Friday, December 02, 2022

“What Is It With This Place?”

I’m a bit behind in my TV viewing. My wife and I just started re-watching the PBS Masterpiece presentation of Magpie Murders, after waiting for all six of its episodes to finally become available for streaming. (We’d tried consuming the show in weekly installments, but found we forgot too much in between to recall all of the complicated clues.) And of course, we’ve been taking advantage of our PBS Passport subscription to see Season 3 of Miss Scarlet and the Duke more than a month ahead of its broadcast premiere.

Today also brings the much-anticipated debut of Three Pines, an Amazon Prime Video series adapted from Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. The first pair of one-hour episodes are currently available for screening, with six more to go, two new ones scheduled to drop each Friday through December 23.

English actor Alfred Molina (Spider-Man: No Way Home, Law & Order: LA, etc.) has been cast as Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, the police force serving the Canadian province of Quebec. He’s a much superior choice to Nathaniel Parker, who played that same role in a 2013 CBC-TV version of Penny’s first novel, Still Life. In her blog, book critic L.J. Roberts calls Molina “excellent as Gamache, capturing his compassion, his sense of justice, and his occasional humor. His face is expressive, often conveying more emotion than could words.” Elizabeth Held, co-editor of the Penny-focused Notes from Three Pines, writes in CrimeReads that “fans should rest assured that Three Pines keeps Gamache’s core personality traits. He adores his wife Reine-Marie. He says things like, ‘Grief feels like fear, but it’s not. It’s love with no place to go.’ He quotes literature, in these episodes Frankenstein, liberally and believes that murder cannot be solved on an empty stomach. Molina plays Gamache with a seriousness that ensures his tendency to spout off words of wisdom comes off as genuine, rather than saccharine or overdone.”

As to this series’ plot, Held says the opening two episodes follow Gamache and his team as they solve the murder of CC de Poitiers.
The victim is a miserable woman who has chosen to live in a building that was previously a residential school where Indigenous children—abducted from their families—were abused in the name of “re-education.” No one—not her husband, child or neighbors—liked CC, who was electrocuted at a Boxing Day curling match (the series is set in Canada, after all). Gamache declares it the “perfect crime” and all the villagers suspects.

The beats of the mystery mostly mirror
A Fatal Grace, the second book in the Gamache series, although … the [TV] series draws a firm line between the detectives and the townsfolk. Gone are the scenes of Sûreté officers dining at the homes of Three Pines residents, making friends and investigating murders at the same time, and the scene of Gamache driving into [the fictional village of] Three Pines for the first time gave me Twin Peaks vibes. We watch as the inspector takes in the kooky villagers—one carrying a pet duck—gawking at outsiders coming into their village. These characters, so rich and complex in the books, fall flat here. I’m hoping they get more fleshed out as the series progresses.
Held goes on to opine that “Centering the stories of missing Indigenous women—a sadly timely and too often ignored issue—is a smart move for the show’s producers, who also worked on Netflix’s The Crown. It makes a plotline Penny wrote in the early 2000s about police abuse on Native reservations relevant while maintaining a connection to the source material.”

I look forward to spending some time with Gamache and the Three Pines residents, just as soon as I’m done with Magpie Murders.

So what might the future hold for this Prime series? The Web site Distractify reports, “Three Pines has not been renewed for a second season. However, there's plenty of source material to draw from. After all, Louise has written 18 Inspector Gamache novels. The 18th book, titled A World of Curiosities, was actually released on Nov. 29, just days ahead of the series premiere.”


pattinase (abbott) said...

Some of it was off for me. The actors did not seem completely professional and it was too interested in quirky townspeople. But he was great, the scenery was great, the mystery was fine, and I think the small deficits will be resolved as it gets used to itself.

Anonymous said...

Was there a Resident School for Indians in Louise Penny’s books? I don’t remember that as part of her plots. I

J. Kingston Pierce said...

There were a variety of modifications made in the TV series, designed to tackle Canada's troubled history with its indigenous communities. Learn more here: