Mrs Columbo: Falling Star

The writers of this show continue to rely on an outrageous degree of coincidence in terms of Kate’s involvement in the murder mystery stories. As per nearly every other episode, she just happens to be involved in the life of the murderer, before he commits his crime. It seems that she nearly always knows either the victim or the murderer or both. The silly thing is that the writers didn’t need to keep doing that. Kate is a journalist and a friend of a detective, so she already has a way to get involved in the cases, built into the structure of the show. She doesn’t need to get involved by chance.

Having said that, in this instance her involvement with the murderer pre-murder does enrich the story, because once again the writers make it personal for Kate, but more so than ever before. She has placed her trust in a friend who is running for Congress, and there is more than a hint of romance between them.

“You’re on your way, Bill. You’re really going to make it.”
“No, we’re going to make it, Kate, together.”

This is another example of how Kate’s divorcee status aids her involvement in the story. Speaking of which, Kate explains her marriage breakdown for the first time:

“He was Mr Right for a long time, and then his career got in the way, travelling all over the world.”

That doesn’t sound very much like Columbo, does it, although he did have a couple of foreign cases. I just wonder if the writers are trying to move further away from the origins of the show by slowly rewriting its original starting point, which would be an odd deliberate discontinuity after a relatively small number of episodes. It is even stranger that this happens in an episode that gets closer to the plot beats of a Columbo episode than any other episode so far this season. I thought they had left the how-will-she-catch-’em, dramatic irony kind of narrative in the past, but there’s never really any doubt here about the identity of the murderer, although we don’t exactly see the crime take place. Most of the episode is concerned with Kate piecing together her case against Bill, and then placing herself in danger yet again. When will she ever learn?

So this is much more of a thriller than a mystery, and the one thing this show does best is to place Kate at the mercy of the killer at the end of the episode. For the first time we see Kate break down in tears when Mike finally shows up. That wouldn’t happen in a Columbo episode! We have seen her emotional before, but this one really upsets her because she was obviously in love with the murderer and he turns out to be a different person to the man she thought he was. In a story that’s ahead of its time, Kate is drawn towards Bill’s policy of prioritising the environment over the needs of business and working people, until Bill comes face to face with a powerful businessman who can support his campaign and then he immediately tells him what he wants to hear, the exact opposite to the policies he has been using to woo the female voters. The look on Kate’s face when she realises he’s just the same as all the rest of them and will say anything to get elected is a moment of tragedy, superbly acted by Kate Mulgrew. This is ultimately a cynical look at politics, where a seemingly ideal candidate has a closet full of skeletons and his heart firmly in the wrong place. It’s a sad reflection of political decline on both sides of the pond that the picture of politicians this episode paints is even harder to argue with today than it was in 1979.    RP

P.S. IMDB is missing the roles played by two of the main guest actors.  For those who are interested in that sort of information, Peter Hobbs plays Sam O’Connor, the businessman who offers to support Bill’s campaign, and Floyd Levine plays the car rental proprietor who sets Kate on the track of investigating the route of the victim on the night of her murder, and how 20 gallons of petrol went missing from her car.

Read next in the Junkyard… Mrs Columbo: Feelings Can Be Murder

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Spinoffs, Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Mrs Columbo: Falling Star

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Thank you, RP, for your review and for the IMDb information, which may be tricky sometimes as I learned when referring to them for my comments on Columbo: Double Exposure.

    Liked by 1 person

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