You know it’s holiday season in the UK when ITV wheels out another Maigret, this new adaptation quickly becoming synonymous with Christmas, Easter and all the rest. We’ve had two new Maigret films with Rowan Atkinson at the helm now, each one slowly and shakily better than the last. But still, in a modern age where the likes of Line Of Duty – on more or less at the same time on the other channel – tearing a new hole in the patchwork of crime drama, Maigret still feels like a stick-in-the-mud. Some may well argue Maigret is reassuringly Golden Age and familiar in its template, like putting on a favourite pair of slippers, and if you subscribe to that argument there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – there’s room for all sorts of crime drama in its great panoply – I just wish there was more oomph to this adaptation. I’ve made this argument before, but there were signs in this feature-length episode of improvement.
NB: Spoilers inside
Unusually for Maigret, the action was more or less completely set outside of Paris, in a village near to the Belgian border. Three Widows’ Crossroads is where jeweller Isaac Goldberg – a Jewish man who was also survivor of the concentration camps – went to meet a buyer for some gems he was looking to shift. One last job, he promised his wife, and he wasn’t not wrong – when he reached the crossroads to make the exchange in the dead of night he was shot in the head by the buyer. After all he had gone through, what a way to go.
We then met the Andersens, Carl and Else – Danish siblings who lived in a large home near to the crossroads. The body of Goldberg was found on their property by a chatterbox housekeeper, and soon Carl (Game Of Thrones’ Tom Wlaschiha) and sister Else (Mia Jexen) were off to Paris, seemingly on the run. They were a strange pair – Carl’s appearance screamed murderer. With his steely, intense northern-European gaze, his penchant for dressing in black and his scarred face and eye-patch he couldn’t have been a more of an obvious suspect if he had ‘I am a suspect’ written across his forehead. He was a Bond villain before Bond had been invented. All he needed to set the look off was a fluffy white cat (“I’ve been expecting you Mr Maigret).
Despite the crime being committed under the jurisdiction of Maigret’s old chum, Inspector Louis Grandjean (Kevin McNally), it was Maigret’s men who picks up the Andersens at the train station Paris. This how our quiet detective became involved in a case he had no real right to be involved in.
And wouldn’t you know it the case wasn’t quite what it seemed, despite Carl Andersen’s seeming guilt. You could see Maigret’s curiosity was piqued by both Andersens: Carl with his other-worldly appearance, intensity and formidable, often withering intellect; Else with her stunning beauty offset vulnerability, unpredictability and instability. It soon transpired that Carl Andersen kept Else hidden away from the world (“protection… from temptation, from everything“)… neigh, locked away. She was seen to be suffering from maladies – a mental illness of some description, perhaps – and everything pointed to the fact her nameless and suggested condition kept her housebound. Carl Andersen made sure to that.
Later, we saw Carl and Else kiss. Was this really a strange, taboo relationship of doomed incest, or something else?
What was clear was that the garrulous Grandjean thought it was an open-and-shut case. Maigret, as you would imagine, did not and further examination of the Andersen’s home and the village around it, revealed clues that did not support the theory that Andersen was the murderer, despite his odd ways.
It was the Andersens who were adding something new and different here – Wlaschiha was a quiet, deeply charismatic presence throughout; Jexen beguiling and multi-faceted. What also intrigued was Maigret’s relationship with Grandjean. Indeed, when Grandjean realised that Maigret was taking over the investigation and making decisions without his involvement, he dared to give his superior and old friend and colleague a dressing down in front of the Paris force. This was an interesting power play, one that Maigret did not flinch from – as usual, he addressed it in his usual pragmatic way, but you could just see flickers of nostril-flaring anger from our taciturn hero. Even the most rational are given to territorial pissings, it seemed.
Of course, that showdown was Grandjean’s first mistake and Maigret soon made him pay. When Maigret gets scent of something strange he’s like a dog with a bone, and the episode developed – not unpredictably – in a way that we’ve become accustomed: Maigret’s gang investigated, they found out things (the village was rotten and key members of the local community were importing stolen goods and moving them on), they buggered things up, and Maigret had to come and clean up the mess. It was standard Maigret procedural.
In the end, Else was found not to be Carl’s sister – she was his wife, ‘rescued’ from working the streets of Antwerp by Carl. Now she was a fully-fledged femme fatale, playing poor, corrupt Grandjean (who was behind both the murder and the village scam) and Carl both. There was something intriguing and alluring about Else – she had been blunted by years of working as a sex worker and knew not only how men worked but also what they liked. She put this knowledge to work with stunning alacrity and breathtaking dedication – for someone to be locked up and shielded from the world like she had been willing to be, we’re taking about someone who had dug in and was prepared to play the long game.
And this is what really made Night At The Crossroads arguably the best ‘new’ Maigret yet – the surrounding, supporting characters were so strong and interesting that it took some of the attention away from a man who really has no right to be a lead in a modern-day crime drama.
A solid, satisfactory and occasionally enjoyable effort; perhaps the best yet.
For a review of Maigret Sets A Trap go here
For a review of Maigret’s Dead Man go here