Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Last Ever Poirot - Tonight ...

I was brought up on detective and crime stories. Arthur Conan Doyle, Ngaio Marsh, Dashiel Hammett, on to Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard and then more recently, Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankel and Jo Nesbo. But the greatest of all of them was Dame Agatha Christie.

David Suchet, sans moustache.
I have read everything she has written, and Hercule Poirot remains her - and the world's - best ever detective. (with apologies to fans of Sherlock Holmes, a close second)

David Suchet has starred as the sleuth in Agatha Christie's Poirot since 1989. In June 2013, Suchet finally finished filming of Curtain - Poirot's last case, which is aired tonight.

It truly is the end of an era.

No one could've guessed nearly 25 years ago that the series would span a quarter-century - or that the classically trained Suchet would complete the entire catalog of whodunits featuring the eccentric Belgian investigator, including 33 novels and dozens of short stories. The series castlist reads like a who's-who of British acting talent, including several early appearance by young actors who have gone on to great things, and no less than 15 actors who have played 2 different roles in different episodes. 

David Suchet as 'Poirot' in a scene from 'Curtain'.
Curtain, actually, although damn good, is perhaps not Dame Agatha's finest. The best novel (in my opinion) was The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd which has probably the best ever - and most controversial - final plot twist in Detective Fiction, and is considered one of the most influential crime novels in history. The best TV adaptation, again in my opinion, was the epic Five Little Pigs, with an unbeatable all-star cast - although 2010's Murder On The Orient Express was a close second, Suchet at his very, very best, and I challenge you to watch the intense last five minutes with dry eyes.

What Curtain is, is closure. A final act of the great man back at the same location as his very first case in Britain. The novel is tricky and twisty - not only does Hercule not know the identity of the murderer, he doesn't even know who the victim will be. And it is emotional - at least it is if you've come to love the fussy Belgian as I have.

It is time, then, to say goodbye to Hercule. The series will run and run as repeats, probably for a very long time, but tonight is the last time we will see fresh footage... It won't quite be the same. After this, every Poirot will be "I've seen it before and I know how it ends but I'll still watch it."

David Suchet, of course, has been the best man to ever play the role. It has been the defining role of his career, even the defining event in his life. "Poirot" he says, "has been my best friend." He is so perfect that Christie's grandson Mathew has commented: "Personally, I regret very much that she never saw David Suchet. I think that visually he is much the most convincing and perhaps he manages to convey to the viewer just enough of the irritation that we always associate with the perfectionist, to be convincing!"

There is, of course, the slim possibility that, just as the estate of Ian Fleming licensed the James Bond character to other authors after the original author died, so the family of Agatha Christie may choose, one day, to do the same. I hope not. Curtain was written specifically to put an end to the canon. Some things should just be let alone.

I remember I started reading Agatha Christie when I was 14. I remember finishing 'Curtain' (I read them in series order!) about a month before the Poirot series premiered. So, personally, I feel like I've been with Hercule almost all my life, either in print or on TV.

I hope you watch tonight. You will see one of the worlds finest actors play the one of the worlds finest ever characters, written by the greatest ever detective crime author.

Below is the official, and rather beautiful ITV trailer for the last series of four episodes.