|What the Sergeant Saw: The St Oswald's Murders
Author: noenigma PM
A story looking back on Service of All the Dead.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Chapters: 10 - Words: 17,141 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 4 - Published: 12-02-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7601890
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Not part of the story at all. Just a rather-pretentious sounding musing to get me from where I wanted to be in the writing of this story to where I had to be to actually get it down. I turned it into an essay and included it here in case I wasn't the only one having trouble with the transition from The Jericho Case to St. Oswald's.
In our house, when the name Kevin Whately appears on the screen we cheer: on Lewis because he's our hero (and they tend to move his opening appearances farther and farther back until we've begun to fear that he's been unavoidably detained and will never get there); but on Morse we cheer with delight in knowing we'll soon be seeing an old friend and with relief. Ah, good, we think, that's all right then. No matter what poor, old Morse faces tonight, Lewis will be there. He'll see to him no matter how bad it gets. He's a different kind of hero on Morse, the quiet, unsung one always in the background and never brought sharply into focus.
Oh, sometimes the camera will turn its eye towards him, and if we look quickly and hard enough we'll see him. Not the out-of-focus, too good to be true, ever-optimistic, ever-loyal, happy-go-lucky Sergeant Lewis we know him as, but the real man. The one who is just as tortured, just as perplexed, just as human as Morse himself. He's there gazing in horror as Harry Josephs falls into the abyss; clutching numbly to a baby on the top of a staircase; watching helplessly as Morse makes a very good attempt at destroying himself, a car salesman, and Lewis' belief in him all in one whack; pacing in a lay-by with a damning cassette in his hand; and he's there in the woods.
But, over all, we see Sergeant Lewis not as he is, but as Morse sees him, as Morse needs to see him: somewhat idealistically, untouched by the horrors that eat away at Morse himself. It is, for the egocentric Morse, perhaps the only way he can see him.
The camera comes in for a close look of Morse as he grapples with the hard-hitting, bitter issues of the episode, but what of Lewis? He's going on his merry way as though nothing even happened. As Morse, weighed down by guilts, regrets, hurts, and sorrows, wishes he were able to do and can't. And, if that seems to be an impossibility considering whatever the show has just put the pair of them through…it is. Can Lewis, with children of his own at home, dig up the body of a boy and wander off home for a quiet evening of telly? Can he watch a man stumble off a rooftop and not feel some degree of guilt that he struck the blow to unbalance him or that he never reached out a steadying hand? Hardly. But, Morse, drowning in his own dilemmas, looks over and sees only his happy-go-lucky sergeant…a man he wishes he could be, a man he needs to believe in if he is to carry on. And so, for the most part, Lewis' struggles go on off-camera, out of Morse's sight.
We're so used to seeing him through Morse's eyes that when events are so horrifying that Lewis can't remain untouched and he's forced to remain on-screen, it's still Morse we see. We know the picture is skewed, we feel it, we see it…Morse, sitting shaken and shattered because he'd 'killed' Mrs. Michaels; Lewis standing, being supportive, coming up with an encouraging remark and managing to bring a slight smile to the inspector's haunted features…and somewhere there's a big 'What?' echoing through us because we know the picture is wrong. The sergeant was the one in peril, the one who needs the support, the one in need. And the only way he has to show his distress is to stand there picking Michaels' blood from his hands in a macabre and silent plea for the help he desperately needs. A plea that goes unanswered.
Morse doesn't hear it, doesn't see it, and neither do we. Do we really think Lewis can't smell the blood on him, feel its hardening tackiness against him? Do we really believe his insides aren't melting within him, his mind racing in a thousand different directions—anywhere but where he's just come—in a desperate bid to keep some control? Do we really think he is only picking at that blood for something to do while he waits for Morse to be ready to head off for a pint? Of course not. But, like Morse, we choose to keep the focus softened and hold onto our picture of the laughing, happy-go-lucky sergeant.
Lionel Pawlen lies sprawled grotesquely over Ruth Rawlinson's bicycle, Morse holds a weeping Rawlinson, but Lewis stands in the background. We see Morse alone, in the dark, fighting his demons, but where is Lewis? Back at the station digging up the info on the Pawlen brothers, business as usual, ever-resilient; and we, along with Morse, see this as perfectly normal behaviour.
Where else would he have been, what else would he have been doing? Surely, not fighting the same demons. No, surely not, because as Morse is incapable of dealing with the horrors of the job he can't look up and see Lewis has the same struggles as well. He doesn't dare. So the sergeant stays in the background, slightly out-of-focus, seen though a softened lens, a romanticized ideal Morse clings to as a life-line. Proof that life goes on, and that it is worth living.
And then, Morse is gone. Granted, in the end, a natural death. His struggles are over, but his sergeant? He's not even allowed to be there at Morse's side, where's he's always been, where he deserves to be. And, suddenly, we no longer have Morse's idealized eyes to see his sergeant through. And only then do we truly see the focus sharpen on him, or perhaps his pain is so great that there isn't a lens capable of softening the scene enough to blunt his loss. All the tears we've cried with Morse, but it's only then that we weep for Lewis, only then when he steps from the darkened room into the light beyond the door do we truly see the man he is—the man he's always been if we'd only seen.
I love Sergeant Lewis. I love watching him through Morse's eyes, the young, laughing optimist. And I love watching through that harder, sharper lens and seeing that there had to be much more going on back there that we didn't see…
But, when I set out to write the Sergeant Lewis stories, it was the happy-go-lucky, ever loyal sergeant whose eyes I wanted to show Morse through. Like the programme itself, I wanted Lewis to stay too-good-to-be-true; a testimony to life's goodness and joys; a promise that even surrounded by evil good does exist; and that life's rough patches don't have to really touch us.
It seemed to work all right for What the Sergeant Saw: The Jericho Case; but St. Oswalds…no matter how hard I tried or how long, I just couldn't make it live. And then one night, beating my head once more against my inability to make it come together, Reverend Pawlen came plummeting down and landed with a horrifying splat on Ruth Rawlinson's bicycle…and I knew there was no way I could keep seeing Lewis through Morse's eyes if the story was to live. Because life has to touch even the best of us, even those who stand off-screen and try to spare us that painful knowledge.
I knew all of that long before I started to write these stories, but I hadn't want to bring it out. I wanted to keep them light and enjoy looking back on Sergeant Lewis as I had seen him before the first time I watched the Remorseful Day. I thought Inspector Lewis suffers enough for any man; let's keep Sergeant Lewis safe from all of that.
Unfortunately, when I climbed into his head to see Morse through his sergeant's eyes…I found it was impossible for me to write anything remotely worth reading if Lewis could see that body plummeting down on them and head happily back to the station to dig up what he could on the Pawlen brothers. No matter how Morse and I might wish it wasn't so, Lewis had to be touched somehow. The blinders had to come off; Lewis had to be allowed to be a man in his own right and not just the loyal sidekick ever at our hero's side.
I regret that. But, for me at least, it was the only way to make the story live. And that I don't regret.