Last night there was an excellent start to the Sarah Phelps’ adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It was faithful to the original story and time frame (important), there was a fabulous cast at work and looked absolutely stunning. What more could you want?
Unlike many of Christie’s other pieces of work, And Then There Were None is not a whodunit. Instead it’s a study of guilt, paranoia, crimes already committed and punishment. With two of the original party bumped off in episode one, it’s interesting to watch the remaining guests deal with this rapidly unfolding situation and how they adapt to it. After all, it’s not every day you’re trapped on an island, your guiltiest secret revealed to a group of strangers and then knowing you’re probably going to be bumped off in any number of inventive and fun ways.
Obviously, they don’t deal with it very well at all.
Lombard is interesting. He’s the only one who doesn’t deny his past wrongdoing and always knew it would catch up with him in the end. So he knows he has a choice – sit back and let ‘justice’ take its course or fight back. The Doc wants out straight away and weeps as a he hurriedly packs his bag, Emily Brent is revealed to have pushed a young girl in her care to suicide (with the inference of abuse heavy in the air) while The General, who was revealed to have deliberately shot a fellow soldier in his trench after finding out he was having an affair with is wife, was resigned to his fate. We’re all going to die here, he shrugged. The Judge is wise, calm and beady.
Vera is still perhaps the most interesting because she picked up what was happening straight away – the poem hammered onto the backs of each of their bedroom doors, the figurines on the table and the murders themselves.
The group dynamic, as more members are bumped off, started to unravel. We got every kind of prejudice you could think of as these scared people began the blame game – misogyny, anti-Semitism, anti-Irishness… and when the idea that perhaps one of them could be the murderer is introduced, suspicion really started to rise (“I ain’t eating his pie!”).
What’s more, this suspicion and blame means that they do no stick together – and can’t bear to stick together – and disperse throughout the hotel. At night. When a storm is raging and the power goes out and there’s a distinct lack of lights. When Emily Brent is murdered they finally start to think straight and decide it’s a better idea to stick together and search each other’s rooms to make sure none of them is a wrong ‘un. Lombard and Vera experience a moment. Well you would when confronted with Aidan Tuner or Maeve Dermody in just a towel.
I’m asking myself if the flashbacks we’re seeing have been entirely reliable? (is Phelps toying with us in an unreliable narrator style?) Will one of the remaining guests be revealed as the murderer or are they indeed being hunted? I’ll put it down know: I think Vera might be the one to watch here. A hint of femme fataleness crept in slightly towards the end of this episode and isn’t it always the one who’s the most sane in insane situations the one who done it?
Oh it’s a masterful exercise in suspense and the thriller genre.
For our episode one review, go here