Script versus novel
Horowitz stays fairly true to the source material, with several notable exceptions. First, he adds a scene from Macbeth (particularly fitting, both because Lady Edgware aka Lady Macbeth is an actress and because Lord Edgware will later be murdered with a dagger). Second, there’s the scenes that re-establish the Big Four after the four-year hiatus. Hastings is called back from Argentina (having lost the farm in speculative investments, perfectly in tune with his previous business attempts), Miss Lemon helps Poirot moving back in and Japp (who returned in the last episode) comes to dinner. These scenes are nicely done and actually very much in character, so I don’t object to them. Third, Carlotta’s impersonations include one of Poirot (unsurprisingly – that was begging to be added!). Fourth, Poirot and Hastings discover Carlotta’s body before the doctor and the police have been there (a sensible change). Fourth, Carlotta’s sister Lucie is in the UK, so Poirot gets to interview her face to face, rather than through letters and telegrams. Fifth, Horowitz adds a significant number of scenes between Poirot and Lady Edgware – and creates the impression throughout the episode that he is falling for her (one particular scene between Miss Lemon and Hastings is particularly reminiscent of ‘The Double Clue’). Sixth, Jenny Driver is changed into Penny Driver (for no particular reason it seems), and so is the inscription on the gold case (CA from P, not CA from D). Seventh, several scenes are removed (including the visit from the Dowager duchess, the taxi driver who sees Geraldine and Ronald Marsh outside Lord Edgware’s house, the intended restaurant meeting that Lady Edgware attends disguised as Carlotta, and the scene in which Poirot tries to find out if the pince-nez belong to Edgware’s secretary (but the scene in which Ellis is tested remains). None of these scenes are missed, though. On the subject of the Duke of Merton, he is much more involved and much less reserved than in the novel, so there is really no need for his mother to get involved. Eighth, Horowitz adds a chase scene in which Alton the butler tries to escape (and like the previous episode, it feels completely unnecessary). All in all, however, the denouement does tie thing neatly together, so this script isn’t half bad.
Directing, production design, locations, soundtrack
Farnham’s direction is largely competent. However, I must point out that the first dinner scene is a complete cheat, since there’s no attempt made at trying to conceal SPOILER the fact that Helen Grace (Lady Edgware) actually is in two places at the same time. In the denouement, the camera mostly shows the back of her (or rather Carlotta’s) head, and that works well, so why couldn’t the same trick have been used at that first dinner scene. Very annoying – almost as annoying as the obvious culprit in Hickory Dickory Dock. The production design is good as always, and several of the locations are lovely. These include Shoreham Airport (previously seen in ‘The Adventure of the Western Star’ and Death in the Clouds), ‘The Peacock House’ in Holland Park (later to be used as Shaitana’s house in Cards on the Table), Addisland Court (previously seen in ‘The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman’) and Highpoint flats in Highgate (used as Lady Edgware’s penthouse flat – previously seen in ‘The Affair at the Victory Ball’). Gunning’s soundtrack is particularly memorable, but it has sadly never been released on CD (apart from the Argentinean sections, which can be heard in the ‘Poirot Variants’ track).
Characters and actors
It’s nice to see the old gang back together again, but more importantly it’s nice to see the sombre, darker quality continue (I know many fans object to this element, but I think it’s fairly obvious that I like it), for instance in Poirot’s lamentations on marriage. Of the guest actors, Helen Grace (Lady Edgware) is the standout – she actually manages to make the denouement almost creepy (but not on an After the Funeral level!).