Who doesn't like a good murder mystery? I love hunting for clues and marking potential suspects. I get a thrilling rush when my expectations are upended. Naturally, something like Three Pines should be an ideal show for me, right? There is not just one dead body, but multiple ones. Because after every two episodes, the victim and the motive change. The location remains the same (it's the titular village, which is described as tiny and sleepy), although, at one point, we are shifted to a hotel. Everybody has the motive to harm the victims, but only one of them is the culprit.
The investigation is led by Inspector Gamache (Alfred Molina). Apart from solving different murder cases, he has to wrap up one about a missing woman. Three Pines opens with a group of people protesting against injustice because the police proved incapable of finding Blue Two-Rivers. The family believes the girl is murdered, but the police department is not so quick at retrieving the corpse or finding out what actually happened to her. Gamache, however, cares for the missing girl. He even consoles her family members. When he gives them a lift to their house, he is sent to Three Pines for investigation. Gamache considers it to be his punishment for showing generosity towards the civilians.
At Three Pines, Gamache is joined by officer Jean-Guy Beauvoir (Rossif Sutherland), Sergeant Isabelle Lacoste (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers), and Agent Nichol (Sarah Booth). Nichol is a trainee who learns the ropes from Gamache. She smiles and proudly holds her head high when she is praised by her co-workers. This expression is sweet and also becomes a source of humor. In fact, Nichol injects some joy into an otherwise dull show whose primary sin is that it infects us with boredom.
The problem is highly evident. Three Pines shifts between murders at the village and the mission to hunt for a missing woman. The series, unfortunately, is not capable of skillfully juggling between the two threads. We forget all about Blue when we are at Three Pines, and by the time (or whenever) we are taken back to the first incident, we lose any (emotional) investment. It doesn't help that the characters are unmemorable. Ditto for the performances. They are nothing but chess pieces that simply relay lines related to the plot. They don't intimately talk about themselves, and if they do, their conversations are tightly tethered to the events of the story. These characters don't seem to have an inner life outside the boundaries of the screenplay. That wouldn't have been a problem in a lean 90-minute thriller. But when we talk in relation to a web series consisting of multiple 50-minute episodes, ennui seeps through the frames when the series doesn't do anything significant with its form.
The murder-mystery aspect in Three Pines follows the basic rule of putting the blame on the least spotlighted character. This makes the first two cases very predictable. As far as others are concerned, they are devoid of surprises and shocks. The reason is a lack of engagement. The investigation in Three Pines is carried out in the following manner: The characters talk and talk and talk until someone comes up with a clue, sometimes accidentally out of nowhere. People bump into a vital piece of information or simply wait for an audio or videotape to show up. Gamache figures out a code using the names of individuals, but we are never told exactly how he came up with this method. What brought his attention to those particular names? Was it intuition or plot convenience? (I bet on the latter). Making things worse are the conversations themselves. There is not even a single interesting line spoken here. All those discussions related to the cases are blandly delivered. It seems as if the actors are simply reading lines from the pages. Three Pines is so preoccupied with murders and the identity of murderers that it forgets to pay attention to everything else.
The storytelling is plain and straightforward. Characters speak until they are interrupted by an action, after which they continue talking with each other. Gamache is haunted by a past event, and Isabelle has children. Three Pines pays lip service to these threads as if desperately attempting to infuse dimensions into its characters (a wife leaves her husband later). Gamache's past, when revealed, comes across as banal, and we notice Isabelle's kids briefly in one shot. You can remove these bits and these scenes, and Three Pines will not lose much of its uninteresting soul. Three Pines could have been fascinating. It, however, takes its own life by settling for mediocrity.
Final Score- [4.5/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
Follow @vikasonorous on Twitter
Publisher at Midgard Times
Note: All eight episodes of Season 1 are screened for this review.
Premiere Date: December 2, 2022, on Prime Video
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