At this point in the history of television, we need another murder detective procedural about as much as the real world needs more murders. That genre has long since been explored from every possible angle. Even with that in mind, it’s hard to fault a show like Amazon’s Three Pines when it’s done so well.
Based on a book series by mystery author Louise Penny, the show is smartly written and features an excellent performance from its star. Whether that will be enough to stand out in a crowded marketplace with a lot of other, very similar TV dramas remains to be seen. On the other hand, this genre has been a reliable staple of television programming practically since the medium’s inception and hasn’t shown any signs of dying off. Perhaps all a show like this needs are a compelling lead character and some interesting storylines. On that mark, Three Pines is off to a strong start.
|Episodes:||1.01 – White Out: Part 1|
1.02 – White Out: Part 2
|Release Date:||Dec. 2, 2022|
|Watched On:||Amazon Prime Video|
Alfred Molina stars as Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, the law enforcement agency covering the Canadian province of Quebec. Despite the character’s French name and French-Canadian background, Molina delivers the performance in his native British accent, but that’s actually explained within the show and is apparently true to the book depiction.
When a wealthy socialite dies under peculiar circumstances, Gamache is sent to the remote village of Three Pines to investigate. The woman was electrocuted in broad daylight while sitting at a public event in front of a crowd of people, none of whom were paying any attention to her. As much as initial signs point to this being a freak accident, and his police colleagues are ready to write it off as such, Gamache deduces that the chain of events leading to the death were too unlikely to have occurred naturally without deliberate human assistance.
The victim, an aspiring self-help guru named CC de Poitiers (Simone-Élise Girard), was something of a monster, petty and cruel to both family and acquaintances. (She had no actual friends.) Most witnesses Gamache interviews claim that they hardly knew the woman, but as he digs into their stories and their relationships, he finds that just about all of them had reason to resent her, as well as opportunity and means to kill her if they desired. Any of them could be the murderer, if not all of them working together.
While looking into this case, Gamache has another on the backburner, involving a missing Indigenous girl named Blue Two-Rivers. Although not yet officially classified as a murder, and thus not technically under his purview, Gamache feels great sympathy for the girl’s mother, who refuses to believe that her daughter could have run away, even though the limited evidence points that direction. Given the Canadian police’s long history of ignoring the human trafficking and murder of Indigenous women, Gamache knows that the mother has legitimate reason to protest the case being closed too quickly.
Begun in 2005, the Louise Penny book series is currently up to eighteen volumes already. The first two episodes of the TV adaptation, which Amazon released together, seem to be based primarily on the second novel, A Fatal Grace. The show has a somewhat unusual structure of being grouped into two-episode story arcs. The CC de Poitiers murder is resolved by the end of the second episode. From Amazon’s upcoming episode listing, it looks like the rest of the season will follow in the same pattern, released two episodes at a time comprising a single murder case (presumably each from separate books?). Meanwhile, the Blue Two-Rivers investigation will likely simmer in the background across the length of the season to connect everything together.
How such as small town could have so many murders requiring Gamache’s attention is something I hope gets addressed. From what I can tell, most of the novels are set in Three Pines (and of course that’s the name of the show), so I don’t think we’ll see Gamache having adventures all over Quebec.
As I said at the beginning, murder detective shows are dime a dozen throughout the TV landscape. If you favor ones where the detective has a British accent, practically the entirety of the Acorn TV streaming platform is devoted to that. Most of them are differentiated by how colorful their lead characters are, the quirkier and more outlandish the better.
Gamache is not quirky. A deeply empathetic man, he has deep reserves of compassion and tries to see the good in everyone he meets, even those who murder. He knows that evil exists, but believes it cannot prevail. He’s very smart, but not a super-genius who instantly puts together clues no one else can see. He solves cases by methodically studying them from every angle and getting to know everyone involved on as deep a level as possible. Life and death are important matters that he will not treat flippantly.
Molina is terrific, as are all the supporting cast. The main characters have great rapport. The writing is very strong, with some sly humor at times. An amusing running bit involves a borderline incompetent local police agent (Sarah Booth) that Gamache decides to make a special project, taking her under his wing and always treating her with respect even as his more experienced partners have no patience for her.
I’m not sure yet whether I can call Three Pines among the best new series of 2022, but it has a lot of promise and I’m interested to see how it develops.
Three Pines is a handsomely produced but not flashy series. It streams on Amazon Prime Video in 4K HDR with very nice picture quality. The 2.40:1 image is bright and sharp, with lots of detail and a slight bit of grain for texture. Colors and contrast are well balanced yet not overdone. Highlights are generally subdued, but feel organic and realistic. The white of snow is quite crisp. Unlike some HDR content, the picture never looks excessively dim, even in dark scenes.
If I have anything negative to note, the snowstorm in the second episode looks overly digital, and at least one of the driving scenes stands out as having been shot with a green-screen background. Neither of those are faults with the streaming quality, of course.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack likewise has very good fidelity without being overly showy about it. The series is primarily in English with occasional French dialogue. Subtitles are legible within the 2.40:1 frame, which is appreciated by this Constant Image Height viewer. Annoyingly, the person (or very possibly algorithm) that authored the subtitles felt it necessary to add the label “[In French]” to every piece of dialogue translated from French, even though no other languages beyond English and French are spoken. One English-language song performance in the first episode is also subtitled for no particular reason.
2 thoughts on “The Most Welcoming Place on Earth – Three Pines (2022) Series Premiere”
‘How such as small town could have so many murders requiring Gamache’s attention is something I hope gets addressed.’
Well, have you ever seen ‘Midsomer Murders’? Small town with 500-ish residents, and at least 500 murders across its 1800 seasons.
This does indeed look promising. If only I didn’t have a million other things to catch up on, this would receive my immediate attention.