Programme Name: Vienna Blood - TX: 02/12/2019 - Episode: n/a (No. 3) - Picture Shows: Max Liebermann (MATTHEW BEARD), Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt (JUERGEN MAURER) - (C) Endor - Photographer: Production
Matthew Beard (left) and Juergen Maurer as Max Liebermann and Oskar Rheinhardt in ‘Vienna Blood’ © BBC/MR Film/Endor

Odd sleuthing partners Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt and Dr Max Liebermann continue wading into the pathological darkness beneath the glittering surface of early 20th century Vienna in the last of the present series. It’s a city of wild artistic expression, sober scientific investigation and pioneering psychological probing, but irrationalism and mania are rife for all that. The first episode featured a classic locked-room mystery involving a fake psychic, the second a Mozart-themed murder inquiry; this week the final episode in an enjoyable series takes the duo into a military academy for the elite where vigorous hazing of young recruits is only the first layer of the rotten onion.

A boy has been found drowned with a head wound, but the incident is hushed up to protect the school’s reputation. Max’s nephew Daniel, a fellow pupil at St Florian’s, has an unexplained injury to the hand, just like Zelenka, the dead boy. “There’s something evil in this institution!” quavers the art teacher, Herr Lang (Rafael Gareisen), who takes pity on the more sensitive students, such as the unfortunate Zelenka, by signing them off drill practice and teaching them calligraphy. The headmaster is annoyed but unfazed by the probe: “We have friends at the police department.” Not least Oskar’s professional nemesis and St Florian alumnus, Inspector Von Bülow. Wolf, the head bully (Stanislaus Steinbichler), sternly enforces the dorm’s rule of silence and the cadets, their individuality masked in uniform caps and capes, close ranks.

In such a lusciously detailed show, the slow pace of the investigation doesn’t pall; we’ve got Max’s calmly impassive face to admire after all. Having broken off his engagement to the conventional Clara, he burns chastely for Amelia, first encountered after she had a psychotic breakdown in front of a Klimt painting. Max (Matthew Beard) is so advanced in his thinking he invents art therapy to get a broken Daniel to speak. He is also such a weirdo that his scene of high romantic yearning takes place over a corpse. Oskar’s emotional life is filled out in tandem, but that’s — dreary wife, tragic past — much less compelling.

Cleverly, clues only recognised as such after they’ve been explained are left brazenly lying around. While Max makes the intuitive leaps in deduction, Oskar (Jürgen Maurer) is the method man, proceeding step by careful step. Most of the cast being Austrian, you’ve never seen such a collection of icy blue eyes and chiselled jaws, and the outdoor set is all topiary, stone staircases, classical facades and echoing courtyards. As Max and Oskar sashay off together, I hope it’s auf Wiedersehen and not a last farewell.

★★★★☆

‘Vienna Blood’ airs Monday November 2, 9pm, on BBC2

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