Hailey Dean Mysteries: Death on Duty (2019)

Hailey Dean is back after a harrowing last few episodes. I would have been fine if the series called it a day after the prosecutor-turned-therapist found closure over the death of her fiancé at the hands of their mutual friend (Chad Lowe, you creepy scumbag), but I’m also not at all displeased that she’s diving in for more. It remains to be seen if the coming episodes will distinguish themselves from Hallmark’s other series or if the show will stick to the usual formula and pop out one generic case after another. Judging by this new movie, it may hew towards the latter, but Death on Duty at least has the distinction of featuring multiple people of color in substantive roles, something we don’t see enough of on this channel.

In fact, the case concerns Hailey’s friend, Fincher (Viv Leacock), who happily has evolved from his black best friend part he started out as to become an indispensible part of the crime solving team. Fincher, Hailey’s former colleague, is also joined by investigator Monty (Lucia Walters), making that two black characters with multiple speaking parts. When Kurt, Fincher’s friend from the Marines, is found dead in a park, they must work together to find the truth.

Using Kurt’s activity monitor, Hailey and Fincher track down clues that lead to several military contractors supplying food and kitchenware to the local base. The death could be work related, though it’s hard to tell since the case is under military jurisdiction thus limiting Hailey and Fincher’s access. At the same time, it could be a personal affair. Kurt’s wife is convinced her husband is cheating on her, but Fincher’s not sure her jealousy is enough to justify murder.

The details won’t have you at the edge of your seat like the last case, and I’m surprised more was not made out of the fallout from it. Solving Will’s murder is kind of a big deal in my book, but the only change for Hailey seems to have been a pivot away from therapy and back towards the DA’s office, now headed by Lauren Holly’s character. Still, I liked having Fincher at the forefront, and we get to see a different kind of friendship. Instead of coming to the aid of an old girlfriend, our female sleuth is there for her steadfast guy friend, one she can count on for double dates at the food truck.

My one quibble is with the last scene in which Fincher has something of a crisis. It doesn’t ring true, not so much due to Leacock’s acting but because the script doesn’t adequately build up to that moment. Had the writers zeroed in more on his despair over losing his friend, the whole episode would have been more impactful. To make up for that lost emotion, we at least have the relationship between Hailey and her coroner boyfriend, Jonas (Matthew MacCaull), who turns charity calendar cover model this time. I’m enjoying their mature relationship and am ever grateful that he’s not there telling her to be careful and watch herself since he damn well knows she can handle it.

Highlight for spoilers: The military police officer (Alexander Cendese), whose name I never caught, killed both Kurt and Cheryl after they had uncovered his involvement in illegal arms trafficking. He collaborated with Tom (Todd Thomson), a military contractor, who didn’t actually want to kill anyone but who was totally cool with smuggling military weapons that would be used to the same effect. Kurt was all fidgety at the beginning of the movie because he was trying to get in touch with Cheryl, who was already dead.

Released: 2019
Dir: Michael Robinson
Writer: Michelle Ricci
Cast: Kellie Martin,  Viv Leacock, Matthew MacCaull, Lucia Walters, Alexander Cendese, Todd Thomson, Elizabeth Weinstein
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019