The first Maigret feature to hit our screens, Maigret Sets A Trap, offers the welcome return of Georges Simenon’s implacable detective, Chief Inspector Maigret.
In the sweltering summer of 1955, a young woman on her way to get medicine for her sick child is viciously stabbed to death. She is the fourth young woman to be killed brutally on the streets of Montmartre within a few weeks. The action opens in the middle of the case, with the French police seemingly stumped, lacking both clues and suspects. There are allusions to Jack the Ripper, and the streets of Paris do not feel safe at night. There’s tension in the air, a palpable feeling of dread, and everyone is looking to the Chief Inspector to restore safety and order. His reputation is on the line.
One of the things immediately noticeable about ITV’s Maigret is the cinematography. It’s beautifully shot and feels like a film noir – two hours of stylish, blowsy, jazzy perfection. It requires the two hours to do the acting and scene setting justice.
Rowan Atkinson is a stroke of casting genius. Having admitted he initially turned the role down, we can all be thankful that he changed his mind. For someone with such an expressive face, the deep set, pensive lines of Maigret shine through, the smallest twitch conveying a depth of meaning unreachable by most. The Chief Inspector keeps his own council and is the perfect foil for the vibrancy of Montmartre. He feels things deeply – of that we can be sure.
As a spectator, you can’t help rooting for Maigret. He seems without hope, resigned but determined, finding himself in an impossible situation. Hounded by the press for a lack of results and chastised by his superiors, he attempts to set a risky trap, sending female police officers into the dark streets of Montmartre and using them as bait to attract the murderer.
When one of the officers is attacked she is too startled to remember any clear details, but has the incident left them with a clue at last, no matter how small?
Maigret as a character is everything you could want from a detective: understated, pipe-smoking, with the faith of his team and the loving trust of his wife. He is an ordinary hero, with the click of his pipe against his teeth as much an answer as the cleverest dialogue. As we near the end of this drama, it develops a new deeper psychological tension. The 1950s era, without our advancements in forensic science, has to rely more on the subtleties of human interaction and gut feeling. You’ll be hard-pressed to guess the ending.
Maigret Sets A Trap is a brilliant, atmospheric and stylish drama. I’m only sad that it’s not a regular feature of Monday nights.
Did you watch Maigret Sets A Trap? What did you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Maigret’s Dead Man will air on ITV 1 later in 2016.