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Ordeal by Innocence
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ordeal by Innocence is adapted from the Agatha Christie mystery novel of the same name, and centers around solving a murder (of course!). There's lots of blood, dead bodies, and occasional yelling, slapping, insult hurling, and cursing. Adult themes are common, ranging from extramarital events to dysfunctional family relationships and mental illness. Drinking and cigarette smoking is frequent, and some characters use morphine.
What's the story?
Based on the Agatha Christie book of the same name, ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE is a three-part limited series that centers around the 1954 murder of a family matriarch, her husband, and their now-adult adopted children. When heiress Rachel Argyll (Anna Chancellor) is killed at her family’s estate on Christmas Eve, son Jack (Anthony Boyle) is arrested and ultimately convicted of the crime. But when widower Leo Argyll (Bill Nighy) is about to marry his former secretary, Gwenda Vaughan (Alice Eve), a stranger (Luke Treadaway) arrives with an alibi that can clear Jack's name. Now Leo and Jack's four siblings, Mary (Eleanor Tomlinson), Hester (Ella Purnell), Tina (Crystal Clarke), and Micky (Christian Cooke) become potential suspects. Even Mary's husband, Philip Durrant (Matthew Goode), and Kirsten Lindstrom (Morven Christie), the Argyll's loyal family maid, aren't above suspicion.
Is it any good?
This entertaining whodunit puts a dark spin on Agatha Christie's original tale by featuring a few plot twists that aren't in the 60-year-old book. The departure allows the mystery to successfully unfold in a way that is intended to appeal to contemporary audiences, while still maintaining the integrity of Christie's dramatic and meticulous storytelling style. Adding to this is the production's rich cinematography and attention to detail, which successfully paints a picture of 1950s British country estate life as the perfect backdrop for the crime.
Diehard Agatha Christie fans may not appreciate the changes, or the producers' attempts to appeal to those who haven't gotten around to reading the book. Meanwhile, there are moments when scenes appear to be stretched by repetitive images and sounds, making one wonder if the story could have been told equally as well in two parts instead of three. Nonetheless, Ordeal by Innocence will easily draw you in, and keep you interested (if not engrossed) until the end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Agatha Christie stories and characters continue to have mass appeal. What do readers and viewing audiences find entertaining or unique about them, even though the stories are half a century old?
What are some of the differences between the book Ordeal by Innocence and the TV adaptation? Why do you think these changes were made? Would the series be as appealing to today's audiences if those changes weren't made?
For kids who love mysteries
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.