Poirot (Classic): S05E04 “The Case of the Missing Will”

Gang, I’m not gonna lie; this is a weird one, and not an entirely good one.

Here’s the plot, in a nutshell (and believe me, this nutshell is the size of Cincinnati, because there are a lot of characters here, and it’s not entirely clear who they are in relation to each other until maybe halfway through the episode).

Wealthy English Mining Magnate(TM) Andrew Marsh makes a will, in which he leaves varying amounts of money to his friends, doctors, lawyers, the lawyer’s kid, the local policeman’s kid, the head of the Women’s College, and his own ward, Violet.

10 years later, Marsh confides to his friend Hercule Poirot that he’s going to rewrite his will and leave almost everything to the aforementioned Violet, who had gotten kinda hosed in the original will on the grounds of… erm… that is… on the grounds of being a girl, and therefore expected(!) to marry(!) into money(!).

Marsh subsequently dies, of course, because that’s what happens when you own a manor house, have guests over for the weekend, then start muttering phrases like, “I’m changing my will”. Really, what did he think was going to happen?

Poirot, natch, isn’t convinced that Marsh’s death is the simple case of heart failure that Doc Prichard says it is, and when Marsh’s will turns up missing (at the reading of the will, no less), the focus turns from the question of murder to the question of whether Marsh had a secret son entitled to All The Monies.

The Good:

  • Japp’s back, and performing as expected (i.e., good-intentioned but ultimately wrong). Feels like forever since we had a Japp sighting.
  • It’s got a main character (Violet) who’s easy to root for, especially in this case which opens with her getting shut out of a will and then ten years on getting shouted down by a roomful of entitled white college dudes telling her she’s not their equal.
  • Hilariously, literally seconds after asking Poirot to execute his new will, the phone rings with an invitation for Marsh to meet his eventual murderer at a folly on the house grounds that night. At this point, I think Our Belgian should replace the spyglass cane with a scythe.
  • Our Lemon has a lovely little part in this one, providing ace investigation and finding a key clue near the end of the episode. So much about the way Pauline Moran plays Miss Lemon works great, and confident, self-assured, you-don’t-have-to-tell-me-I’m-terrific-because-I-already-know-it Miss Lemon is my favorite Miss Lemon.
  • Poirot does get in a killer line when questioning Doc Prichard’s verdict of “heart failure” for Marsh’s death: “It tells us nothing. I have yet to see a corpse with a still beating heart.”

The Bad:

  • It’s a case about a missing will… but not really. The will is never found, and the replacement will is never written, making this case fundamentally about… probate court and the rules of intestacy. FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS, VIEWERS.
  • It’s got something to say about gender equality… but not really. Marsh seems like a nice enough guy with a complete blind spot towards gender equality, who comes around to being Marginally Less Shitty About It towards the end of his life and changes his will. Except at the end,
    Spoiler

    we learn that Violet was the secret heir after all, and the head of the women’s college was the mother!

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    Which makes his hoo-ha about Violet deserving more of his estate because she’s excelled – not to mention his endowment to the women’s college – seem disingenuous, in hindsight.
  • It’s an Agatha Christie story… but not really. The Case of the Missing Will was indeed a short story from Dame Agatha, but the plot here bears virtually no resemblance to the original story which among its other qualities had the virtue of being in fact about a missing will. It also had no murder in it, and was more of a puzzle story than anything else. I’d rather have seen that plot adapted than the convoluted mess we got here.
  • In fact, the solution to the murder here comes straight out of left field – Marsh is killed
    Spoiler

    via insulin overdose, by Mrs. Siddaway (his lawyer’s wife) because… uhhh… I think because she thought her son might be Marsh’s son… or knew he was… question mark? I’m not entirely sure, and the fact that Mrs. S comes out of almost literally nowhere to be revealed as the killer made me throw my Blu-Ray case across the room. Folks, I’d be shocked if she had more than three lines the entire episode, and I’m dead serious about that. Until the big reveal, I literally didn’t even realize she was a character in the episode.

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  • The whole thing is just sort of clumsily executed, with too big a cast and not written or directed clearly enough to establish the relationships necessary to understanding the plot.
  • Once again, Our Man is criminally underused, outside of a line about not knowing any women.

The Ugly:

  • Looks like ITV’s space-time experiments found a wormhole to a universe in which Hercule Poirot has the gumption and ill manners to ask whether a local woman’s son was fathered by someone other than her husband — while said son and husband are standing right there.
  • Japp has a prior beef with Doc Prichard, because 15 years ago he shut down his euthanasia clinic for the elderly, which… uh… hey, writer Douglas Watkinson,  maybe let’s stick to tackling one hot-button issue at a time, champ?

 

Next Week, on Poirot: Miss Lemon an’ her boyfriend, sittin’ in a tree! M-U-R-D-ERIN-G! It’s a tale of lies, blackmail, and comically named Italians in… “The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman”!