"The Mystery of the Blue Train" looks like it is going to be a train mystery similar to "Murder on the Orient Express," but unlike most of the murders that Poirot encounters while riding the rails, the victem isn't found until the train has reached its destination and the investigation itself happens in the South of France. In this mystery, Poirot shares a train ride with an American businessman (Elliot Gould, Mash, Ocean's Eleven), his daughter Ruth (Jaime Murray, Defiance, Dexter), a rather odd group of British citizens that seem to be up to no good, and a young woman named Katherine (Georgina Rylance) who just inherited a large sum of money. Poirot quickly befriends Katherine and starts to teach her the basics of etiquette since she has found herself in the upper class rather unexpectedly. Early in the trip, Ruth and Katherine trade sleeping cabins, and when Ruth is found dead when the train reaches the cabin, Poirot has to figure out not only who did the deed, but also if Ruth was the intended victim, or if the murderer thought they were attacking Katherine. Surely the missing expensive piece of jewelry that Ruth flaunts makes the motive obvious, right? This episode also features Roger Lloyd-Pack (Interview with the Vampire, the Harry Potter films) as a French detective that helps Poirot through the investigation.
The series' second mystery, called "Cards on the Table," has the wealthy and secretive Shaitana (Alexander Siddig, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) inviting Poirot to a dinner party. When Poirot arrives, he realizes that he recognizes several of the guests, and the ones he recognizes are actually recurring characters in several Agatha Christie stories. One is Colonel Hughes. The original story had this character as Colonel Race from "Death on the Nile," but apparently that actor was not available, so the show's producers created this character who is played by Robert Pugh (Master and Commander, Robin Hood,Game of Thrones). Poirot also recognizes Superintendent Jim Wheeler (David Westhead) and a renowned mystery writer, Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker), a character that seems to be based at least a little on Agatha Christie herself. Oddly enough, none of the four sleuths know who Shaitana's other four guests are.
When the dinner wraps up, Shaitana invites the guests to play Bridge. Poirot and his compatriates sit at one table in one room, while the other four play their own game in an adjoining room. Imagine everyone's surprise when their host is found stabbed to death in his chair by the fireside. After vetting each other, the four sleuths take it upon themselves to investigate and interview the other four party guest members in order to determine which of them could have committed the murder. Imagine their surprise when they quickly learn that the other four guests are hiding something and each one of them could easily have been the killer.
I really enjoyed this episode. It was interesting to see Poirot work hand-in-hand with several other high-caliber minds and seeing each of them play off of each other in order to put all the pieces together. I also really enjoyed Wanamaker's portrayal of Oliver. Looking ahead, it's obvious that this isn't the last we've heard of this character, as she shows up in six more episodes.
In "After the Funeral," Poirot is invited to look into a couple of deaths that have recently hit a wealthy family, the Abernethies, but it isn't the family that has asked him to investigate, it is their solicitor (lawyer). The family's patriarch, Richard Abernethie, has just passed away, and as a surprise to everyone, the will is not what anyone expected. The entire family assumed the money and land would be given to the Richard's nephew, George (Michael Fassbender, X-Men: First Class, Prometheus, Inglourious Basterds), for him to dole out as he sees fit. Instead, the will claims that everything will be sold and evenly divided amongst the surviving family members, well everyone except George. George's mother, Helen (Geraldine James from the new Sherlock Holmes films), a widow who married Richard's brother, can't understand why George was disinherited and how any money could possibly be given to Richard's estranged brother and loony sister, both of whom have been out of the family picture for a long time now.
When Richard's sister is found dead and the deed to the house has come up missing, the family solicitor invites Poirot to the estate to figure out exactly what is going on. Poirot's investigation leads him to some strange places as he interviews everyone from the various living family members, to Aunt Cora's live-in companion and even questioning the butler and the lawyer. Of course, as always, the more Poirot digs, the more inconsistencies he finds. He soon realizes that everyone is hiding something. In order to solve this particular mystery, Poirot will have to determine why the will was changed, where the deed to the estate went and figure out if Richard's death was natural or another murder in this unusual case.
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 10's final mystery, "Taken at the Flood," has a bit of a darker tone to it than most episodes seen thus far. Poirot becomes aware of the Cloade family and the fact that the head of the family has just died without a will. With no will, all of the money goes to his young wife, Rosaleen (Eva Birthistle, Strike Back). Of course, the family is up in arms and doesn't believe she should be in control of the fortune, at least not while she is under the tight control of her brother, David Hunter (Elliot Cowan). Each surviving member of the family has become quite reliant on the money that was supposed to come to them, and now they believe none of them will see it.
When someone arrives in town and claims to know something about the new widow's previous husband, who was presumed dead when lost in the jungle, the episode gains a bit of a blackmail edge to it. The matter gets even darker when the supposed blackmailer ends up dead. Poirot has a lot to contend with this episode. The obvious suspect has an alibi claiming to have spent the night with a woman, but refuses to give her name. Poirot realizes that this is just a part of the suspect's game since whoever he was with must feel ashamed about the tryst and would have to reveal herself or allow him to be convicted for a crime she knows he didn't commit. Another interesting aspect of this particular case is how much Poirot's Catholic faith comes out, especially when he talks to and about the recently twice-widowed Rosaleen. Another well known name in this episode it Patrick Baladi. Instead of playing a comedic role most viewers of the British version of The Office would expect, Baladi plays the fiance to one of the Cloade women.
Unlike most releases of Agatha Christie's Poirot, Series 10 contains a behind-the-scene featurette. This 45 minute piece divides its time evenly between discussions about each of these episodes and how David Suchet becomes Poirot, as well as his views on the character and his goal to actually play through each of the character's mysteries; a goal he succeeded in reaching in 2013's Series 13 with the final episode "Curtain: Poirot's Last Case." This was a delightful addition and something that even casual fans of this show will want to check out.
While early seasons of this show contained several one-hour episodes per season, the trend in the later series of producing just a few feature-length episodes means that much more time and effort seems to go into each mystery. It might be hard to justify the expense to buy this release for just four episodes, but I enjoyed every single mystery in this collection and feel like they are well worth it, even to fans of the show who only catch the series every now and then.