- If the first two episodes streaming on Amazon Prime are a peek into what’s to come, I think the series will enhance and complement Penny’s vast creative work.
I came home from Thanksgiving break with raging flu-like symptoms. For a week, my body was in the throes of fever, cough, head cold and malaise. I didn’t even have the energy to flop on the couch and navigate a remote. Yesterday, the nasty virus slackened its hold on my respiratory passages. My appetite returned and with it came the curiosity to catch up on the shows I had missed over the holidays.
To my great delight and amazement, “Three Pines” was streaming on Amazon Prime. I was aware that one of my favorite Canadian mystery writers Louise Penny had signed a contract with John Griffin and Left Bank Pictures, but this came as a part of an early Christmas miracle.
I popped a bag of microwave popcorn and settled in front of the couch. The first two episodes are based on Penny’s second book: “A Fatal Grace.” It started with the disappearance of an indigenous girl named Blue Two-Rivers (Anna Lambe), whom the Sûreté du Québec don’t follow seriously… But then someone else dies in broad daylight in the middle of a village curling competition. The murder victim of the first plot is not liked by the residents of Three Pines. Armand discovers this rather quickly as he interviews Bea Mayer (Tantoo Cardinal), of the Be Calm Center yoga/meditation retreat and art studio.
It almost seems like an early Christmas present to see a fictional village come to life with the titular three pines coming into view. I felt a thrill run down my spine similar to when I saw my favorite Hercule Poirot reincarnate in Agatha Christie’s “Murder on The Orient Express.” For some reason, I had imagined the trees to be taller. But with twinkling lights against the falling snow, they perfectly frame the quaint old village. I was in my imagination and the imagination of Louise Penny and millions of other readers. The cinematography was done not too far from Penny’s hometown Knowlton. As soon as the credits started rolling, I was in the remote, snow-laden province of Quebec.
Inspector Gamache was also different from how I had sketched him on my mental sketchpad. He was more avuncular, with a salt and pepper beard, but nevertheless a gentleman. Comfortable in his skin, vocation and at par with the harsh elements. The more I saw his eyes peer through the heavy black frames, the more I realized why he was the right choice. Other characters like Myrna, Olivier and Ruth Zardo with her duck were briefly showcased but I am sure they will feature in other episodes as the residents of this quirky village are full of secrets and always get themselves entrenched in murder mysteries.
I liked what I saw of Jean-Guy Beauvoir (Rossif Sutherland) and Sargent Lacoste, the two seasoned and skilled detectives. Isabelle Lacoste, played by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, is sharp. She is also a member of the Kainai First Nation (Blood Tribe, Blackfoot Confederacy). This foreshadows that the series will focus on the fate of missing indigenous Canadian people. Local officer Yvette Nichol (Sarah Booth), is awkward and green around the ears, but Gamache respects her instincts and is ready to teach her. But the others seem to zoom in and out of focus around him like local trains but Armand Gamache was like the Grand Central. He was there in almost every frame. Quiet.
Quieter than the falling snow. Still like the frozen lake. Deep. Seeing, listening, intuiting. Approaching every human being in his precinct with deep humanity, compassion and a relentless sense of justice. If the first two episodes are a peek into what’s to come, I think the series will enhance and complement Penny’s vast creative work. The actor’s dialogue delivery hits like a truck of gravel. Men who sleep around don”t respect their wives. They steal their time.
There’s a bit of a resemblance to our Big B and Abhishekh rolled into one but when I hear the inspector’s name roll off his wife Reine-Marie’s (Marie-France Lambert) tongue like almond butter, I know that these two will leave a lasting impact. Alfred Molina (the British American actor we know from Spiderman 2) fits the role well, with covert childhood vulnerability and overt strength of character. He knows that his wife will stand by his side through thick and thin.
I can’t wait to see other strong personal bonds form and unravel between the three officers. The first two episodes seem to have a grasp on Penny’s distinct style of plotting of the murder with poetic and artistic inlays.
I wonder what common thread will stitch the episodes based on different mystery books? Will they pick the ones I like the most? But I am certain there will be a generous smattering of French, French Canadian camaraderie and delicious cuisine. And danger. Ugliness lurking around the beautiful Three Pines.
“Three Pines” is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Two episodes will stream weekly until the first-season finale on Dec. 23. Enjoy.
With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, and essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.