Quite the week, n’est ce pas? Let us then proceed forthwith in a tale of skulduggery and… uh… a sort-of-but-not-quite-a-mystery? I dunno, let’s figure it out bullet-point style this week, because time is limited (and frankly I didn’t like this very much).
- The victim, Dr. John Christow, is a professional sleazebag; he’s stepping out on his wife Gerda, whose only crime as far as I can tell seems to be Not Being Dr. John Christow.
- He’s having an affair with artist Henrietta Savernake, who feels… a little bad about it? But not bad enough to not have an affair with him, so she’s still basically a terrible person.
- Anyhoo, there’s a weekend at a manor house (because of course there is) of the Angkatell clan, of whom Henrietta is part of. Naturally, our three principles are all invited, and naturally there’s some uninvited guests here as well, including Our Belgian vacationing at the next cottage over and Dr. Christow’s ex, actress Veronica Cray (who’s just the teensiest bit insane and wants her boy back).
- Christow ends up dead in the pool, and Poirot stumbles onto the crime scene as a tableau, with Gerda holding the pistol but claiming she didn’t do it while the assorted family members are all gathered round in shock.
- The rest of the episode is dedicated to largely two things: 1) throwing suspicion on every member of the Angkatell household in turn, and 2) the “zany” antics of Sarah Miles playing Lady Angkatell as a slightly dotty matriarch. You will find her either funny or infuriating, I switched between the two multiple times in the episode.
- I was, frankly, bored during most of this one, and not just because I’d seen it before and knew the solution. There’s just no driving force behind the episode, and while that’s perfectly fine in some cases, here there’s not much in the way of atmosphere, acting, or tension to keep my interest. Most everyone is pretty much either dull or hateful, with one exception…
- And that’s Gerda, the poor put upon wife, who’s at least an interesting character, unlike literally everyone else but Poirot here. Unfortunately – and I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if this is exaggeration or not – what I presume is supposed to have come across as “slightly dim, occasionally annoying” comes across as “decent, loving wife and mother who’s just better at some things than others”, which just made me angry at the way everyone else treated her.
Which would be fine, if the ending didn’t cut the legs out from under a fascinating character arc by having her shoot herself, THEN do her a further injustice by trying to get us (and Poirot) to sympathize with Henrietta even thought she’s in no small part to blame for Gerda’s mental state. This just made me angrier. I thought this was crying out for a “Poirot realizes the victim was a complete shitbag, so lets the sympathetic killer go free” ending, personally.[collapse]
- The fact that the crime ends up being (for the most part) exactly what it looked like to begin with is a bit deflating.
- Hey! It’s Eddie Hardwicke again, this time as Sir Henry Angkatell, whom he plays as basically Watson, But Titled And Rich.
- Ugh. The whole thing just made me tired and cranky.
In Two Weeks, on Poirot: Mixed news for those who saw “The Plymouth Express”: next week’s episode is pretty much that, but longer. How does it stack up against its short story progenitor and an episode the critics (OK, well, I) called “a tight little atmospheric hour of TV”? Find out in… “The Mystery of the Blue Train”!