The Madame Blanc Mysteries: Series 3
R0 - United Kingdom - Acorn Media
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (19th March 2024).
The Film

When her husband Rory was killed in a strange crash during one of his buying trips to French antiques haven Sainte-Victoire, London antiques dealer Jean White (Scott & Bailey's Sally Lindsay) discovered that all of their business assets are owed to creditors and the only things left of value are a cottage they bought years ago in the village and a Burmese Blood Ruby ring that was not found among his personal effects. Traveling to Saint-Victoire, Jean learned that her husband's death was no accident when it turns out that another rarely-seen woman mistaken by the locals for Rory's wife has trafficked forgeries. Settling into village life, Jean found her expertise of value to the local head of police Andre Caron (Hampstead's Alex Gaumond) in various murder cases involving art and antiques and forming a fast friendship/possible romance with part-time general handyman/part-time rideshare driver Dominic Hayes (Starlings' Steve Edge). At the end of the first season, Jean faced off against her husband's murderer: master criminal Barbara (Olivia Caffrey) who managed to escape capture, swearing to get even with Jean. Barbara would weave her way in and out of the periphery of series two before Jean got the upper hand on her with the help of business partner Charlie's (Sanchia McCormack) parnter Simone (Djinda Kane) who was serving time for forgery and being used by Barbara to get close to Jean.

With Barbara out of the way, series three settles more comfortably into a case-of-the-week format that better suits it. The will they/won't they relationship between Jean and Dominic is unencumbered by any illusions about Jean's husband while Dominic's scheming ex-wife is out of the picture and his daughter is away studying. Caron is still pining but restrained by still mourning his estranged wife who was murdered in one of series two's major cases (presumably a love triangle will be a tiresome subplot of series four). Also improved this series is the emphasis on the investigation over the various light character subplots. For the most part, the cases still are more showcases for Jean's expertise rather than interactive whodunits; however, "Fashion" (45:00) from the latter half of the series in which Jean investigates attempts on the life of a designer using the chateau of rich village eccentrics Jeremy and Judith Lloyd James (Tower of Evil's Robin Askwith and Only Fools and Horses' Sue Holderness) to exhibit her new collection seems like it was written by an entirely different team than Lindsay and Sue Vincent (who plays brash village mechanic Gloria) since the episode actually drops some clues that an attentive viewer can actually put together rather than just waiting for Jean's "Eureka" moment. Another interesting episode is "Kidnap" (44:38), in which Jean and Caron race against time to find a friend of Judith's who goes missing during an anniversary party, as it affords both Askwith and Holderness some poignant moments beyond their usual comic relief function elsewhere in the series.

Somewhat less entertaining though not uninteresting is "Duel" (45:50) in which Jean and Dominic attempt to discover the connection between a local gangster and an old man murdered with a fencing foil. The sole point of interest in "Jackal" (44:42) is Jean facing off against a gun-wielding killer in disgust at their attempt to justify a murder. The duds include the "Christmas Special" (45:29) opener of which adding jingling bells to the theme song "Passing Through" is the extent of the holiday spirit in which Judith and Jeremy take the gang to a haunted hotel where they must solve a murder when a storm washes the road out, "Ocean" (45:24) in which Jean and Caron try to figure out the cause of death of a treasure-hunting diver, and the finale "Windows" (44:39) in which Jean tries to help Dominic's uncle Patrick (Blackadder's "Baldrick" Tony Robinson) find a treasure owed to the gangster he fingered for a murder thirty years before while Dominic deals with a potentially fatal health problem. Series three got rid of five series regulars pub owner Niall (Aonghus Weber) and his former Eurovision song contest winner wife Celine (Margeaux Lampley), along with Gloria's love interest (Avant Strangel), Gloria's son and Dominic's daughter presumably due more to the failure to do anything interesting with them rather than availability issues of the actors. Presumably this trimming of the fat will lead to a better balance of investigation and character arcs in the next series.
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Video

Acorn puts the Christmas special and the first three episodes of series four on the first dual-layer disc and the latter three episodes on the a second disc. The anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen image generally looks fine, with the bright and colorful photography presumably optimized more so for compressed formats like DVD and HD streaming. A Blu-ray release would probably bring out more textures and depth in the handsome locations, but it is unlikely to be as wide a seller as the cozy mystery series Acorn has deemed worthy of the the format.
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Audio

The English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is dominated by dialogue - some incidental French dialogue has burnt-in English subtitles - with a few directional effects used for suspense to goose a rather sedate effects track. Optional English HoH subtitles are also included.

Extras

The sole extra on disc two is a picture gallery (2:21).
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Overall

Series three of The Madame Blanc Mysteries benefits from dropping the uninteresting story arc of the first two series in favor of focusing more on the investigations and character relationships.

 


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