Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review - "Agatha Christie's Poirot: Elephants Can Remember"

If there was ever a television show which its ups and downs, "Agatha Christie's Poirot" would be it. What started in 1989 as an enjoyable tribute to Agatha Christie and her work, soon became something entirely as standards for mystery television changed. In 2010, "Murder on the Orient Express" one of Christie's most beloved books was adapted for television and out of this came one of the most disappointing Poirot episode made (at least in this blogger's humble opinion).

I'm glad to say that the following three adaptations, "Three Act Tragedy," "The Clocks" and "Hallowe'en Party" were far better. However, as the 13th and final season of "Agatha Christie's Poirot" approached, I for one feared that the series might regress back to the downbeat and upsetting style used for "Orient Express." Season 13 of "Agatha Christie's Poirot" kicked off on 9 June with "Elephants Can Remember," based on one of Christie's latest novels. Did this adaptation succeed where others have failed? Let's take a closer look.

Mrs. Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker), the famed mystery writer is asked a strange question by a complete stranger to her. The woman is the mother of a young man who plans to marry one of Mrs. Oliver's god-children, Celia Ravenscroft. The question is: did Celia's mother kill her father before taking her own life, or was it the other way around? Stunned, Mrs. Oliver goes to her friend, Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) for help, but the detective is busy on another case. As Mrs. Oliver begins her investigation, it appears as those the two detective's cases are connected.

I have never read "Elephants Can Remember," however from what I have heard, the book is not exactly Christie's final hour. Some of this translates onto the screen. The identity of the culprit is not well-hidden and I managed to figure out whodunit before Poirot. To cover this fact up, a subplot is added, which adds another murder for Poirot to solve. Due to the fact that I have not read Christie's novel, I do not know how well this sub plot was introduced. At a first glance, the plot fits in better than the nun subplot from "Appointment with Death," a rant for another time.

Acting is first rate all around, especially by David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker. The two have excellent screen chemistry together and they manage to play off each other well. Poirot is not the same depressed, antagonistic characterization from "Murder on the Orient Express" and the screen writers have managed to slip in a not or two of comedy for the character. The look on Poirot's face when Mrs. Oliver introduces him as "her assistant" is wonderful. By now, it seems rather like second nature for Zoe Wanamaker to play Mrs. Oliver and she is superb as usual. In the absence of Captain Hastings, Miss Lemon and Inspector Japp, Mrs. Oliver makes a nice addition to the Poirot family.

"Elephants Can Remember" is brought down by the lengthy conversations which occur throughout the story. Yes - most of Agatha Christie's mysteries deal with lots of questioning, but there's nothing to break up the tedium. We don't get any flashbacks - just two people sitting in a room, talking about people who, though important to the plot, are never developed. Also, Poirot doesn't do a great deal of detective work here. Once he questions one suspect, he's solved the entire mystery due to their confession. It would have been nice to see Poirot actually get to assemble some clues instead of come up with the solution seemingly out of nowhere.

Luckily, the 13th and final season of "Agatha Christie's Poirot" has started off reasonably well. Scheduled for transmission next is "The Big Four" which will reunite Poirot with Miss Lemon and Captain Hastings, something I am looking forward to a great deal. However, "The Big Four" is without doubt the strangest Poirot novel ever written. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. I give, "Elephants Can Remember," 3 out of 5 stars.

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