John walks Veronica back to her cottage, and returns home at 3 am. The next day, Poirot is witness to a scene that seems strangely staged. Gerda Christow stands with a gun in her hand next to John's body, as it bleeds into the swimming pool. Lucy, Henrietta, and Edward a cousin of Lucy's and a second cousin of Henrietta are also present at the scene.
John utters a final urgent appeal, "Henrietta", and dies. It seems obvious that Gerda is the murderer. Henrietta steps forward to take the revolver from her hand, but apparently fumbles and drops it into the swimming pool, destroying the evidence. However, the pistol that Gerda was holding was not the gun used to kill John.
None of the witnesses has seen Gerda shoot John. It seems difficult to build a case against any of the other potential suspects.
Lucy was the next suspect, as she kept a pistol concealed in her basket of eggs. However, the pistol was the wrong calibre. Henrietta is the next suspect, having left an unusual doodle in the pavilion around the time John was killed. When the murder weapon turns up in Poirot's hedge, it has fingerprints that match none of the suspects. The family had deliberately misdirected Poirot, as they each know Gerda is the murderer, and are attempting to save her from imprisonment.
Gerda had taken two pistols — shooting John with one, and then planning to be discovered with the other pistol in her hand, later proven not to be the murder weapon. Immediately, Henrietta understood that John's final appeal was for her to help Gerda. Instinctively, Henrietta assumed the responsibility by dropping the gun into the pool, and later goes back to retrieve the second weapon.
She hides it in a clay sculpture of a horse in her workshop to avoid the police searches. Later, she gets it handled by a blind match-seller and then places it in Poirot's hedge. Midge Hardcastle, a less affluent relative of the Angkatells, is also staying at the house. She is in love with Edward, but Edward has always been in love with Henrietta, who had refused several of his marriage proposals.
Edward comes to the realisation that Henrietta is no longer the Henrietta he once loved. He looks at Midge and realises that she is no longer "little Midge". Edward asks her to marry him. He goes for a walk with Midge, but coming to a spot where Edward has previously walked with Henrietta, Midge believes that he is still too deeply in love with Henrietta. So, she calls off the wedding. Edward does not understand that Midge loves him too much to hold him back from Henrietta.
Misunderstanding her decision, he attempts suicide by putting his head in a gas oven but he is saved by Midge. With this dramatic proof of his despair at losing her, she relents and the wedding is on again. With the evidence apparently destroyed or suitably confused, the family believe they have saved Gerda. There is a final clue: the holster in which the murder weapon was kept. Gerda had cut this up and placed it in her workbag. Henrietta rushes to Gerda in an attempt to retrieve it and destroy the final proof of Gerda's guilt. Poirot arrives, and rearranges the tea cups before Gerda returns from the kitchen.
He suspects the cornered and suspicious Gerda would murder Henrietta. Gerda returns and drinks from the cup intended for Henrietta, and dies. Henrietta seeks closure and visits one of John's patients.
John's death ended the hope of a cure but she is still showing a resilient spirit. Leaving the hospital, she reflects that there is no happy ending for her. She resolves to embark on a sculpture of herself as "Grief". Maurice Richardson, in the 1 December issue of The Observer , wrote: "Agatha Christie has staged, against her smartest, most hyperemotional background so far, the shooting of a philandering doctor. Suchet moves through these later seasons as if his padding has been stuffed with lead.
Though the body remains off screen, an act of this severity — and committed in cold blood — rarely occurs on the show. As first Hastings, then Lemon, and even Japp fall away, Poirot moves through the world by-and-large in solitude. Am I so calculating, Madame? Am I a solver of puzzles with a heart that is cold? Or are we looking at the greatest of mysteries that life ever throws up … the mystery that even I, Hercule Poirot, will never be able to solve — the nature of love.
The only mystery he could not solve was love.
But this admission is also a product of his desperate aloneness, one he chooses to evade with unspecific fantasies of youthful romance. For the first 15 years of the show, Hasting and Poirot live together, work together, vacation together. For Poirot, no other relationship comes near the intimacy he shares with Hastings. Their affection for one another is tangible. Japp, for all his failings of detection, remains a rather perceptive reader of other people. They sort of live a bachelor life.
They seem to hang around that apartment quite a lot. Hastings is always swooning after different women, and he finally leaves Poirot a la Watson for a conventional marriage, though we never meet his wife. Christie even bestows upon Poirot his own Irene Adler, the Countess Rossakoff, a brilliant and glamorous jewel thief he lets escape justice. Both hold each other in the highest regard: how can we believe that a woman who appears in one episode would have a greater claim on either one?
And he wished he could too. No way. He will not become gay. Again, Poirot need not be explicitly sexual, or even sexual at all, but it is clear that his great relationship with Hastings is the most serious and intimate of his life. Poirot, equally uninterested in British cuisine as Japp is in Belgian, looks at his plate with horror. I do not know how you say it in English but in Belgian it is known as … la phobia du faggot.
Well, you can still have some spotted dick. It is as mortifying as it sounds. Though this kind of scene is an outlier — I have not seen any other in the series like it — the explicit homophobia here, and implicit elsewhere, is a moral failure on the part of the show. Just the place for a restful vacation. The food will be inedible. There should be no getting around it. In fact, this is a major issue with all British period dramas: they document and so often celebrate a particular time in a particular place that is, by many objective standards, indefensible.
Few costume dramas deal with the fact that the men and women who populate them live off, or actively subjugate, whole continents worth of peoples to support their lifestyles. Christie married her second husband, a young archeologist named Max Mallowan, in , and her experiences traveling with him throughout the Middle East shaped her writing.
Four years after their marriage, her first Poirot novel set outside of Europe — Murder on the Orient Express — was published. Edward Said talks about the experience of specifically English travel during this time period in Orientalism :. What the English mind surveyed was an imperial domain which by the s had become an unbroken patch of British-held territory, from the Mediterranean to India.
To write about Egypt, Syria, or Turkey, as much as traveling in them, was a matter of touring the realm of political will, political management, political definition. Though Britain is his adopted home, Poirot is never mistaken for an Englishman. Abroad, however, Poirot moves through these spaces as a European among other Europeans.
His acts of colonial tourism are ones of solidarity with the British imperial project, and through his travel to British-held territories with other British people, he aligns himself with their causes. Few native residents have speaking roles in these episodes: they toil wordlessly in the open sun of archeological digs or the bustle of the marketplace.
We are spared the specificities of their lives, presumably because they are not interesting, important, or relevant enough to receive our attention.
They are, in effect, a human backdrop. Occasionally, a person of color has a major speaking role, but these episodes all notably take place in England. These characters are often clumsily sketched, at best. Oliver spots him across a gallery opening:. What is he? An Armenian? A Greek? All that is known is that he is one of the richest men in London. A man of unclear, but clearly non-English extraction, he is also manifestly bad news. It is, in , a demoralizing choice to make.
And what a wasted opportunity — there was nothing to prevent Poirot from reclaiming these characters. You ask why does Egypt resent the Suez Canal? So is it worth watching?
What makes the television show special, and worth the effort for me , is Poirot himself — at once ridiculous and dignified, empathetic and avenging. Which is to say, David Suchet. In pictures he appears to be a reasonable facsimile. Austin Trevor, the first actor to portray the detective on film, looks absolutely disgraceful: he does not even have a mustache.
Sullivan, who Christie liked despite his size he was quite tall , portrayed Poirot in the only play Christie herself wrote for the detective: Black Coffee. It is, coincidentally, her only Poirot product the show did not adapt. Tony Randall took a turn in , but his rendition was more Clouseau than Poirot, and The Pink Panther had done the work of lampooning the detective the year before. Finney was the only Poirot to be nominated for an Oscar. But with the stiffness and the comb-over of a Hitler impersonator, he is perplexing to watch now.
Finney has none of the unctuousness of Papa Poirot, much less a discernible neck — though, if you squint, he at least begins to resemble the man Christie created. I firmly believe he has one of the great voices of the 20th century, but hearing his rich, bubbling tremolo answer to and refer to himself as Poirot, however, is another matter entirely.
For a truly hallucinatory experience, the television movie Thirteen at Dinner casts Ustinov as Poirot alongside a younger David Suchet as a terrible, and terribly hungry, Japp. Suchet frequently calls it his worst role.
A mouth full of food in every scene, he appears as if desperately trying to gain the weight to necessary replace Ustinov and end this whole charade. Thin-faced, disheveled, with a sloppy bowtie and a suspiciously naked upper lip, Suchet looks like a child in this movie. He had inhabited my life every bit as much as he must have done hers as she wrote 33 novels, more than 50 short stories, and a play about him.
Suchet played Blott, an East German transplant to rural England, who has terrible teeth and a knack for accents. They can laugh with Poirot, they can smile with Poirot because of his eccentricities, but he is not a clown, and we want you to take him seriously. Suchet did. He read all the books and copied down every piece of information Christie included about the detective, a master document he used throughout his tenure as Poirot.
It instructs him to take three, or occasionally five, lumps of sugar with his tea or coffee and to not sit down on a park bench without draping a handkerchief over it first. He also retired the hair and mustache nets his predecessors wore to sleep as sight gags.
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His performance is a master class in immersive, detail-oriented acting. The act of looking for something instantly connects him to a character that has become his alter-ego. He even sees Poirot in his forbearers. Actors have different ways of approaching the work. It obviously works for him. Suchet, an incredibly versatile actor, has acted in many projects outside of Poirot. She would write over a dozen more Poirot books afterwards, in which the detective is alive and well.
I wonder if it was strange, or perhaps even comforting, for Christie to have killed her most popular character, before she returned him again to the light, puzzle-solving mysteries in which people loved to see him. Manuscript in hand, she could, at any time, end it all. She waited until , the year before her own death, to publish it. For the first time in the Poirot chronology, the detective is very old. Having created him during the First World War at the ripe age of something, Christie kept her detective in a kind of unaging limbo until her final book.
Similarly, though Suchet has visibly aged through the series, and though the characters frequently talk about the passage of time in it the Countess and Poirot have not seen each other for 20 years, Hastings has been gone for 6 months, etc. They live in a difference England, and, indeed, Hastings marvels at how much Poirot has altered too: he is an old man. He is a diminished man.