An MA exam, a “murder” and a major misunderstanding – episode #6: Death in the Shadows

We wanted to meditate for a second on the main themes found in this particular Joe & Nancy episode that resonate with the entirety of the season.  This is especially important since the season finale will be released later this month and this penultimate episode brings several threads together pointing the characters towards some major changes.  First, we have the exam that Joe and Nancy are taking in their mystery subject.  Second, we have the recurring theme of violence that’s been present ever since the very first episode.  And lastly, we have continued misunderstandings which was a theme made most explicit in episode five, Papermasked Silence (the Halloween episode).

Starting with the exam it becomes obvious that whatever Joe and Nancy study it’s a discipline where writing is important.  Our subliminal positioning of these characters is somewhere in the humanities.   They don’t study Romance languages like French or Italian because these two are the most common languages that appear in the season and they didn’t understand any of the interactions.  Also, the format of the exam is important: it’s a comprehensive exam of some sort where the detectives answer a series of prompts.  The idea is that they have to bring together large amounts of information from a reading list…  Of course, as always, the subjects covered in the reading list or lists remain unstated.  In any case, it’s clear that Nancy is particularly stressed by the fact that Ned doesn’t show up in time to wish her luck in person before the exam.

The violence in the Joe and Nancy Mysteries episodes starts right from the beginning of Picnic of Death Bess finds a dead body in that episode and it is the first example of violence in the series.   This is followed by a kidnapping in episode two, The Chapel Rescue.  By the time we get to episodes three, (The Book with Flaps), and four, (The Stolen Dissertation), the violence level has diminished — first a stolen book and then a stolen laptop with a dissertation on it.  Episode five, the Halloween special Papermasked Silence, brings violence back to the forefront putting Joe and Nancy in a situation where their lives are threatened after having had a “fake” murder at their party.  The sixth (and penultimate) episode, finds the detectives facing violence in an explicit and implicit manner.  This is the first and only episode that shows the violent act as it occurs.

The misunderstandings with the various languages have taken place since the very first episode.  Over the course of the season Joe and Nancy have been unable to understand: French, Italian, Spanish and some other languages.  The interviews of witnesses normally show Joe and Nancy with their friends clueless as the stranger recounts exactly what happened.  Some humor in the series comes from the audience knowing something the main characters don’t.  This theme is adapted slightly in Death in the Shadows since Callie’s French is immediately translated into English by Ned who acts as her interpreter.  This hyper-compatability between Ned and Callie spells trouble for Nancy.  Nancy, however, is unaware of these startling and troubling developments as she takes her exam.  What will happen next??  Find out later this month in Joe and Nancy’s Beach House Murder Mystery!