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Love and Marriage: A Real Botswana Diamond on "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" Season Finale

Was it just me or was last night's season finale of HBO's superlative No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency absolutely heartbreaking and gripping television at its very best?

Last night's episode ("A Real Botswana Diamond"), written by Nicholas Wright and Robert Jones, found Precious reeling from the revelation that her ex-husband Note Mokote (played with terrifying precision by Colin Salmon) had arrived in Gaborone even as she faced a future with JLB, Grace investigating the truth behind the Kgale Hill break-ins, and Florence the Maid taking a decidedly troubled approach to her employer's engagement.

It was at turns distressing, inspirational, humorous, and thought-provoking. Throughout the first season of the lovingly crafted series, a co-production between HBO and BBC, Precious has lived in the shadow of her former husband, an abusive drunk whose beatings lead to the death of their unborn child and propelled Precious into a new life.

And yet the past always has a way of catching up to you.

In Precious' case, it's the fact that she hasn't been entirely upfront--not to her fiance JLB or us as the audience--about her relationship with Note. In fact, it turns out that there was more going on as Precious considered JLB's proposal of marriage than met the eye as Precious really shouldn't have accepted the offer as she is still married to Note Mokote.

It was an unexpected plot twist that was handled extremely well and spoke volumes about how much Precious has sought to transform herself and her life. At no point did I consider that Precious had deliberately misled or lied to her honorable and upright suitor JLB Matekoni; rather, it's clear that Precious herself has been lying to herself and had convinced herself that she was free of Note, even if the divorce papers hadn't actually been signed.

The scenes between Jill Scott's Precious and Colin Salmon's Note at her beautiful house, decked out to the nines by Precious' ambitious maid Rose to impress JLB, were fraught with peril. Given that we've seen Precious as a strong woman in control of her own destiny, it was saddening to see how she reverted to the position of a battered wife as soon as Note invaded her home and began to walk around the place as though he owned it. This is the demon she's fought for so long to free from her heart, one that prevents her from truly giving all of herself to JLB and one that she finally manages to exorcise at the end of the season.

For all of the abuse Precious has had to endure at the brutal hands of Note, she is still an intuitive and resourceful detective and she does her job with the skill of a true gumshoe, uncovering evidence that proves that Note was already married to another woman when he married her, negating any legality to their own union and preventing him from extorting money from her for a divorce. (I literally jumped with joy when Precious threw this in his face, even as I wanted her to slap Buthelezi earlier.)

Yet still, Precious also proved that there is still mercy in her heart for her former husband. Discovering that he is squandering his gifts with drugs, she sadly holds up his trumpet and tells him that, with his gift, he has more than most people. And she gives him money, not for the drugs but for the music. It's enough to get Note on stage at the Go-Go Handsome Man's Club to perform... and for Precious to walk off with JLB into the night and finally tell her fiance that she loves him.

What else did I love? The fact that it didn't matter whether Precious' engagement ring were a real diamond or a cubic zirconium in the end, especially after she read JLB's beautiful inscription ("To a real Botswana diamond"), which finally compels Precious to admit the depth of her own love for JLB. I also loved the reveal that the culprits behind the break-ins at Kgale Hill weren't vandals or teen thieves but monkeys (loved the way that Precious stood up to that nasty one and gained the strength to stand up to Note himself), that Mr. Patel gave the agency a hefty check for solving the case (and admits that Paterson Joseph's Cephas Buthelezi is the lesser detective), the fantastic and funny scene between JLB and wheelchair-bound orphan Mothleli, the return (albeit brief) of Wellington, and that Nandira Patel really did have a boyfriend named Jack after all. Hmmm...

I am extremely worried, however, about just what Florence intends to do with that illegally purchased gun, whether she intends to plant it at the agency or Precious' house and send her rival to prison... or whether she intends a more permanent solution by finishing Precious off for good. Either way, Florence's maneuvers with Philemon Leannye at the Frosty Glass Bar do not bode well and are clearly meant to set up a second season of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

A second season that I hope comes sooner rather than later. Throughout its first season run, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency has been a beautiful epitaph to the work of the much missed Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack and a testament to their creative partnership and work ethos. I'm hoping that HBO and BBC realize that a trip back to Botswana is a necessity for the many fans of this remarkable and well-crafted series and that all of us want to see just what happens to Precious, Grace, JLB, and PK.

In the meantime, I might have to make myself a cup of bush tea, cut myself a piece of cake, and think about just what a true diamond The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency really is.

Comments

Jon88 said…
I've been liking this show more each week, and last night was a great capper.

Have they been following the novels, does anyone know? How many of the books have they used up by now?

Iredila! (The word verification sounds like Botswanan.)
Bella Spruce said…
Jon -

I love your comment about the word verification. "Iredila," indeed!

Great season finale. I was so thrilled and relieved when Precious finally stood up to Note (and finally admitted her love for JLB as well).

And they did a great job of setting up Florence as a baddie for next season. She is so horrible you just want to smack her!

I know it will be ages before we see the second season but I'm already looking forward to it!
Annie said…
Love this show and last night's episode was an absolute perfect end to the season. Come on HBO and give us more episodes soon!!!!!!
Melissa said…
To have this and The Amazing Race finale on the same night makes Sunday night one of the best nights of TV for the whole year (for me)
Unknown said…
I absolutely LOVE this show. It is quality television, and a treat to watch! I will be very disappointed if HBO doesn't continue it.
Nikkie said…
Sadly, it looks like there may be no season 2 for this show. The reasons are unclear, and I encourage all fans to go to the HBO forums and post that we do indeed want the show to come back.
Briar said…
I suspect there will indeed be no second season. The DVD was twice delayed and finally released with the title "the complete season" as opposed to "season one". Failure to confirm the viability of a second season was one reason for the delay, I suspect.

As for the reason - an all black cast set in a small African country? It is not difficult to work out why the BBC and HBO decided it would not repay further investment. I for one am extremely disappointed.

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