Quirke TV Review

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When I think of Crime Noir movies, they would usually be set in a big American city or possibly London.  But in truth, I never thought I would find something outside of Game Of Thrones that could make Ireland look so unbelievably cool!  Literally something that could make me feel patriotic (Yes, I’m from the north, but it still has Ireland in the name).

Quirke is a TV series based on the Quirke mystery novels by Benjamin Black.  Created in a similar format to the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes, it is effectively more like a movie trilogy, because there are only 3 episodes and they’re each about 90 minutes long…and somehow this is a TV show.  Anyway:  Quirke is set in Dublin in the late 1950s, and the show centres around Dr Quirke, the chief pathologist of the Dublin city morgue (Played by Gabriel Bryne, who is best known for his roles in Miller’s Crossing, The Usual Suspects, and for playing Satan in the Arnie Schwarzeneggar film End Of Days…good stuff).  He is a widower, a terrible alcoholic, chain-smoker, the adopted black-sheep in his family, and a charming man (particularly around women) despite being incredibly cynical and pessimistic.  His main role in these stories is for him to play detective, while Inspector Hackett seems to play 2nd fiddle when putting the case together with him.

Lets break down the show’s characteristics before we talk about each episode:

The Cinematography is beautiful.  Since the show was shot during an Irish winter, it emphasises the cloudy, dull, gloomy atmosphere by using a cold, drained colour filter in every scenario that doesn’t include well-lit rooms.  Although if you’ve lived here for at least a few weeks, you might notice that such a feature can be completely unnecessary.  In places that are meant to be dark inside, like the pub, you see enough to know what’s going on, but it remains true to its setting.  Much like a lot of TV shows since The Sopranos, Quirke looks and is shot like a movie, and without a doubt, it has worked so incredibly well.  Sets an absolutely excellent mood!

Whoever did the main theme of Quirke I say thank you.  It’s beautiful!  While the rest of the music suits the noir setting perfectly, that main theme seems to add a glimmer of joy and a smile when it appears.  Excellent soundtrack, but an even more beautiful main theme.

Since there are only 3 episodes, I’ll review each of them in terms of story, acting and characters, because they did have their hits and misses.  There will also be no spoilers.

Episode 1: Christine Falls

Christine Falls begins with Quirke coming down to his workplace to find his adoptive brother Malachy Griffin signing a death certificate with his left hand.  The body of a young woman is also present.  Thinking little of it, Quirke decides to go home so that he could work on the corpse the following morning.  The next day, he notices that the young woman from the night before has been replaced with an older woman.  This rises suspicion in Quirke, who now feels that his adoptive brother may been doing some dirty business.  This is easily the worst episode of the series, and yet in order to watch the other 2 episodes, this is necessary viewing.  It’s important because we need to know who these people are and what happened.  But despite this, Christine Falls feels like it starts as a 2nd episode rather than a 1st.  The characters are evidently developed, but it feels like they’re too well developed too early.  We don’t know who they are exactly, but we’re almost treated like we’ve seen them already and know a story about them before this.  It’s like we want to know more, but the basic character foundations seem to be taken lightly.  Maybe that’s just me.  Another problem with this episode is the predictability of one of the mysteries.  Once you meet certain characters and hear the language used, it will feel like it’s evident what is going on right away.  Like the character development, the ‘bad guys’ are also too sinister too quickly.  It’s not very subtle.  The acting from Michael Gambon playing Judge Garret Griffin (Malachy and Quirke’s father) was probably the best.  Then there is the sound editing; the actors’ voices aren’t loud enough to be heard properly.  This episode almost put me off the rest of the show, as it was humourless.  So serious and so dark, with no humour to balance it.  But find out what I thought of the rest.

** out of 5

Episode 2: The Silver Swan

Much better!  Much, much better.  Christine Falls is needed before seeing this, but this episode is far superior in almost every way.   Particularly in its mystery.  Quirke investigates the death of a young woman who was found in a car, but is unable to tell if it was a murder or a suicide.  Meanwhile, his niece Phoebe has moved out of her parent’s house in order to be independent and starts working in a hat shop.  Asked to go on an errand by her new boss, she meets Leslie (A man who loosely resembles a young Gary Oldman), from a shop down the road.  The sound editing is an improvement from the first episode, as the voices are more audible.  The mystery is deep, the scandal is well done, and the relationship chemistry between the characters is much stronger (once again, because we know about Christine Falls).  This episode also had more humour in it for a change, making it a fair bit more watchable.

***3/4 out of 5

Episode 3: Elegy Of April

Possibly the best episode, and the one with the greatest mystery.  Over 6 months after the events of the Silver Swan, Quirke returns to work after effectively being in rehab to cure his alcoholism.  meanwhile, Phoebe’s friend, April, a known party animal and easy woman, has been missing for 2 weeks.  Despite everybody telling Phoebe that April will be back later, Phoebe is unsure, and with the help of Quirke she hopes to find out if her friend is missing or something worse.  This episode is probably the best in terms of on-screen chemistry, red herrings and multiple possibilities.  By now I’ve definitely gotten used to the characters, and have even seen them become more well rounded.  Especially Malachy Griffin, who has now softened in personality and actually developed a closer bond with Quirke.  The humanity has grown stronger through this episode, the development is much more evident, and it may have made me interested in seeing a 2nd Season.

**** out of 5

Overall, I do think this show is worth watching if you don’t mind witnessing a special effects autopsy and “forbidden love”.  In terms of look and sound it definitely got everything right (subtitles might be necessary for that first episode).  The characters eventually get much better as it progresses, despite being a little wooden at the beginning.  The quality of acting is consistent throughout, and while Quirke isn’t as eccentric or energetic as the likes of Sherlock Holmes or Richard Castle (although I can imagine him having a drink with Lisabeth Salander to see what would happen) he would at least be perfect in Gotham City helping James Gordon (Who else?).

Overall: ***1/4 out of 5

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