Showing posts with label Canadian Mysteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canadian Mysteries. Show all posts

14 December 2022

Three Pines


This may be a commonplace, but I’ve been thinking about what makes TV adaptions of mystery series work, and while casting is clearly the biggest piece, there are a whole lot of other pre- and post-production decisions in play.

Looking back at the success of Magnum or Rockford, you point to Tom Selleck and Jim Garner, and they deserve all the credit they get – but their shows were successful both commercially and critically, the key being consistency, and that’s due to sharp writing and committed exec producers, Don Bellisario and Stephen Cannell.  You see a similar dynamic in Longmire or Justified, and for my money, the two best shows currently airing, Bosch and Shetland.

Michael Connelly has two series running, with one in the pipe, and Ann Cleeves has three.  This is no accident.  The books give good weight.  Connelly also gets exec producer credit on Bosch and The Lincoln Lawyer, and his sensibility looms large.  The other thing you notice, though, is the depth of the cast, in both shows, and the feel.  Bosch is very L.A., the heat, the culture, the streets; Shetland is very much the outer reaches, the damp, the insular, and the cold sea.  They’re lived-in landscapes.

Three Pines is adapted from Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache novels, and so far, Amazon has aired two episodes.  The runtime is about an hour and forty minutes, which allows for development, and breathing room.  The pace is measured, and there’s a very strong sense of place.  It’s shot in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and it shows.  You need a warm coat.

Pursuant to the remarks above, the first reason to watch is the lead, Alfred Molina, as Gamache.  Molina goes back to Prick Up Your Ears, with Gary Oldman, and would you believe Enchanted April, not to mention voice work on Rick and Morty and Robot Chicken, as well as Doc Ock in Spider-Man?  One of my personal favorites is Close to the Enemy, from 2016.  Okay, he’s not Quebecois, or even Canadian, but he convinces me, and a large number of the rest of the cast is Canadian, and/or Indigenous.  (Tantoo Cardinal!)  All the same, Molina is the one to watch.  Gamache is grounded.  He doesn’t have a drinking problem, and he’s not grieving for a lost love.  He’s a still point in a turning world, and Molina gives him enormous gravity.  He seems to experience other people, to absorb their pain or folly or hope, and see it whole.  His empathy makes him, of course, a terrific investigator, but it makes him deeply human, as well. 

As for the Indigenous presence, there’s a thread of sorrow, never far from the surface.  The back story of Native children taken from their parents and their homes, denied their language and history, pushed to assimilate into a white, Christian culture, subject to physical and emotional abuse.  A survival narrative.

Three Pines works within the conventions, the community of eccentrics, and rash outsiders, hidden currents, shared secrets, and the rest, but touches on them lightly, for the most part. The sorrows, however, remain.