Ordeal by Innocence

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Ordeal by Innocence TV Poster Image
Classic Agatha Christie mystery gets a dark, edgy remake.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

There's a story behind every murder, and it's usually very complicated. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

None of the cast members are particularly likable, everyone has secrets, and even the deceased can be suspects. 

Violence

The story centers around a bloody murder. Screaming, pushing, and slapping are frequently visible. While not gory in nature, there's a substantial amount of blood, and dead bodies are shown. 

Sex

Lots of sexual discussion, ranging from illicit affairs to conversations about being sexually dysfunctional. Unwanted (and terminated) pregnancies, children born out of wedlock, and other issues are addressed. 

Language

Strong curses like "s--t" and "f--k" are occasionally audible. 

Consumerism

It's an adaptation of an Agatha Christie book. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking is constant. Drinking (hard liquor, champagne, wine) and drunken behavior is visible, and the use of injected drugs (like morphine) is a plotline. 

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. 

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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?

TV details

For kids who love mysteries

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