Julia MacKenzie's Jane Marple is refreshingly self-assured in her nosiness, and as always, opportunistically capitalizes on how "people love talking to old ladies." While the viewer does catch Marple, on occasion, knitting or enjoying tea, for the most part she's hard at work afield, in her proper tweed suits. Because of this, each episode moves quickly. The plots are so thick that one can hardly keep track of what Marple is learning as she makes discoveries. In episode one, "A Pocket full of Rye," Rex Fortescue, a president of an investment firm, dies with a strange "cereal" in his pocket. Inspector Neele (Matthew MacFadyen) sets out to Yewtree Lodge, the family estate, where he suspects the poisonous Yew seeds came from. Marple gets in on the action, unearthing family secrets about Fortescue's troubled children, Percyval (Ben Miles), Elaine (Hattie Morahan), and Lancelot (Rupert Graves), who has been living in Africa. Which kid did it, one often asks in this series? In most episodes, clues given by housekeepers and chambermaids--in this case, Gladys (Rose Heiney)--help solve the case.
Similarly complicated episodes follow, each involving their own family or village. In "Murder Is Easy," Marple meets by train a kind-hearted Samaritan, Lavinia Pinkerton (Sylvia Syms), on her way to Scotland Yard to reveal crimes that have been occurring in her town. When Marple takes the next train to Lavinia's village to pay respects at her funeral, she teams up with detective Luke Fitzwilliam (Benedict Cumberhatch), to discover that practically everyone in town has a motive for the multiple killings taking place. "They Do It with Mirrors," set at Stoneygates estate, concerns the philanthropic Carrie Louise (Penelope Wilton), who is being slowly poisoned in her own home. We have no idea whether it is her husband, Lewis Serrocold (Brian Cox), daughters Gina (Emma Griffiths Malin) and Mildred (Sarah Smart), or sister Ruth (Joan Collins), who is attempting her murder until the very end. "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" starring Bobby Attfield (Sean Biggerstaff) and his girlfriend, Frankie Derwent (Georgia Moffett), who take interest in a dying man they find on a cliff, is so incredibly plot-thick that one hangs onto each clue, swayed multiple times before making a real discovery. Indeed, not until the last five minutes of each episode does one grasp what has just happened. While this could be frustrating for those trying to beat Marple's sleuthing, it does establish an almost mystical respect for her ability to figure out what's going on. --Trinie Dalton