Just binged Three Pines, a new series on Amazon Prime Video -- at once charming, dangerous, provocative, with a Sherlock Holmesian detective (Inspector Gamache, played by Alfred Molina) and gorgeous wintery scenery north of Montreal. It somehow manages to have elements of a British cosy whodunnit, with cursing you wouldn't hear even in Chicago PD, and it's an altogether wonderful treat to see.
I should also mention that it's based on Louise Penny's series of novels (which I haven't yet read), before I warn you about spoilers ahead...
These first two episodes feature Gamache hard at work on two cases, a missing Indigenous young woman, and soon an horrendous mother -- an author -- who is electrocuted sitting in a chair outside in snow, watching a curling match.
The second case is solved by the end of the second episode. The first case remains, and I assume will be pursued throughout at least this entire season. The first case, in addition to what I said above, also has elements of the Murdoch Mysteries, and a group of intriguing suspects, each somewhat plausible, given what an awful parent the victim was. How awful? She tells her daughter she's sorry the daughter was born.
The series is also lifted by a contemporary dialogue, rife not only with cursing but wisecracks and sarcasm. These are heard in a timely way, every time you might be lulled into thinking you're only seeing a Hercule Poirot in Canada. I've found there's something about Canadian TV shows in general which gives them a special appeal you don't find in American TV -- I'm thinking here of the police shows 19-2 and Flashpoint, as well as the Murdoch Mysteries -- and Three Pines has a nice helping of that, too.
I won't say anything too specific about the remaining six episodes, to leave at least some surprises if you haven't yet seen this series. But there will be a big spoiler at the end of the review.
Some of the things I like most about these episodes and the overall series:
- How Inspector Gamache always tells the police on the scene, including his own team, to lower their weapons as he tries to talk the suspect/perpetrator down, i.e., to peacefully surrender. It's a real pleasure to see a police detective who has such a strong belief in the possibility of logic winning the day.
- Alfred Molina's portrayal of Gamache is just superb.
- His team -- Jean-Guy, Isabelle, and Yvette -- are excellent too. I especially liked Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers -- an indigenous actress -- and her portrayal of Isabelle, but Rossif Sutherland as Jean-Guy and Sarah Booth as Yvette were fine, too. All were fresh, delivering characters we haven't quite seen before on television.
- Speaking of indigenous people, the Crees were very well portrayed in this narrative. We're introduced to a wide variety of people, of all ages, who play crucial roles with their wisdom and attitudes in solving the crimes, including the crime that weaves its way through all eight episodes, the murder of not one but two young Cree adults. (Tantoo Cardinal -- Outlander, Stumptown, etc -- was memorable, as always.)
- A great example of this wisdom is the difference between white pine needles and red pines needles, conveyed to Gamache, and central in his solving the above murder.
- And speaking of nature, it's beautifully captured in every episode.
One thing I didn't like: Pierre getting the better of Gamache at the very end. I suppose it's understandable, considering, again, Gamache's deep belief in rationally appealing to criminals to do the right thing. But given that Gamache knows that his friend Pierre callously murdered Blue Two-Rivers, it still bothers me that he didn't search Pierre at gunpoint before walking away from him.
I do hope/expect that Gamache will survive, given that he wasn't shot in the head and showed some signs of life at the end. And I really hope and expect that we'll see the aftermath of that final scene in a season two of this unique and wonderful series.