By Jeremy Medina
Updated April 20, 2009 at 11:48 PM EDT

I’ve been enjoying HBO’s adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency well enough so far, but couldn’t help but feel something was missing. Beyond the pastel-colored scenery and Jill Scott’s generous performance as Precious, the show had yet to really connect with me emotionally. But last night’s episode, “The Boy With an African Heart,” wasa game-changer, easily the best in the series thus far.

The episode’s central mystery — about anAmerican mother (stunningly played by The Shield’s CCH Pounder) yearning to learn what happened to her son after he’d been missing for 10 years — had an emotional resonance theshow has crucially lacked. Usually, the mysteries have been either too slight (the doppelganger dentists, for example) or too convoluted (I’m still not exactly sure what was going on with Idris Elba’s character in the pilot).

addCredit(“Keith Bernstein/HBO”)

Once Precious solved the case,as she of course always does, the episode’s titular theme of the ‘Africanheart’ really struck me. There is something much more human to look someone in theeye and say, ‘I forgive you.’ I also adore how these characters interact with each other. How they treat each other withrespect, and kindness. “It breaks my heart every time she calls me mysister,” Pounder’s character said at one point. Mine too. There’s a disarming sweetnessabout The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, as if it has beentransported from another time — an earlier, softer and, yes, more precious time.

I think that sweetness can be attributed to oneperson, in particular: Jill Scott. The scenes near the episode’s tail end where Precious (Scott)and her secretaryassistant detective Grace (Anika Noni Rose) bonded overtheir shared history of pain and loss were exquisitely acted, by both ladies. Scott has impressed before in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married,but she makes an even stronger impression here, radiating a compassionand humanity that has completely taken me by surprise. I hope castingagents take notice. This woman needs another worthy acting role,immediately. She’s the real deal. Can’t wait to see where she, and theseries, goes from here. (Check out the preview for the next episodebelow.)

What about you, PopWatchers? Was anyone else moved by last night’sepisode? And have you also been quietly impressed with Jill Scott’sterrific performance?