Roush Review: 'Van der Valk' Is a Dutch Treat of Edgy Mystery
You know you're in unfamiliar territory for a Masterpiece Mystery! when an investigation involves a nun with a taste for mystical religious erotica. "Just because I'm on a diet doesn’t mean I can't look at the menu," she tells an unfazed Piet Van der Valk (Hustle's Marc Warren), a seasoned Dutch detective notable for his steely demeanor and testy temperament.
Edgier and grislier than the norm for the Mystery! franchise, Van der Valk updates a long-running series that aired in the U.K. in the 1970s and '90s. Opening with a bike (not car) chase in the narrow streets and canals, Amsterdam has never looked better, or deadlier, than in the three twist-filled cases that confront Van der Valk and his refreshingly distinctive team. Maimie McCoy is striking as Lucienne, his closest friend and partner on the beat, and Luke Allen-Gale brings extra comic relief as the disheveled and irreverent Sgt. Brad deVries.
I'm especially fond of the preppy rookie, Job Cloovers (Elliot Barnes-Worrell), an inexperienced know-it-all who keeps trying to impress his blunt boss with arcane information and eureka-style breakthroughs. It doesn't take, partly because Van der Valk is weighed down, in classic noir tradition, by a tragic loss that haunts him and his troubled chief, Julia Dahlman (Emma Fielding).
Their back-story comes to a violent head in the season finale's over-the-top action climax, which leaves you hoping they'll all be back on the job again soon.
Van der Valk, Season Premiere, Sunday, Sept. 14, 9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)