Spoiler warning: details about the murderer lie below!
Mustache-twirling Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is a beloved character in literature, in cinema and on TV. Recently he’s been re-imagined as a Hollywood action hero by Kenneth Branagh in a slightly strange but ultimately well-received version of Murder on the Orient Express. So now to the BBC’s Christmas drama schedules, a big part of which has been Agatha Christie adaptations by Sarah Phelps. Over the past few years she’s brought us Ordeal by Innocence, And Then There Were None and Witness for the Prosecution. Ginger and restrained adaptations are not Phelp’s style. How do you rip up the rule book but stay true to the source material?
It turns out all you need to do is wait. The passage of time makes characters different people, more fragile and sympathetic, more human. John Malkovich portrays the great detective as a weary yesterday’s man – the ying to David Suchet’s dapper and self-important yang. He’s dismissed as just another nosy parker by the young and very serious Inspector Crome (Rupert Grint). The world has moved on since Poirot’s celebrity heyday. This is all done in an extremely heavy-handed fashion as Poirot’s retired police pal Japp literally drops dead in front of him. Alright, alright, we get it – everyone is mortal. Poor old Poirot is lonely; in desperate need of a Scooby gang – despite first appearances he’s no good at coping with life alone and forgotten.
Enter the murderer who remembers Poirot at the height of his powers and wants to play a game. By letter he tells him he’s off to kill a series of people throughout the UK whose names start with each letter of the alphabet in turn and it’s up to Poirot to figure out the connection between the seemingly random victims stop him. What an effort from the murderous mastermind to troll Poirot pre-Twitter. Think of the expense in stamps alone!
It’s New Years Day and I’m feeling charitable so this blog is brought to you in a whisper, with a cold flannel (for your forehead) and a bacon sandwich (for your mouth… if you need instructions on how to eat a sandwich, maybe don’t get out of bed yet). Read my round-up of the best Christmas telly and figure out what you want to watch on catch-up to keep the festive feelings flowing, and I’ll pop to the shops for paracetamol. Alright?
A classic tale of mismatched neighbours Andrew (Stephen Merchant, playing exactly the sort of person he always does) and Dev (Asim Chaudhry) from Bedford on a 9 hour mission to save Christmas and buy the must-have toy (Sparklehoof the Unicorn Princess) for Andrew’s daughter. Dev is the lonely chubby one, separated from his family at Christmas, and Andrew is the awkward angry intellectual, successful but bad tempered with a family who loves him for some unseen qualities. Dev teaches Andrew to be a happier man and a better father, and despite themselves they’ll be best buddies for life. Basically it’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Jingle All The Way for the small screen. It looks lovely with cosy camera angles suited to our suburban action heros. There’s great pacing throughout with real tension and subversive moments of mischief. Neither lead performance is all that over-the-top and their situation, while silly, seems entirely probable. An unexpected gem.
Spoiler alert: Contains plot details for Series 4 of The Bridge
Writers Hans Rosenfeldt and Camilla Ahlgren promised great things with the final series of this international Scandi hit and viewers arrived back on the iconic Øresund Bridge with high hopes for our heroes Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) and Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhardt). Were they the awesome crime-fighting duo we’d seen at the end of series 3? Were they working together to solve the disappearance of Henrik’s daughters? Well, yes and no.
The series begins with Saga behind bars serving time for her wicked mother’s murder, patiently awaiting a re-trial. We know she didn’t do it, but how on earth can a cop with such limited social skills survive the system unscathed? Devoted Henrik who is trying hard to turn his life around is a frequent visitor. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder – their relationship seems much stronger than ever before. And a good job too, as there are some incredible storms to weather in this series – new highs and desperately tragic lows that are quite alien to Saga’s usual even keel. There’s heartbreak for all here, especially Saga as she finally has to confront her dreadful abusive childhood, and how it’s shaped her adult life. Saga in therapy is powerhouse acting from Sofia Helin, pushing at the limited scope in her character’s movements and facial expressions. I’ve not seen more entertaining and revealing therapy sessions since The Sopranos.
This is a full review of The Bridge: Series 4, Episode 4. Catch up with all the reviews here. Don’t read on unless you’re completely up-to-date on the BBC2 schedule!
Well colour me confused. What are they playing at? The halfway point maybe not the best spot to introduce a whole new cohort of an already large cast. This is daunting even for seasoned viewers. If you watched the whole episode without pausing to wonder who someone was, who they were related to, and how they were linked to the case then you’re doing far better than me.
Taariq needs penge, and quickly. You’ve got to admire his audacity in trying to blackmail a murder suspect, stealing his wallet and car. Someone told me Taariq was going to get a severe new haircut and I did wonder in a world as dark as The Bridge, does that mean he’ll lose his head? Of course the answer is yes. As Taariq finally realises there’s no way out Henrik and Saga are called to the scene of his armed stand-off. Saga’s compulsive twitching as she attempts to defuse the situation is unbearable. Taariq can’t handle the truth, and unfortunately for him, Saga can’t hide it. A final violent act is preferable to a future in jail or being deported to a repressive regime. Henrik and even Saga seem heartbroken at his death.
This is a full review of The Bridge: Series 4, Episode 3. Catch up with episode 1 and episode 2. Don’t read on unless you’re completely up-to-date on the BBC2 schedule!
Episode 3 was a classic where not very much happens. Characters willfully impede the investigation and every plot point feels like a dead end, until a frantic final three minutes which leaves you shaking your head and softly repeating the word “What?” to yourself over and over.
“I’m not well” says Saga in typical matter-of-fact style. If only it was always so easy to acknowledge your own mental health problems and ask for help. She then lists a devastating catalogue of personal disasters. “We’ve got a bit to work with” says the unflappable therapist, surely in the running for Understatement of the Year 2018. We hope with help Saga will turn the corner and apply her logical, analytical brain to her own situation, but Mummy is messing with her delicate mental state from beyond the grave – having her lawyer send childhood mementos to Saga’s workplace. Don’t open the box Saga! It’ll be about as much fun as Brad Pitt’s surprise gift in Seven.
The Danish sister from episode two, christened by the internet Öliver and Dødger, were such a perfect fit for a hole we’re desperate to be filled. Like a Choir of (Young) Believers the internet sang out in one voice “They could be Henrik’s daughters!” And he gets them home a lot faster than I’d have ever imagined, but now in context of their old bedroom he would recognise them, right? He seems to be the only person not swept up in the idea that they’re his long lost children. But one night at Henrik’s Hotel turns into two as these resourceful Tracy Beakers refuse to be sent off to any dumping ground.
This is a full review of The Bridge: Series 4, Episode 2. Catch up with my episode 1 review here. Don’t read on unless you’re completely up-to-date on the BBC2 schedule.
It’s business as usual for episode 2 of The Bridge which after the hardship and the outright panic of episode 1 is a blessing for viewers.
This week we learn more about suspect number one Taariq and his amazing fluffy yet angular hairdo. Turns out he’s a hero; saving two girls from violence and giving them a hot meal. These young thieves won’t win any acting prizes but they seem to make a living from scamming people and pickpocketing wallets and passports. But this is The Bridge, so no good deed goes unpunished. Taariq’s desperate situation is getting worse – he’s grassed up to the cops by his horrible boss, and worse still it seems he’s been set up with a phone that tracked the victim’s whereabouts. Poor Taariq has got to be the unluckiest man in all of Scandinavia, and despite my still being convinced he’s not the killer he is not out of the woods yet.
Taariq’s relationship with Margarethe sounds unlikely. He tells us that he met her secretly in the gay club because she wanted to make amends for the cruel decisions of the state. By day she’s the immigration department’s Bruce Wayne; all above-board, all business, but by night she’s Batman; out to right the wrongs and offer help to the helpless. Was she really this strange split personality, riddled with guilt? At the moment we know so little about her. Her husband Niels looks dodgier than ever “They have nothing” he says in a secret phone call, “stick to the plan”.
The mighty Jontosaurus is risen. Fear him! And also, read his top 5 The Walking Dead deaths and feel all squishy inside for gore of yore…
AMC’S The Walking Dead is in a dark place right now, with viewing figures at their lowest point since season 1. Reviews of season 8 have been remorseless, but there can be no denying that throughout the show’s massive run there have been some truly memorable characters that have perished in some truly memorable ways. And, in the case of Glenn, there have been about ten times we’ve thought he was going to die, only for him to turn up alive- sometimes without a whole lot of explanation. So, in honor of Glenn- God rest his fictional soul- here is a rundown of The Official Jontosaurus Top Five Memorable TWD Deaths Of All Time. As always, this is based purely on personal opinion, so please don’t be offended if your ‘favourite’ doesn’t make it in. Oh, and it goes without saying… but there may be spoilers ahead for those of you who have been living in a cave for the last few years. To be fair, I will try and avoid the most recent two or three seasons just to play it safe.
Hershel Loses His Head
“When all others lose theirs…” didn’t seem to be part of the plan for Hershel, who definitely loses his head, albeit in a clumsy and ultimately tragic way. Used as a sort of bargaining chip during The Governor’s assault on the prison, he is dragged out and negotiated over like a piece of meat. Just when it seems as though the adorable, well reasoned old man is going to pull through, the series decides to take a drastic U turn. As Maggie and Beth’s father, Hershel has already lost a leg due to a Walker bite, and although he looks about as resilient as a water paper bag, he’s clearly a tough old dog who isn’t ready to throw in the towel just because the apocalypse has reared its ugly head. Unfortunately, the Big Bad in form of David Morrissey’s The Governor has other ideas, and after a drawn-out affair, he grabs a samurai sword- a very familiar samurai sword for that matter- and lops off the old man’s head. What makes this scene so unexpected is that it leaps upon us as viewers just when we think the old man may be spared, and it also shows the removal of the head in graphic detail. We watch as the Governor messes up his first chop, only partly severing the neck, and all the while the dying Hershel just sort of kneels there, serene and untroubled, as his head is cut off. Truly harrowing but, sadly, not the most harrowing death on this list.