The only thing better than a series of French-relocated-Agatha-Christie-adaptations is a second series of French-relocated-Agatha-Christie-adaptations.
This delightful 50’s set series based on some of the lesser known Agatha Christie stories returns for a second run of slick hair, suits, and cigarettes. Like the first season, this joyfully playful adaptation is great comfort television. It’s familiar and safe, while leaning heavily on the twists and turns, red-herrings, and riddles of Mrs Christie’s original stories. There's absolutely nothing better than spending a lazy weekend afternoon watching murder mystery shows and this show is perfect for your Sunday afternoon needs.
Setting the Scene
With an infamous (albeit half-hearted) rivalry between France and England, a French adaptation of one of England’s most famous writer’s collected works seems like an odd pairing, but it works marvelously.
Last year Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express captured the whimsy and decadence of the period. It also carried a message for fans of period dramas, suggesting that the rose-coloured glasses through which we view the past can be enjoyable, it would be a mistake to assume they show us the world as it truly was.
But don't expect any of that here. These are fun, whimsical mysteries - Criminal Games is like Mad Men with absolutely none of the brooding.
The French countryside is an ideal replacement for the bucolic English villages we’re used to seeing in Agatha Christie adaptations like this. There are no overtly political themes, this is a show that wants to help you forget your day: so let you lean back and be swept up in the convoluted goings on of whatever local crime has been committed.
Each episode we’re treated to a new mystery. Will dashing detective Snow Lawrence (Samuel Labarthe) and the gang be able to solve it in time? Will they be able to unravel the clues? Will they catch the culprit? This new batch of episodes kicks off with a bang, the funeral of the main character Snow Lawrence before we flashback to 8 days earlier. Is this really the end for our debonair detective?
The Usual Suspects
One of the major joys of the show is the cast. Given that each week is a new mystery there are only a handful of regulars: the Superintendent Snow Lawrence, his loyal word-playing secretary and not so-secret admirer Marlene (Elodie Frenck), and his mental sparring partner and local reporter Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir). They form the kind of Scooby squad we’ve come to expect in shows like this and do so with a delicious mixture of farce and charm.
Solving the Mystery
This is the sort of show where a detective can smell some ink and immediately identify it’s exact type (a skill that's just, so, so common...), where a character can whistle and glance around innocently to show they’re not tracking someone on the street, where haunted mansions house secret passages and sneaky reporters clash good-naturedly with handsome detectives. Criminal Games leans into its 50’s setting with elements like rear projection nighttime driving scenes - but never to it’s detriment. It's all just part of the fun.
And that's what this show is - good, old-fashioned TV fun. So settle in with some of your favourite snacks and play couch detective.
Can you figure out whodunnit?
Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games is streaming now at SBS On Demand.