It may just be the museum setting or Lucy Lawless making fun of a woman with a dog in a stroller at the beginning of the episode, but I’m really on board with this season of “My Life is Murder.” The actual big difference—besides giving Lawless some backstory to drive her character and the move to New Zealand—is turning Lawless and sidekick Ebony Vagulans into roomies. They can’t avoid one another (more precisely, Lawless can’t avoid Vagulans), and so there’s a lot more banter.
Including Lawless dropping backstory bombs. She had to pick mom over dad and Australia over New Zealand—Vagulans doesn’t seem surprised to hear Lawless has a brother, even though it was new information for the audience last episode, so maybe she already knew. There’s a nice bit of implied gravitas to the relationship, though Lawless is still a jerk whenever Vagulans talks about her own family. Or to hottie restauranteur Joe Naufahu about almost everything. Though whenever Lawless and copper Rawiri Jobe meet up—including a chemistry-filled stakeout sequence—she’s nicely softer.
There’s no question of whether or not the case is foul play this episode—museum curator Josh McKenzie ends up dead in a river with blunt force trauma to the head—Jobe just can’t figure out motive or opportunity. Lawless and Vagulans head to the museum, where Lawless spent lots of time as a tween and has lots of memories, and start interrogating the staff. There’s working partner and ex-girlfriend Manon Blackman, helpful and flirtatious security guard Matariki Whatarau, and then head curator (or something akin to it) Anna Hutchison.
The mystery solution is relatively obvious (does Jobe even do his job) once all the facts come to light, but Lawless has to find them all. There are some missing security tapes, a mysterious symbol, and a lover’s quarrel or three.
Once again, the show leverages Lawless’s widow backstory to help her bond with Blackman, which becomes a slight character development arc for both of them. Blackman’s not in the episode very much—she’s the obvious prime suspect, and she bungles a North by Northwest alibi—so instead, flirty Whatarau and grieving mentor Hutchison get the most material. Both of them are good; this episode’s acting, down to bit player Wesley Dowdell, is quite good.
Plus the museum. Director Mike Smith really captures the grandeur of the open interiors while Lawless does an excellent job of being nostalgically touched.
It’s early, but I’m already hoping “My Life is Murder” gets another season. Especially if they stay in New Zealand.