Paris in the Fifties is the setting, under threat from a serial killer targeting women in the night. After several months of investigations top police snooper Maigret is reaching the end of his rope with the authorities. It seems like his reputation will die with the latest victim. This doom-laden introduction, accompanied by an earnest soundtrack throughout, isn’t the best jumping in point. The film feels more like a finale than a debut (another has been made), and would have worked better at a point where you’d gotten to know the characters. Here you’re none the wiser about anything as everyone is so caught up.
Atkinson plays the title role in an otherworldly and preoccupied manner that I’m not sure is intentional. Like many comic actors who take on a straight part he appears to have shut down rather than emote. The director should really have tried to get more out of him. His detached performance isn’t a bad fit for the deductive stuff, but he sorely lacks much of a human dimension in scenes with his wife and colleagues. Perhaps future entries will see him relax a bit.
Simenon’s plot gets interesting at the halfway mark as Maigret determinedly holds onto his prime suspect despite mounting pressure to release him. It would help if you cared, but in fairness to writer Stewart Harcourt and members of the supporting cast (in particular Aidan McCardle) the production does manage a couple of tense sequences.
I would watch the programme again, to see how Atkinson develops and to enjoy the sharp suits and smoke-filled dens of iniquity. On this evidence however I wouldn’t place too much faith in Maigret 2016 cracking the case of this viewer’s loyalty.