While I was writing my review for Season 1 of Maigret, I kept wondering if I’d be able to find anything new to say when I reviewed Season 2. While I found Season 1 to be quite enjoyable, Maigret is not a series that provokes deep discussion. It is not prestige television, each episode doesn’t deepen an even greater mystery, nor does it have much to say about society as a whole. It does its job as entertainment, and it does it well, but it doesn’t do more than that.
Each episode begins with a crime or at least introduces us to characters who would later commit a crime. This is followed by Maigret (Rupert Davies) questioning the witnesses and potential suspects, and by the end of the episode, he has solved the crime. Each new episode basically reset itself and starts over again. There isn’t much in the way of character development or letting us know any character in any profound way.
With my Season 1 review, I laid all of this out and gave a little background into the character and my relationship with it. What more could I possibly say about Season 2 I wondered. Would I have to simply give a rundown on the plot of each episode?
What I didn’t expect was how much more interesting Season 2 was going to be. How it would change and grow from merely a series that would entertainingly pass your time – something you might stop on were it showing on cable or watch on a streaming service after you couldn’t find anything else to watch – to something you should seek out and delight in.
Season 2 is a lot funnier than Season 1. It wasn’t that Season 1 was a serious drama; it never got overly melodramatic and there were moments of levity throughout. And it isn’t that Season 2 has turned itself into a comedy. But the series seems more comfortable in allowing the comedy to shine. The writers are more easily inserting humor into its scenes. A lot of the humor stems from Davies who has really melted into the character’s shoes.
Maigret never suffered fools, especially people of wealth and power who thought they were above the law. In Season 2. he’s not afraid to let them have it. In “Death of a Butcher,” the butcher is the rich owner of numerous slaughterhouses who also holds some political sway. He is a ruthless businessman and is often cruel to his employees and even his own family. He insists that Maigret take him seriously when he says that someone is threatening to kill him (even though there is no real evidence proving this point) and demands Maigret obey his every whim. Maigret is having none of that and tells him so. He seems to rather delight in telling the butcher off knowing that despite all his money and his political power he can do nothing to Maigret.
In “Inspector Lognon’s Triumph,” Maigret happens to overhear a call about a case that is not in his jurisdiction. Something about it intrigues him and so he does a little off-the-clock investigating. He insists that the case officially belongs to Inspector Lognon (Henry Oscar) and that he can proceed how he wishes with the investigation, all the while nudging the poor fellow in the exact way that he thinks it should go. The back and forth between the policemen is a delight.
Season 2 also spends a great more time outdoors than Season 1 did. With Season 1, there was usually a moment or two where we’d find Maigret walking along the banks of the Seine, or the streets of Montmartre, or wherever that episode was set. But other than those brief moments, almost everything was set on obvious soundstages for interior scenes. With Season 2, we get lots of scenes set outside. “The Winning Ticket” begins with a shoot-out in the streets, and most of “The Lost Sailor” takes place outdoors near the Seine river. Even episodes that mostly take place indoors do a scene or two outside. I honestly don’t know if all the exteriors were actually shot in Paris or somewhere in England near the studio, but allowing the series to shoot with more exteriors opens it up and makes it feel much less closed off.
In Season 1, Maigret would often tell Sergeant Lucas (Ewen Solon) to go out and follow someone or interview various witnesses. The camera would stay with Maigret in the office while Lucas did his work. Later. he would return and give his report. Season 2 allows us to see Lucas in action, out on the streets, giving us a better feel for what actually happened. In this way, Lucas also becomes a real character, not just an errand boy. That job is then given to Lapointe (Neville Jason) or Torrence (Victor Lucas) who are constantly sent away on errands but are never given much time to shine. Madame Maigret (Helen Shingler) is likewise not given a lot to do other than ask if Maigret wants something to eat to tell him that he needs to get his rest. In that way, the series remains concentrated on the cases and doesn’t dwell do deeply on the characters.
Season 2 surprised me. I went in expecting more of the same as Season 1. It was a perfectly fine show then, but Season 2 upped the game. It is a more confident series and a more enjoyable one. Similar to Season 1, Kino Lorber has done some cleaning to the original tapes, but it still looks its age (the only extra provided on the disc is a short featurette on the restoration process, and even it admits that they didn’t have the budget to do a perfect job). It isn’t perfect but neither is it bad, and it is easily watchable. With Season 1 I’d recommend it to fans of the character, or those who love early British television, but with Season 2 I can expand that recommendation to all mystery fans. It is very much worth your time.
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