things and is a disinterested partner, husband, and father. I’ve been waiting to find out the reason for his divorce is he’s closeted, hence his reactions to Tennant—we find out right at the end of the episode Watkins wants to write about him because he’s gay and Watkins is gay and Watkins doesn’t want the book being done by some homophobic piece of eighties shit—but no. Mays isn’t divorced because he’s gay. He’s on his fourth marriage because British women love apparently Droopy Dog cops who whine about wanting to see their kids but don’t do anything about it.

He also misses clues. Chanel Cresswell, who’s rather good for “Des,” like… there isn’t much in the way of standout supporting performances but Cresswell comes close—she thinks her ex might be one of the victims and drops a major clue in her statement and if it ever registers with Mays, we don’t find out. Though he is the only cop smart enough to think if you kept a murdered person’s possessions you might clean off the fingerprints.

Then there’s a brief thread about Scotland Yard being pissed off about Watkins writing a book and Mays never acknowledges he heard about it and didn’t follow up. Not even to himself.

The stuff with Watkins and Tennant’s good—Tennant’s got a lot of musing on his motives and the source of his murderous impulses–and Watkins is definitely a bit better than last episode. Not enough. And Mays is still a wet towel.

The ending’s a surprise (though also not really because Neal ties it to another twist). So… effective cliffhanger, let’s call it.

But with only one more… “Des” has pretty clearly hit its quality ceiling. The missing persons stuff is fascinating? A documentary would probably be better.

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