The Father Brown series eight finale opens with a body having already been found. Within seconds of the opening shot, we see Inspector Gerry Mallory (Jack Deam) arriving at the crime scene. Sergeant Daniel Goodfellow (John Burton) is at the crime scene when the police inspector arrives.
Inspector Mallory, with how he frequently wants to do the least amount of work possible, suggests the cause of death must be suicide. Sergeant Goodfellow correctly points out there is no suicide note.
George Oakley (Cal Macaninch), a caretaker and gardener for Helmsley Tower, discovered Reginald Brody’s body. Alistair Helmsley MP (Gyuri Sarossy), the owner of the tower, is shocked by the apparent suicide. Mr Helmsley is an elected member of parliament. The MP tells the police inspector if there is anything he can do to assist with his investigation, he can be found at his house.
As Inspector Mallory and Sergeant Goodfellow walk away, the MP turns to George and tells him that his wife Emily (Susannah Wise) has some jobs for him to complete.
Sergeant Goodfellow discovers something odd about the condition of the body but doesn’t immediately broach the issue with Inspector Mallory as he is busy elsewhere. Knowing Inspector Mallory, he’s probably sightseeing from the top of the tower. The sergeant tells Inspector Mallory Mr Brody had been wearing a scarf. The police inspector doesn’t consider it significant.
The scene transitions to inspector Mallory and Sergeant Goodfellow arriving at the Helmsley residence. Before Inspector Mallory can move forward with any meaningful investigation, Scotland Yard’s Chief Inspector Valentine (Hugo Speer) arrives and informs the Kembleford police inspector that he will be taking over.
Elsewhere, at the presbytery, we see Bridgette “Mrs M” McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack) telling Lady Penelope “Bunty” Windermere (Emer Kenny) and Father Brown (Mark Williams) that it seems Reginald Brody had jumped from the top of Helmsley Tower. Given that this is a Father Brown episode, it’s more likely Mr Brody was pushed. Father Brown doesn’t approve of making assumptions.
Meanwhile, at the top of the tower, we see Chief Inspector Valentine, inspector Mallory, and Sergeant Goodfellow inspect the scene. The sergeant tells the visiting chief inspector that the door wasn’t as much locked as it was barred with a chair. Inspector Mallory believes it a plain and simple case of suicide. Chief Inspector Valentine correctly notes, given his experience of the village, nothing is ever plain and simple.
Sergeant Goodfellow tells the chief inspector about the scarf he found wrapped around Mr Brody’s neck. With it not being winter, the sergeant felt it a tad odd. Inspector Mallory is immediately dismissive of Sergeant Goodfellow’s observations. When Chief Inspector Valentine asks about the scarf’s colour, the sergeant states it was red. What could the colour indicate? Without acknowledging the police inspector, Chief Inspector Valentine leaves the top of the tower.
Elsewhere, we see Mr Oakley hanging a banner reading Helmsley Foundation for Veterans. Even though the MP suggests that he should cancel the fundraiser, his wife tells him that raising money for veterans isn’t going to make him look heartless.
Mr Helmsley is surprised to see Chief Inspector Valentine taking an active interest in the case. The chief inspector informs the MP that the body found at the foot of the tower was that of Reginald Brody. Mr Brody was the father of Phillip Brody, the MP’s former gardener. The chief inspector notes that this isn’t the first time Mr Oakley happened upon a dead body in mysterious circumstances.
When William Helmsley (James Anderson) suggests to Chief Inspector Valentine that Mr Brody’s death might not have resulted from a suicide, he states he is exploring the possibility. Chief Inspector Valentine had referenced Natasha Lipinski. Mrs Helmsley seems rather gleeful when Mr Oakley suggests he had wrongly arrested Phillip Brody for Ms Lipinski’s murder.
Back at the police station, in the police inspector’s office, we see Chief Inspector Valentine briefing Inspector Mallory and Sergeant Goodfellow about his suspicions. Unbeknownst to them, Father Brown has arrived at the police station and is listening to what is being said. Noticing the creaking of floorboards, the chief inspector opens the door.
Whilst Inspector Mallory wants Father Brown to leave them to the investigation, for old time’s sake, Chief Inspector Valentine invites the Catholic priest to remain. Three weeks prior to Mr Brody’s death, Philip Brody died in prison. The chief inspector’s working theory is that Mr Brody found evidence of his son’s innocence and it got him killed.
The chief inspector essentially side-lines Inspector Mallory and Sergeant Goodfellow and works with Father Brown. Inspector Mallory’s facial expression suggests more than a modicum of annoyance.
Elsewhere, we find the MP lost in thought as his wife enters the room. She immediately picks up on the fact that there is something wrong. Mr Helmsley is concerned that Chief Inspector Valentine might suspect one of them killed both Ms Lipinski and Mr Brody. The tone Mrs Helmsley takes suggests a possible involvement in both murders. How exactly does Mrs Helmsley think she can handle the chief inspector? What could Mrs Helmsley possibly have planned for the chief inspector?
Inspector Mallory takes an impertinent tone with the chief inspector which doesn’t go unnoticed. The police inspector and the sergeant find evidence pointing to William Helmsley as being a potential killer. Having had his colleagues bring Mr Helmsley into the police station for questioning, the chief inspector conducts the interrogation.
Chief Inspector Valentine tells Mr Helmsley that a market trader confirmed he had purchased the red scarf from him. This is the same scarf that Mr Brody was wearing when his body was discovered. The scarf is apparently identical to the one that was used to strangle Ms Lipinski. The chief inspector believes Mr Helmsley knows something about both murders but is afraid to come forward with information.
Later, we find Chief Inspector Valentine dining with Mrs M, Father Brown, and Bunty at the presbytery. Bunty wants the chief inspector to reveal stories from his past concerning Father Brown. Bunty tells Chief Inspector Valentine that she met the Helmsleys once. They were friends of her parents. When the chief inspector asks Bunty what she thought of them, she suggests the brother was a bit odd.
Father Brown, as Mrs M correctly observes, was apparently in Rome at the time Ms Lipinski was murdered. That places the murder sometime between the first and second series.
Chief Inspector Valentine tells Father Brown he has missed living in Kembleford, the country air, and the open spaces. Father Brown suggests he should visit more often. The Catholic priest recognises the chief inspector is a good policeman. It’s more than can be said for Inspector Mallory.
Chief Inspector Valentine believes the Mr Helmsley he questioned at the police station placed the scarf around Mr Brody’s neck for a specific reason. It was a message. He wanted the chief inspector to know there had been a second murder.
Chief Inspector Valentine observes the Helmsley residence from the road as trays are being carried into the house through the main entrance. Mrs Helmsley is clearly supervising the event. Did she notice the chief inspector?
Mr Helmsley, Mrs Helmsley’s brother-in-law, is the cue the chief inspector needed to approach the property. Chief Inspector Valentine wanted to speak with Mr Helmsley without his solicitor being present. With Mr Helmsley being a witness, there is no need for him to have legal representation. The chief inspector only wants to know what happened. It doesn’t escape Mrs Helmsley notice that her brother-in-law is speaking with the senior policeman.
They use the top of the tower to speak privately. Mr Helmsley tells the chief inspector that Ms Lipinski saw behind the curtain into the hidden room. He considers his family members evil. What could they be doing that would make Mr Helmsley think his brother and sister-in-law are evildoers?
As Chief Inspector Valentine speaks with Mr Helmsley, he is struck on the back of the head. He falls to the floor. When the chief inspector awakens, we hear Inspector Mallory’s voice in the background. Mr Helmsley is dead and Chief Inspector Valentine has the murder weapon in hand when he’s discovered. Inspector Mallory, immediately jumping to the wrong conclusion, arrests the chief inspector on suspicion of murdering Mr Helmsley. Inspector Mallory recites the chief inspector his rights as Sergeant Goodfellow cuffs him.
It doesn’t take long for Special Branch to dispatch Chief Inspector Sullivan (Tom Chambers) to Kembleford police station. Chief Inspector Sullivan tells Inspector Mallory that Special Branch is obligated to investigate the arrest of a police officer, particularly when the charge is murder.
Meanwhile, in a cell, we see Father Brown speaking with Chief Inspector Valentine. The chief inspector tells the Catholic priest of what Mr Helmsley revealed. Chief Inspector Valentine mentions something about there being a door behind a curtain. When Father Brown presses him on the issue, the chief inspector reveals he has no clue as to what Mr Helmsley could be referencing.
When Chief Inspector Sullivan asks Father Brown his opinion, the Catholic priest states that he believes Chief Inspector Valentine’s account of events. With the door having been barricaded with a chair, Inspector Mallory states only the chief inspector and the victim were found on the tower roof. There is apparently no other way down from the top of the tower.
For a second time in the episode, with a second chief inspector has taken over the investigation, Inspector Mallory finds himself side-lined in favour of Father Brown. On arriving at the tower, Chief Inspector Sullivan recalls Father Brown has an issue with heights. Whilst Father Brown walks up the staircase to the top of the tower, he doesn’t leave the doorway. Chief Inspector Sullivan notes that the Catholic priest has done well to make it that far.
There are three turrets. Each one has a doorway. On investigating the first of two turrets, Chief Inspector Sullivan discovers a broken flagpole. Noting the presence of blood on the flagpole, Father Brown suggests that it could have been used to hit Chief Inspector Valentine over the back of his head. Both turrets are apparently storage rooms with no obvious secret passages. Mr Oakley appears on the scene and asks if he can help the chief inspector. Chief Inspector Sullivan tells Mr Oakley that the tower is off-limits until after the investigation is complete.
Noting the presence of a sketch depicting the tower’s construction, Father Brown observes there is a rope ladder clearly shown in the image. When Father Brown suggests a close inspection of the balcony, Chief Inspector Sullivan discovers scuff marks leading down from the tower roof. This is how the killer got off the roof.
Elsewhere, we find Mrs Helmsley telling her husband that his brother was weak. Mr Helmsley, not believing his brother was weak, states he was traumatised from the war. With Mrs Helmsley having no idea what her brother-in-law had experienced, her view is more than a tad narrowminded. Mrs Helmsley tells him that Chief Inspector Valentine will pay for his brother’s death. Mrs Helmsley believes, by putting the needs of the many before his own personal grief, the fundraiser will make her husband look like a leader.
Back at the police station, Inspector Mallory vents his anger at Sergeant Goodfellow. The police inspector doesn’t like how two chief inspectors have taken over his patch to cover investigations he believes he should be responsible for running. Further, something clearly obvious from his tone, he doesn’t like being side-lined. The chief inspectors have favoured Father Brown over him.
Seconds later, Chief Inspector Sullivan directs Sergeant Goodfellow to release Chief Inspector Valentine from the cell. When Sergeant Goodfellow references the post-mortem report for Mr Brody, instead of allowing Inspector Mallory to view it, Chief Inspector Sullivan snatches it out of the sergeant’s hand.
Chief Inspector Sullivan reveals to Inspector Mallory that Mr Brody was already dead when he was thrown from the top of the tower. When Father Brown tries to tell Inspector Mallory that the killer climbed from the top of the tower to the balcony, the police inspector cuts him off. Chief Inspector Sullivan continues where Father Brown left off. Chief Inspector Valentine is proven correct.
When Chief Inspector Valentine arrives from the cell, he asks Chief Inspector Sullivan which person he needs to thank for his release. Naturally, Chief Inspector Sullivan looks in Father Brown’s direction. Inspector Mallory is disgusted by the entire affair.
Chief Inspector Sullivan tells Chief Inspector Valentine that he’ll brief him inside Inspector Mallory’s office, that is if the inspector doesn’t object. Whilst he doesn’t express an objection, his facial expression suggests an entirely different story. Since Father Brown had been an immense help, Chief Inspector Sullivan invites the Catholic priest to join them.
Inspector Mallory, expressing his usual degree of annoyance toward the Catholic priest, suggests they might as well deputise Father Brown and give him a badge.
When Father Brown states that a badge would be nice, Chief Inspector Valentine tells the Catholic priest that he’ll see what he can do. I was initially thinking that this comment was probably more for Inspector Mallory’s benefit than anything else, but the way the closing scenes played out, maybe not.
Chief Inspector Sullivan tells Chief Inspector Valentine he doesn’t want to send civilians to carry out an illegal search. Whilst Chief Inspector Sullivan has a point, Chief Inspector Valentine correctly notes Father Brown, Mrs M, and Bunty wouldn’t be conducting an illegal search because they would be attending the function as themselves. As the senior policemen bicker about the logistics of such an operation, Father Brown takes it upon himself to call Bunty to get invites to the Helmsley’s fundraiser. This call, with it having not gone unnoticed by Sergeant Goodfellow, is overheard. Chief Inspector Sullivan immediately asks Father Brown what it is he’s done.
As Mr Helmsley addresses his gathered guests, in the background, we see Father Brown, Bunty, and Mrs M arriving at the fundraiser. Speaking of a great personal loss, Mr Helmsley is referencing his brother’s recent murder. Mr Helmsley correctly acknowledges the wounds of war aren’t always visible.
The trio’s presence doesn’t go unnoticed. As Father Brown, Mrs M, and Bunty begin their search of the house, Mr Helmsley can be seen looking at them. Mrs M has no idea what she’s looking for. Somewhere in the house, there is a curtain concealing a doorway to untold secrets.
Whilst I must admit I expected the Helmsley family were Satanists, I should have realised that fascism could have played a role in the episode. There is a Union Movement flag. The Union Movement, as Father Brown correctly references, was the successor to the British Union of Fascists. Mrs M is astonished Bunty doesn’t know of the Union Movement. It’s almost as if the young lady doesn’t read newspapers.
Before they can report back to the police what they have found, having been discovered, Father Brown, Mrs M, and Bunty are trapped. The door has been locked. Chief Inspector Valentine, accompanied by Chief Inspector Sullivan, Inspector Mallory, and Sergeant Goodfellow, enter the house and accuse Mr and Mrs Helmsley of false imprisonment. When the couple questions such a ridiculous notion, Bunty makes her presence felt. Not thinking that anyone would climb through the window, Mr Helmsley underestimated Bunty. Bunty promptly takes the police to the hidden room.
Chief Inspector Valentine arrests Mr Helmsley for murdering his brother, Mr Brody, and Ms Lipinski. Father Brown catches a glimpse of a framed picture of men in military uniform. It sparks a memory which makes him chase after a new theory. Mr Helmsley claims the last time he saw Ms Lipinski, she was alive. She had run from the house.
Mrs M is seen asking Inspector Mallory if he had seen Father Brown. Father Brown had found a clue and had gone off on his own to investigate it. Sergeant Goodfellow tells them that he saw the Catholic priest heading toward the tower.
When Mr Oakley discovers Father Brown with his rope ladder, he asks the Catholic priest what he’s doing with it. Father Brown references the picture he saw in Mr Helmsley’s private library. Mr Oakley is one of the men in the image. Mr Oakley has been protecting the family secrets.
On noticing Father Brown being in trouble, Inspector Mallory tells Bunty to return to the house and call for backup. The police inspector and Sergeant Goodfellow find the entrance to the tower locked. Mr Oakley took Father Brown to the top of the tower and tells him to jump. With the secret having been exposed, Mr Oakley has no reason to continue killing to protect the Helmsleys. Mr Oakley wanted to help the Helmsleys rise to power and make the country pure.
Inspector Mallory and Sergeant Goodfellow finally manage to get to the top of the tower to rescue Father Brown. Mr Oakley punches the sergeant. Coming close to throwing Inspector Mallory from the tower, Mr Oakley struggles with the inspector. If it wasn’t for a carefully aimed shot by Chief Inspector Valentine, we could have seen the last of Inspector Mallory. Chief Inspector Valentine arrests Mr Oakley for murdering Ms Lipinski, Mr Brody, and Mr Helmsley.
The MP wants to put out a press statement denouncing his father’s beliefs in the strongest terms. Mrs Helmsley reveals to her husband that the family secret had been leaked to the press. She had already received three phone calls. Even though Mr Helmsley doesn’t seem to share his father’s beliefs, the same can’t be said for his wife. Mrs Helmsley holds the same beliefs her father-in-law had and isn’t willing to denounce them. She would rather say goodbye to her marriage than she would her beliefs.
It is Chief Inspector Sullivan’s intention to put both Inspector Mallory and Sergeant Goodfellow’s names forward for commendations in bravery. The episode closes with Father Brown and Chief Inspector Valentine rambling through the English countryside. The chief inspector presents Father Brown with an engraved gold deputy’s star.
Father Brown is scheduled to return in 2021 with the ninth series.
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‘Father Brown’: S08.E06. “The Numbers of the Beast”
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A village resident, still bitter about past events, takes revenge