Poirot (Classic): S11E01 “Mrs. McGinty’s Dead”

Sorry gang, but July has kicked my ass up one side of the calendar and down the other; so not much time or energy for this (admittedly late) installment of Our Belgian’s adventures. Once again, some bullet-point thoughts and we’ll pick it up in the comments!

  • A really interesting stylistic choice here by director Ashley Pearce, as what’s nominally a cliche-ridden village mystery that wouldn’t be out of place in a Miss Marple story is suffused with an ominous, eerie, almost supernatural mood throughout.
  • Speaking of Marple, this story was actually made into a movie with Margaret Rutherford as Marple in 1964 under the title Murder Most Foul.
  • Love, love, love the shot of Poirot standing alone in the high street of Broadhinny with his suitcase, looking around at a deserted street and closed shops as leaves swirl around him in the wind and creepy music plays; it’s almost as if he’s landed in a ghost town. (Bonus points for the look on Suchet’s face in this shot, which pretty much says, “Oh, great. Another damned village full of liars.”)
  • One of the things that struck me about this is how even though McGinty is a
    Spoiler

    would-be blackmailer

    [collapse]
    , one can’t help but feel for her as almost every single character refers to her as “just a charwoman”. Basically, everyone in this one is your usual classist jerk, who don’t even think of the working class as people.
  • Zoe Wanamaker’s back as Ariadne Oliver, and as usual she’s a ball of delight every time she’s on the screen, whether she’s arguing with Robin Upward about how to dramatize her non-skiing, possibly gay hero Sven Hjerksson or drawing the Christie parallel even closer with her remarks about how the public enjoys her creation far more than she does. Wanamaker’s an apple-eating hoot.
  • Other notable players: Joe Absolom as the not-quite-stupid-but-not-quite-sharp accused man James Bentley played a pretty good average Joe caught by circumstance and a frame-up, and Paul Rhys as Robin Upward stamps a powerful exclamation point on the end of The Denouement.
  • Plot-wise, a lovely double mystery here – not only are we in pursuit of McGinty’s killer, but we’re also trying to find out if one of Broadhinny’s Citizen Jerks is either the daughter of an expatriate poisoner OR a once-upon-a-time creepy-as-hell child murderer (and by that I mean “she murdered someone when she was 13”, not “murdered children”). Admittedly, I wasn’t sure just being the daughter of the poisoner would be THAT scandalous, but whatever.
  • Accordingly, it did feel like the ending was a bit “Huh?” when it came time to revealing the motives of the killer,
    Spoiler

    Robin Upward

    [collapse]
    . I mean… I get it, sort of, but I’m still not entirely sure it warranted murder? I guess I can postulate the effect knowing
    Spoiler

    Robin’s true identity might have on his patron

    [collapse]
    , but the episode didn’t really draw a straight line for me where the motive was concerned.
  • It also felt like it packed a bit too much in at the end with the revelation of Maude’s heritage – it felt unnecessary and like complication for complication’s sake.
  • That said, I do think overall this was a really strong episode, with red herrings aplenty, some misdirection, and a fun episode-long guessing game of identities – again, the style does a lot of heavy lifting here to elevate it over what could have been a bog-standard episode, and the funny bits with Poirot’s lodging struggles managed to lighten the mood at just the right times. A good start to series 11!
  • “Mrs. McGinty’s Dead” is one of my favorite titles of all of Christie’s work – plain, to the point, and brutal in its three-word simplicity.
  • Again, apologies for the brevity – we’ll be back on track next week, and I hope all of you Faithful Readers are staying healthy and being well. Hard to believe we’ve only 12 more episodes to go in the entire series!

Next Week, On Poirot: International espionage! Revolution! A cache of priceless rubies! And… uh… javelins! Javelins? Yeah, javelins. There’s murder afoot at Meadowbank School for Girls, as Our Belgian tries to find out who is the… “Cat Among The Pigeons”!