If I were in charge at Hallmark, I would hire someone to write better titles and to make sure there were at least as many episodes of Darrow & Darrow as there are Garage Sale Mysteries. The new series gets stronger with each outing, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Tom Cavanaugh, and Wendie Malick are that rare trio who light up every scene with wit and intelligence. They are unnecessarily committed to their parts, making this one a fun, smart movie that is worth our while.
The latest investigation shows off the talents of both the actors and their characters. Defense attorney Claire Darrow (Williams-Paisley) and district attorney Miles Strasburg (Cavanaugh) revisit a year-old case in which a woman was convicted of murdering her husband on their boat. All evidence points towards Laura (Jordana Largy) as the killer even though Tom’s body was never found. She publicly threatened to kill her husband, her prints and his blood were found on her clothes and the supposed murder weapon, and witnesses placed her at the scene of the crime. Claire and Miles aren’t inclined to take up the case, that is until a telling exchange about a cream cheese stain suggests to Claire that Laura might be innocent. As they learn more about Tom and his many deceptions and debts, they theorize that he might still be alive. Moreover, he probably faked his own death and framed his wife.
As compelling as the case is, the real intrigue is in the characters’ personal lives. It’s a strong ensemble in which everyone plays his or her part and plays it well. Even the minor characters find a way to stand out, not least of whom is Zoey (Gelsea Mae), one of the young lawyers at Claire’s awesomely diverse office. She makes a consequential move that comes out of nowhere, and one that has me falling a little in love. Newcomer Roy (Mitch Ainley) also impresses as an earnest police officer whose troubled conscience kick starts the second investigation.
The three leads really make the show though, and Hallmark doesn’t have a better team in its lineup. I especially can’t get enough of Malick, who plays Claire’s mother, Joanna. She’s still smarting for her unceremonious exit from New York City’s legal world and is adjusting to her job at the firm, but damn is she a snob and doesn’t hide it. Malick makes me love Joanna flaws and all, however. She might sneer at the lack of epicurean sensibility in town, but she mentors the younger lawyers, if begrudgingly, and agrees to go on a date with her granddaughter’s little league coach. Joanna’s relationship with Coach Reed (Paul McGillion) is exciting because of Malick’s performance. She’s a slightly Machiavellian sophisticate who isn’t a natural match for the Marcus Aurelius-quoting retiree but finds his confidence enticing and a challenge.
Williams-Paisley and Cavanaugh are stars apart or together. Claire shares some nice moments with her daughter and her mom, with whom she has little in common, and Miles gets a refreshing storyline as a prosecutor rethinking his role in the justice system. They’re also electric as a couple, and I could power my day on their chemistry. Claire’s reluctant to admit that they’re in a relationship, but they are and they’re better for it. Besides challenging each other professionally and solving murders on their down time, they just enjoy being around one another. Their exchanges are fun, respectful, and sometimes awkward, but it makes their partnership feel genuine. Cavanaugh in particular adds great flare to his character, like when he snatches the umbrella in an attempt to be chivalrous or warns her against guitar-playing prosecutors. Miles has a way of looking skeptically at Claire when she’s at work, but in that look is admiration and trust. Okay, I might also have a nerd crush on Miles and/or Cavanaugh, which is why I hope his commitment to The Flash won’t keep him from more Darrow & Darrow, the best thing Hallmark has to offer right now.
Highlight for spoilers: Damn, it was Dani’s boyfriend, aka first defense attorney, from the Garage Sale Mysteries. Dude jumps ship, kills a guy, and then goes back to being the dorky AV technician? I won’t trust him again. We should have guessed though from his lackluster defense effort. Bonnie gives it all up when she’s on the stand. Tom did in fact plan on faking his own death and enlisted her to help. On the night of the murder, he drugged his wife, grabbed his beloved baseball bat, and met Bonnie at the marina. He gave her a wig, making it easy for the old man to mistake her for Laura. After setting the scene, she stormed off, returning to the Graham residence to plant the evidence, and waited for Guy to pick her up. When he didn’t show, she hailed an Uber. Meanwhile, Tom was supposed to speed away in a second boat, but he and Guy fought over money, and Guy whacked Tom with the baseball bat. Since it’s still covered in Tom’s blood, Guy needed to steal it back from Claire. Also, Coach was a heart surgeon.
Dir: Mel Damski
Writer: Phoef Sutton
Cast: Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Wendie Malick, Tom Cavanaugh, Lilah Fitzgerald, Paul McGillion, Gelsea Mae, Mitch Ainley, Brandi Alexander, Vincent Dangerfield, Michael Patrick Denis, Richard Keats, Jordan Largy, Antonio Cayonne
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries