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Agatha Christie's Poirot

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by Greg Bakun

It's hard to say goodbye to a wonderful TV series but all good things must come to an end. This is a first of articles that look at the final episodes of Agatha Christie's Poirot which most episodes are going to be exclusively available on AcornTV. To start things off, I look at the first episode of Series 13. The final series of Poirot has a powerful start with The Big Four.

Streaming News

After over 20 years and 13 series, Agatha Christie's Poirot is coming to an end. AcornTV will be celebrating this amazing run with streaming the final set of episodes starting July 28th with The Big Four.  What makes this even more exciting is that the last 3 episodes (including the series finale Curtain) are exclusive to AcornTV before any broadcast or physical media comes out. This is not to missed!

Image 21Acorn TV recently added three star-studded miniseries from influential writer Dennis Potter that have never been available on DVD or streaming in the U.S., as well as the U.S. premiere of the second series of The Field of Blood, a new Scottish crime drama starring David Morrissey (The Walking Dead). Acorn TV also adds five charming documentaries from the Doc Martin star with Martin Clunes's Wild Life. In anticipation of the final series of the television landmark Agatha Christie's Poirot, starring David Suchet, Acorn TV now features the first 65 episodes (Series 1 – 12) in its remarkable 25-year run. The first episode of Series 13, The Big Four, will be added on Monday, July 28 followed by a new episode each Monday. The final three episodes, including Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, will be broadcast and streaming ONLY on Acorn TV.

Series leaving AcornTV soon:
Black Books
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy
Genius of Britain
The Guilty
The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes
War and Peace
Father Ted
Visions of Britain & Ireland
The Politicians Wife
The Windsors From George to Kate

New Shows

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New Shows Added July:
Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Big Four (July 28th)

New Shows Being Added in August:
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Dead Man's Folly
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Elephants Can Remember*
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Labours of Hercules*
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Curtain*
Vera Set 4*
The Story of Medicine*
Republic of Doyle 2*
Lovejoy Series 3*
David Suchet: In the Footsteps of St. Paul*
Britania High+

*Notes exclusive series to AcornTV

Brit-Streaming Spotlight

Poirot Final

The Big Four

I think one of the greatest achievements a TV series can attain is the honor of that series to come to a proper end. More so now than ever before, most TV series are cancelled when they no longer perform well or they are considered to be “past it”. A lot of new TV series are rarely given a chance past a couple of episodes. TV series that are allowed to end give the audience and the actors a chance to say good bye. It can be an emotional experience and one that should be cherished. I am fascinated by series that are allowed to come to an end. I love to see how characters change and how they are allowed to exit our lives. Unlike real life and real people, we can revisit the people on thsee shows and our favorite moments as many times as we like. Like so many great characters before, it was now time to say farewell to our beloved Belgium detective Poirot.

I almost can’t remember a time when Poirot wasn’t on our screens. The series started in 1989 and ran to 1996 for 6 series. It took some time off and returned in 2000 with Series 7 spreading out TV movies over the next 13 years. There was a time when there were rumblings that maybe David Suchet was going to leave the role of Poirot prematurely and not complete the body of work the Agatha Christie has written. Luckily that was not the case and we were treated to everything of substance. It was no secret that when the 13th series was announced to go into production, it would be the final one. That is the odd thing with taking literary works and transforming them into television, we can find out pretty quickly what is going to happen. As soon as it was announced that Curtains: Poirot’s Last Case was announced amongst the episodes, we knew that this was it. After 23 years, Agatha Christie’s Poirot was coming to an end.

Here is a an amazing difference in how we view television now since Poirot’s debut in 1989 is that these new episodes from the final series are available online on AcornTV and most of them are available as exclusives. The Big Four (available as of 7/28/14) and Dead Man’s Folly are not exclusives and will be available at the same time as the broadcasts but Elephants Can Remember, The Labours of Hercule, and Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case are exclusives only to AcornTV and that is pretty cool. You can see them before they are seen anywhere else in the US. I had a chance to get a sneak peak of The Big Four and as you may gather from the review below, I kind of liked it.

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The Big Four Available on AcornTV on 7/28/14

Let’s start by not wasting your time. I loved this feature length episode. To me, it is the strongest episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot in years. I love all the episodes of this series but this is simply fantastic on a few different levels that I will dissect below.

The episode starts out very bleak. It starts out with the funeral of the most famous detective, Hercule Poirot his very self. It is a very strong opening for this series and what is wonderful at the very beginning is the reuniting of Captain Hastings, Miss Lemon and Inspector Japp who is now Assistant Commissioner. This is the first time we have seen them all together since 2001’s Evil Under the Sun. After the opening credits we go back to 4 weeks earlier as Poirot is at an event held by Abe Ryland. Ryland is incredibly rich but there is some question about how he got his money and about a Peace Party he is closely connected to that is gaining political momentum. War is almost upon the UK. There is a lot of question about what is going on but more so about Ryland’s involvement in a secret group called the Big Four. It seems like this mysterious group is trying to speed things up for war to start. This mysterious group is believed to be led by Li Chang Yen which is really strange because he leads the blandly named Peace Party.

At this event Poirot runs into his old friend and colleague Japp who is now Assistant Commissioner.   It is fun to see them together. It sounds silly to say but it is like old times and even more so as they both witness a murder that takes place at this event. Part of the event has Ryland introducing world famous chess player Ivan Savaranoff who has been in retirement for years. He is very old but consents to playing a game of chess with Ryland. After the third move Savaranoff is dead. Dies at the chess board. Some believe it is old age, perhaps a heart attack but not Poirot. He suspects more.

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One of the things that is so great about this episode is Japp and Poirot working together again on a case. It truly is effortless and I found myself constantly smiling while watching this. It made me so happy. Anyone who is a big fan of this series will agree with me. So much of the past series have been in exotic or non-UK locations. Here was an episode with Poirot working with Japp on a case in London. It was bliss. I am a big fan of the entirety of Agatha Christie’s Poirot but I have a very soft spot for Series 1-6 which virtually every episode featured Japp, Hastings and Miss Lemon.

As Japp and Poirot start to investigate the death of Savaranoff, they are visited by a journalist named Tysoe. He has inside knowledge about the secret organization of the Big Four. He has an informant that he believes comes from inside the Peace Party itself. Almost immediately, Poirot has a good idea of how Savaranoff died and goes on to prove his theory to both Japp and Ryland. Savaranoff was electrocuted. Ryland who is too big and powerful to deal with this just brushes it off. A few days later, he disappears; apparently to take his place alongside the others of the Big Four.

There is another murder that seems unrelated at first but then becomes more obvious it is part of the same case as it is tied to the peace party and Li Chen Yen. Tysoe meets up with Poirot. Poirot wants to work with Tysoe to get as much information as he can about the Big Four. Tysoe isn’t as interested in helping Poirot. This point of view changes when he is out to meet his informant one night for more information. As Tysoe meets this guy, the informant is suddenly stabbed in the back and dies. Although Tysoe is left with a body, he is also left with a ton of information. Finally because he sees that he is in danger, starts sharing his information with Poirot and Japp. The most interesting things about this is an envelope that holds a set of cards that was found in the coat pocket of the dead informant. 4 playing cards of different makes and designs that possibly gives a clue to who each of the Big Four member’s identities. One is a Chinese card that must signify Li Chen Yen, one is a card to identify Madame Regine Oliver who is a French renowned scientist who has strong affiliations with the Peace Party. She was at the event Ryland held and she also later disappears after allegations are made she is part of the Big Four. The third card is unknown yet it is singed. The final card is death.

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The beauty about The Big Four is that it is a masterstroke in storytelling. It sets up a great premise for who the Big Four are in terms of an organization. There are shots that convey the feeling the Big Four are meeting to do something evil. This seems bigger than anything Poirot has dealt with before. In fact, the Big Four as an organization reminded me of something like the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film The Voice of Terror. I wasn’t sure if the Big Four was funded or at least working with Nazi Germany as war was so close.

Unlike Murder on the Orient Express, this is an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot that I felt tried to be something different and succeeded. Murder on the Orient Express, to me, felt like the production needed to live up to the story’s mystique and name but fell a little flat. The Big Four tells the story in a way that starts out one way and ends somewhere completely different in a very satisfactory conclusion.

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The production itself is very slick and modern. It moves from set piece to set piece with ease and it is beautifully done with inventive camera angles and transitions. I always love the use of good color grading in a scene to help set the mood. Some scenes that are meant to be serious or tense may have a colder color grade to the scene. There are other instances where the color schemes are warm and international. Scenes where we see the Big Four meeting looks to have a strong Chinese flair. The music reminds me of some aspects of Murder on the Orient Express which is one of my favorite aspects of that episode. That being said, there are some wonderful nuances of the original Poirot theme written by Christopher Gunning. This is used a lot when all the original casts are together sharing a scene. There are some wonderful moments there and a great start to the process of saying farewell to this series.

A theme that is present through part of this episode is the notion of the passage of time. It is inevitable to approach it with the return of some of the cast members. These characters are not young like they were in 1989 when the series started. This is also one of the great benefits of a long-running series. It is the ability to have characters naturally change because of age. They are able to look back and reflect on what they have accomplished or not accomplished. As a long time viewer, it is emotional to see these characters together again.

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The screenplay was written by Mark Gatiss and Ian Hollard. There is a great guest cast in this episode. A favorite of mine is Patricia Hodge who I will always love watching in Rumpole of the Bailey where the first 3 series are currently available to view immediately on AcornTV. It is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite TV series. Please check it out and stick with it. Sarah Parish who was in Atlantis and of course I need to do a shout out to Doctor Who. She played the Empress of Racnoss. Steven Pacey is in this where I saw him play Del Tarrant from Blake’s 7.

I have given away one-tenth of what The Big Four is about. This is a wonderfully multi-layered story that is handled extremely well and is beautiful to watch. Plus there is the added extra bonus of seeing some old friends in this story too. This is truly one of the highlights in the Suchet Poirot canon.
I will be doing more articles chronicling the final adventures of Poirot. Please check back as more articles are on the way!

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Coming Soon

Next time I will continue my farewell-Poirot tour with the second episode of the final series of Agatha Christie's Poirot: Dead Man's Folly. Write in about your favorite moments of Poirot!

Like what you see? Hate it? Have questions of comments? Send us an e-mail and tell us what you think!


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 27, 2014 1:52 PM.

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