After a lacklustre debut outing at Easter 2016, ITV brings back its new incarnation of Maigret for another case. This time, Georges Simenon’s iconic sleuth finds himself investigating a series of murders in the Picardie countryside. Could they possibly be linked to the murder of someone who had contacted Maigret before being bumped off? There are no points for guessing the answer, because this whole story is immediately predictable, not least because we spend a lot of time following the bad guy independently of our protagonist.
It’s not about the who or how, but the why, fans of the detective might argue, but there’s sadly not enough substance to anyone on screen here to keep us interested. Alas, not even Rowan Atkinson has found his feet in the titular role yet. Continuing to exercise a deliberately low-key presence, Atkinson goes too far in his study of restraint; he speaks so softly that it’s almost like watching him narrate a two-hour perfume advert.
If the acting and script are all perfectly mediocre, though, this second Maigret drama does make one big improvement upon 2016’s effort: it looks fantastic. Maigret Sets a Trap never quite convinced as a tale actually taking place in France, but here, director Jon East goes to town on the visuals, cherry-picking his Budapest locations to echo period Paris and crafting some gorgeous set pieces, from policemen charging up shadowy flights of stairs to red signs lighting up sinister faces. If the rest of the production can follow suit, Maigret may yet impress.
Maigret’s Dead Man is available exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.