Having watched Maigret last night with Rowan Atkinson in the starring role I have seen various comments on the production so I thought I would write a review. Bear in mind I am not a professional critic, and the below are just my opinions. There again a professional critic only gives their opinion so..
Atmosphere: The locations/sets I felt did give a good atmosphere of post WWII France. We know it's post-war as Maigret says that Paris has seen enough Gestapo tactics not to want anymore. I am not expert in fashion but the clothing seemed to me appropriate to the era.
Acting: I will come back to this later in the review but overall I felt the acting of all parties was of a good if not outstanding quality. One black mark I personally feel, although opinions vary, is in the total absence of accents. While noting as above that the physical atmosphere was achieved I felt drama had taken a huge step backwards to the 1930s when everyone spoke in an English accent regardless of their character's nationality. The only nods to the location not being in Britain were the place and character names. Even Maigret was referred to on occasion as 'Mister' and not 'M'sieur'.
Maigret himself has been described as a grey character without much to him, and I think this comes to the crux of the issue. I personally disagree with this characterisation as he shows his character not in the more overt manner of modern detectives but in his single-minded pursuit of the villain. We see he is not an automaton through his reaction to the widower of the latest victim and his young family. Maigret to be sure cares deeply about what he does. For him the victims are not just names, as they are for his masters. they are people with real lives, and they are those left behind when loved ones are killed.
So why the approbation to the drama? In my opinion we have been spoilt as a viewing audience. Modern murder mysteries have convoluted plots with the guilty party only exposed in the last five minutes of the hour or two hour investigation. The investigators be they police or private plough their way unerringly through a pile of false flags arresting and releasing suspects until they eventually get the right person. We have been spoilt by the deducting gymnastics of Holmes, Poirot and their ilk, the sudden 'lightbulb' moments out of the blue accorded to Barnaby, Lewis etc. The closest we have come to normality is in Brenda Blethyn's portrayal of Vera.
Then we have Maigret. Here we are presented with a normal policeman charged with the capture of a serial killer. A killer who thus far has killed five times in six months and left no clue. Maigret is a man with the weight of the world bearing down heavily on his shoulders. His immediate superior keeps demanding results. His political master keeps demanding results – in actuality more interested in the damage to his reputation than the victims. Both threatening to replace Maigret if he doesn't produce results. The constant hounding by the press demanding results. To his credit refusing to be bullied into an arrest – as we have seen many times in reality – of the wrong man. He is persistent to the point of relentlessness – if he asks a question he will keep asking it over and over wearing the suspect down until it is answered. After a masterstroke Maigret is gifted with what he craves. A rough description of the suspect and a physical clue. He proceeds to follow where the clue leads him, now unlike previously aimlessly searching he becomes a bloodhound following a scent. When he finds his quarry up a metaphorical tree he doesn't give up, but keeps barking until the quarry comes to ground and is captured.
Maigret is not a Poirot, Holmes, Lewis or Barnaby, nor even a Vera. He is Maigret and deserves to be treated as such.