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Exercising the Little Grey Cells: Agatha Christie’s Poirot

The world’s first fictional character to ever receive an obituary was Agatha Christie’s little Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Upon his death, fans of the world-renowned, mustachioed crime-solver mourned, but BBC took great care to bring back such a memorable man by creating a show spanning 13 seasons in 24 years (1989-2013), starring David Suchet as Poirot; an unexpected bonus is seeing the development of British television production over such a span of time.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot begins with shorter hour-long episodes based on short stories and novels that have a lighter mood where characters are easier to laugh and script and characters closely follow the original stories. Later, the episodes are lengthened, focus only on full novels, and become darker and a little more raw in emotion. However, each murder is solved in the meticulous and quirky manner of the “world’s most famous detective.”

While zipping from the crime scene to Scotland Yard to his apartment, questioning every possible person involved (always in a 3-piece suit and patent leather shoes), or indulging in the occasional vacation, Monsieur Poirot works with his dear friend Captain Arthur Hastings, is assisted by his secretary Miss Lemon, and aids the gruff Chief Inspector Japp. Many times these friends unwittingly provide a moment of revelation to Poirot or inspire the “singing of the little grey cells” that give to Poirot the answer most awaited.

Poirot is a discreet and confident man who values symmetry to the point that the hard-boiled eggs he eats for break must be absolutely equal in size and appearance, nothing in his immaculate Whitehaven apartment is out of place, and neither is a single hair in his carefully waxed mustache. He doesn’t do un-gardened wilderness, pubs or beer, anything remotely dirty, or English cooking, but always has the appearance of a gentleman. But if he is provoked by any injustice, he will put a person in their place. If there is a soul that seeks his help, Poirot will indeed help.

As far as method goes, rather than focusing on the forensics of a case like most modern mystery solving characters, London-based Poirot always turns to psychology and deductive reasoning because more often than not, a person’s reason for murder is simple, but uncovering the truth, meddling with and sifting through the human heart and mind takes time. Poirot seeks the truth, and lives by the motto that knowing the truth, however much it may hurt, is necessary.

He is never violent; rather he fights with the sharpness of his mind and defends what is honorable, which is the truth. Poirot also looks to his Christian faith for guidance and comfort, and believes that ultimately, justice, grace, and mercy are given by the hand of God, but that human beings must be willing to face the earthly punishment for the crime they decided to commit. Simply put, Poirot carries the weight of the world on his shoulders; he knows the depravity of a person, but hopes for the best.

Time Commitment: All 13 Seasons are available on Netflix at the moment. It’s a little longer than one weekend totaling about 86 hours of watching, so expect to spread the binge a little.

Why its worth the binge: Amusing characters, engaging stories, true to Christie’s novels, family friendly, and offers a layman’s look at early 20th century psychology.

– Kelly Gatewood
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