After Poirot pays a routine visit to his dentist, the doctor apparently shoots himself to death a short time later. Chief Inspector Japp appropriately recruits the detective as both witness and consultant.
Poirot pays what appears to be a routine visit to Dr. Morley, his dentist, but shortly after he leaves the clinic, the doctor is found dead with a gunshot wound to his temple, an apparent suicide. Poirot suspects foul play, and all those who entered the doctor's offices after Poirot left are suspect. They include Alaistair Blunt, a prominent and very influential bank director, Frank Carter, a young fascist thug with a personal grudge against Morley, Mr. Amberiotis, an enigmatic recent arrival from India suffering from a toothache, and Mabelle Sainsbury-Seale, a charity worker also recently returned from India. When Amberiotis is found dead in his hotel room from an overdose of Novocaine and Sainsbury-Seale disappears, Poirot rightly expands his list of suspects and connects the crime to events that occurred in India 12 years earlier. Written by
G. Taverney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
S4: Plays it a bit more serious again with longer episodes but still engaging and satisfying results
I'm not sure of the reason but this fourth season sees a shorter run than previous seasons, with essentially only 3 episodes, albeit all of them feature length. I guess this was primarily motivated by the desire to tell some bigger stories that couldn't easily be adapted down into 50 minutes without losing a great deal along the way; at least it feels this way because the quality remains high and certainly doesn't suggest ITV artificially puffing out a flagship show for the sake of it. This is not to say there are not changes though and, as with the previous season I did get the feeling that were was a certain weight behind the show and the tone of it was leaning away from the light entertainment roots and focused more on its serious side.
This tonal shift is a bit of a shame for me because I very much liked the twinkle and mischief in the early season, but it is not a real loss because these episodes still retain touches of it but instead provide a much more sturdy experience. The elements of the mystery, the deduction and the reveal are played much more to the fore and it is a positive thing given the extended nature of these episodes the light touch may have hurt these in a way that it did not so much in the shorter more accessible episodes. The three stories have good detail within them and the time is well used mostly to fill out characters, provide a range of suspects and witnesses and then allow Poirot to pick through them. I have seen some similar ITV event shows do the same approach but without the material being as strong and lots of guests in cameo roles giving the impression that it has all been puffed out for the sake of it. This is not the case here the longer run time feels justified and none of the 3 stories feel baggy or padded out in any way.
Some elements of the delivery could have been better, with some dated touches (such as the slow-motion children playing in Buckle My Shoe) and perhaps a bit more effort put it to showcase the locations a bit more, but generally the key thing for me is that the longer running time doesn't hurt how accessible it is. Although convoluted, the plots never push away as they are delivered here and the deeper Poirot goes the more engaged I became, which sounds obvious but in some other Christie adaptations it feels like the opposite can be true, the viewer is told just to hang around and all will be revealed. As per previous seasons, these stories take the viewer with them.
Locations, sets, costumes and general period design remain really good and it is interesting to read online the locations used to stand-in for others. Direction remains solid but not overly self-important; it may be the age of the episodes but the cinematography often feels a bit murky and lacking life perhaps it can be remastered at some point. Performances continue to be strong and of course Suchet is really great in the title role, his nuances, mannerisms and comic timing are excellent whatever the material gives him, he makes the best of it. For whatever reason we only get to see Fraser's Hastings in the first episode; perhaps it is the lean away from the comic tone or perhaps it was just his character wasn't in these stories originally but whatever he is welcome and very well played when he is around and I missed him in the episodes he was not in, even if they were fine without him. Jackson's Jap is more of a consistent presence although he is a bit more "in service of plot" so doesn't always get so much to do although I did enjoy his scenes in his modest home in the third episode. Support casts for each episode contain one or two familiar faces but they are never distract from the actual narrative and at no point does any of the casting feeling like it was for the sake of anything other than making the episodes work ie not PR, ratings or otherwise.
Season 4 of Poirot may shift its weight towards more serious story- telling so that the comic edge is there but less evident, but it is still a quality product with good adaptations which keep the mystery but also keep it accessible so the viewer is engaged not just watching and waiting. All other aspects of the production, from performances through to set design remain of a very high standard indeed.
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