WHY DIDN'T THEY ASK EVANS? Episode 3 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad


Tony hears a noise.

That’s the noise of something perfectly crafted fitting together.

The noise of Episode 3 of the new adaptation of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? from Britbox, in fact.

Up until the end of Episode 2, there were still absolutely sackloads of questions left unanswered. That is, after all, the desired result of Act 2 of a drama. Wind up the stakes, draw the audience on, and leave them itchily baffled, determined to press ahead with Act 3 to find solutions, explanations, and ultimately, some satisfaction at a job well done.

And Act 3 is when, if you’re very lucky, everything goes click, and leaves you going “Ohhh, of course!” – vaguely kicking yourself that you didn’t see it sooner, or vaguely smug that you did, but either way, thoroughly satisfied that what you’ve seen makes at least a kind of sense within the world that’s been drawn for you.

You’re very lucky with Episode 3 of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?

First of all, the seeming peril in which intelligent aristocrat Frankie Derwent found herself at the end of Episode 2 – seemingly called out as a liar and an imposter in her guise as “concussed motorist” at Merroway Hall (home of the Bassington-ffrenches) – is evaporated for her by none other than highly-suspected chief rotter, Roger Bassington-ffrench, who manages, person by person, to clear the room with his passive aggressive charm.

Her chief accuser is Dr James Nicholson (played in ice-cold Dr House style by Hugh Laurie). He owns the nearby Grange sanitorium, and we’ve been led to believe by his wife, Moira (Maeve Dermody) that he’s a bit too eager to give electric shocks as therapy, and might very possibly intend to eliminate both his wife and Roger’s brother, Henry (Miles Jupp), so that he can get close to the then-eligible widow Bassington-ffrench, Sylvia (Amy Nuttall).

And he does himself very few favours by his manner, making all eyes swivel to him as potential suspect number 1 in the increasingly tangled tale of how someone who was probably called Alan Carstairs ended up at the bottom of a cliff in a Welsh coastal town, and why it was important, as he lay there dying, to gasp out the ever-enigmatic question, “Why didn’t they ask Evans?”


Nearly all eyes. All eyes, ironically enough, apart from those of Frankie herself, played by the increasingly impressive Lucy Boynton.

Frankie’s not particularly won over by her friend Bobby Jones’ (Will Poulter) revelations of the suffering Moira’s supposedly undergone at the hands of her zap-happy husband. Ironically, of course, she is relatively convinced by the “I’m too handsome to be a murderer” Roger Bassington-ffrench, who’s been chief suspect in her mind since the very beginning until now.

Roger even pushes Frankie to some truth-telling of her own, taking her for a spin in a powerful car and then telling her he’s seen through her. But she gets what might just possibly be a reasonable explanation for his part in the affair in return – yes, he admits, he took the picture of Moira out of the pocket of the dead Alan Carstairs, because he didn’t want to see her name all over the front page of the Daily Mail.

Be fair, if there’s a fate worse than death, that’s probably it.

When Henry Bassington-ffrench then appears to have shot himself stone dead in a locked room, and Dr Nicholson produces the key – seemingly from Henry’s pocket, but who can really tell? – it looks as though just possibly, Dr Nicholson may be the bad guy after all.

Bear in mind that this is Agatha Christie, eh?

There’s much more to all this than meets the eye, naturally, and again, it’s Lucy Boynton’s Frankie who moves things forward with a plucky tale well told, that gets her access to a key piece of evidence.

You may notice this review starting to get foggier and more opaque from here on out, because damned if we’re going to spoiler an Agatha Christie story for you by giving you too much detail.

Suffice it to say that Bobby too has his moments in this episode, whether it’s breaking in to a supposedly locked room with a swift window-punch through a cap, or more impressively, figuring out that when you hear a voice rather than seeing a face, you can’t be entirely sure that what’s happening is what you think it is.

But then, in a generous adaptation by Hugh Laurie, there’s room for everyone on the side of right to have their moment here. Knocker Beadon (Jonathan Jules), Bobby’s wartime friend and current business partner, earns his nickname by delivering vengeance on the deserving. Even Frankie’s deliciously dotty mother (played by Emma Thompson) gets an unexpected moment of glory, although she’s not on screen to take it), having inadvertently cracked the case alllll the way back in Episode 1.

And at the end, both Bobby and Frankie share the bragging rights – because there’s more than one villain at the core of this bit of work. Bobby’s bravery is shown in the way he skilfully rugby tackles one of the central miscreants while they’re preparing to do somebody (else) wrong.

Frankie though remains, as she’s been throughout, the genius of the pair, seeing straight through a well-constructed blind and bluff, and being quick enough to capture some evidence of potential murder. It’s she who – in traditional Agatha Christie style – has the murderer spit venom at her, and while yadda yadda yadda violence bad, etc, etc, she delivers a thoroughly satisfying slap to stop the flow of confessional invective.

By the end, thanks also to the jail cell confessional spirit of the other party in this demented machination for millions, everything makes the kind of sense you want it to.

Yes, absolutely, innocents have died along the way, and they’re dismissed by one of the baddies with a positively psychopathic casualness, as though they were just idiot obstacles that needed to be removed, or even as though they were simply window-dressing to the crime, to add colour and confusion to the piece.

And ultimately, there’s a good deal of fun to be had from Bobby and Frankie’s realisation that the only reason they themselves have been mixed up in the business is because the baddies have credited them with far too much knowledge and understanding.

We – and they – only discover who Evans is, what it was they should ordinarily have been asked, and why they weren’t, ridiculously late in the day (though thankfully, just early enough to prevent another two or three murders).

Meanwhile, an overly cautious, even slightly paranoid pair of duplicitous devils have assumed they knew much more than they did, and so, for instance, tried to poison Bobby with Henry Bassington-ffrench’s morphia, as well as ultimately trussing the pair up in a potential torture chamber and letting Creepy Bowler Hat Man (also known, without it spoiling any of the drama, as Mr Angel) loose on them.

There’s a happy ending here which feels fitting, for all it rather glosses over the innocents who have died along the way, and the lives that have been left wrecked in the wake of the deaths.

And again we say, a series of future Frankie Derwent Mysteries would be highly welcomed, thank you very much. You could even call it foreshadowing that when questioned by Roger Bassington-ffrench on why she’s at Merroway Court, Frankie explains that ‘her organisation’ has sent her – and that she even introduces Bobby to him, once he’s doffed his cloak of impenetrable disguise (or the chauffeur’s cap of relative obviousness, as it’s also known) as a fellow member of ‘the organisation.’

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. If there are writers able to take Frankie and Bobby forward, along with Knocker, to solve future crimes and grisly murders, we’d very much welcome their efforts.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this adaptation works as well as it does because of an impeccable cast (including, it feels fair to say, Daniel Ings as the increasingly mercurial Roger Bassington-ffrench in this third episode). But the success of the piece is also absolutely keyed into the directorial decisions of Hugh Laurie. Would Laurie commit to a series behind the camera? Maybe, maybe not – but if not, in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? he’s left behind a gorgeous blueprint for how to turn the adventures of Frankie Derwent and Bobby Jones into streamtastic magic.

If you have a Britbox account, don’t let it sit there – while away some spring evenings with Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? And if you don’t… *Cough* Free trial period *Cough*. But you didn’t hear that from us. It’s worth signing up to experience a mostly note-perfect cast in a mostly tone-perfect piece of Christie that has often failed to get the admiration it so clearly, in the right hands, deserves.

Tony Fyler lives in a concrete cave, somewhere on the edge of the sea, with his wife, who exists, and the Fictional People In His Head, who don't as yet. A journalist and editor by day, he has written Some Books, and is more or less always writing another. One day, he may even get around to showing them to people. In the meantime, he's Script Editor and occasional Executive Producer at Third Time Lucky Productions, and a proud watcher of things no-one remembers they remember until they remember.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad