Pie magnate Benedict Farley delivers a speech at the opening of his new factory, while his trusted secretary Hugo Cornworthy, his wife Mrs. F and his daughter Joanna look on. Farley, who looks like he just walked straight out of a Dickens novel, is every bit the industrial overlord who warns his staff about collectivizing as a precursor to some blather about how great Farley Pies is doing. Not for nothing, he also has a big schnozz and super thick glasses.
(Side Note: It’s never a good sign when someone shows up in an episode of Poirot wearing what looks like a prosthetic nose and obfuscating eyewear. I think you can see where this is going already.)
Joanna sneaks off to an upstairs office, where she meets her lover Herb, who’s just been fired by Old Man Farley because… well, basically because he’s not rich and loves Joanna. Joanna says she could just KILL her father for firing him. Behold! The Shadow of Fore!
Back at Poirot’s office, Miss Lemon is having a devil of a time with her old, used typewriter, and pleads yet again with Poirot to buy her a new one. Hastings opens Poirot’s mail and reads off a letter from Farley (written by Hugo) asking Poirot to drop by Ye Olde Pie Factory because Farley needs some advice. The letter also asks Poirot to bring the letter with him. NOTHING AT ALL SUSPICIOUS ABOUT THAT.
Arriving at Pie Central later that night, Poirot is shown to the office of Hugo, where he finds Farley sitting alone in the dark with a bright light shining towards the guest chair Poirot sits in. ALSO NO SUSPICIONS WHATSOEVER, NOPE, NOTHING UNUSUAL GOING ON.
(Additional Side Note: The whole thing is reminiscent of the opening interview sequence of The Thomas Crown Affair.)
Farley tells Poirot he keeps having a recurring dream in which precisely at 12:28 PM he pulls a gun out of his office desk, goes to the window, and shoots himself dead. He wants to know whether anyone could… kill him this way? By forcing a dream on him, I guess? Or maybe he suspects he’s been hyp-mo-tized?
Poirot is just as confused by the question as I am, and when Farley refuses to let Poirot into his office to see the desk, gun, window, or anything, Poirot throws up his hands and wonders why he’s even here. Farley then basically tells Poirot to screw off, and send him the bill.
(Son of Side Note: During the conversation, Farley does walk into the light for a bit, but not so much as to be fully lit. I’m just sayin’.)
On his way out, Poirot hands him the letter back, which Farley reads then puts in his pocket – but wait! Poirot, he has mistakenly handed him a different letter, non? Farley gets angry, takes the actual letter, then ushers him out. Poirot knows there is something wrong with the whole setup, but not what.
(Bride of Side Note: At this point, there might as well be literal neon signs superimposed on the screen saying,
“THIS IS NOT BENEDICT FARLEY.”
I…. look, the plot here is as predictable as the alphabet, so we’re kind of gonna speed through the rest of this, wherein – shocker! – Farley is found dead by suicide the next day in exactly the manner described in his dream, Japp investigates the only other three cast members with lines (Joanna, Mrs. F, and Hugo), Poirot calls everyone together to explain what really happened, and it’s revealed…
… that Hugo Cornworthy shot Farley from his next-door office window, in a manner that requires what looked to me like ludicrously good marksmanship with a pistol. He did it because in a third-act Twist Out Of Nowhere™ it’s revealed that he and Mrs. F were having an affair, and she stood to inherit quite a lot of money after Farley shuffled off his mortal pie tin.
Fired Heartthrob Herb, meanwhile, chases an escaping Hugo down on his motorcycle, in an action scene that makes no sense.
The less said about the actual mystery here the better, because it’s so entirely obvious what’s going on from the start; we KNOW Farley isn’t having the dream, because the show hangs a lampshade on every moment to tell us it’s not really him in the first place. And since two of the three other suspects are women, it’s pretty easy to finger Hugo about halfway into the episode. (Which makes it all the more mystifying that Poirot seems to have such a hard time with this one.)
Returning to his offices, Poirot proudly presents Miss Lemon – who had inspired him to the correct solution by checking the church clock out the window – with a new definitely-not-the-typewriter-she-was-hoping-for clock. Womp womp. Poirot is a lot of things, but “sensitive to his employee’s working conditions” does not appear to be a defining trait.
But forget all that, because this episode’s pleasures lie chiefly in the character pieces here that add yet more weight and history to our heroes’ relationships.
It’s a howlingly funny sequence in which Poirot laments his inability to solve the crime as a by-product of his “misspent youth” results in an extended riff between Suchet and Fraser playing such a ludicrous concept absolutely straight, and it might be my favorite couple of minutes of the entire season.
It’s a bit where Japp confronts Poirot at the scene of the crime, and though all signs point to suicide, Japp admits he thinks it’s murder simply because Farley wrote a letter to Poirot. A nice jolt of self-awareness there that both men appreciate is probably true.
It’s Miss Lemon’s struggles with the typewriter, and the revelation that it’s the same used one that they found when they first moved into the office – and the fact that she can’t wear a watch because her “magnetism upsets them“. No, really.
It’s Poirot gingerly making his way across a room where fencing is going on, allowing Suchet to indulge in a bit of physical comedy.
It’s Hastings just sauntering into Poirot’s office, opening his mail, doing the Jumble in the newspaper, and just hanging about to sympathize with Miss Lemon and bounce “I say!“s off Poirot, like a friend who’s just happy to hang out for the day with nothing particular to do.
So yeah – I think “The Dream” fails as a whodunnit but succeeds wildly in giving us time with the characters and their world, which is often good enough for me.
Art Deco Architecture Alert!: Farley’s pie factory in this ep is portrayed by a Hoover vacuum cleaner factory that was built in the 1930’s. It’s surreally shot in the episode, but here’s the only picture I could find of it in real life:
Hey! It’s That Gal!: Joanna Farley is played here by Joely Richardson, who’s been in a bunch of movies and TV shows including The Patriot, Event Horizon, 101 Dalmatians, and Nip/Tuck. She also happens to be Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter. She does a great job here in a limited role.
Hey! It’s That Sinister Disembodied Voice!: Benedict Farley is played by Alan Howard, who was also the voice of the One Ring in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies.
You Can Probably Go Ahead And Return That Compass You Bought For Her Birthday, Too: Miss Lemon’s “magnetism” that allegedly upsets her watches is, of course, complete nonsense. I find it fascinatingly weird that both Poirot and Hastings just accept this as a matter of course.
Hastings: “Miss Lemon says he makes pies.”
Poirot: “Makes pies! Hastings, to say that Benedict Farley ‘makes pies’ is like saying that… Wagner wrote semi-quavers.”
Hastings: “They’re good pies, are they?”
Poirot: “No, horrible. But there are a great many of them.”
Poirot: “See, one pays, Hastings. Eventually, one is called to settle one’s account.”
Hastings: “I say.”
Poirot: “I shall have another tisane.”
Poirot: “Ah, I see. So, when Hercule Poirot is concerned, there arises immediately a suspicion of murder?”
In Two Weeks, On Poirot: That’s it for season one, folks! I’m taking a week off before gearing up for season two, which opens with a cracker of a tale – and the first feature-length episode of the series – in “Peril at End House”. See you then!