The recent BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence is a story of swaps.
Famously, one of the lead actors was replaced and scenes reshot. And the plot itself is rife with replacements.
We join the story as Leo Argyll is securing himself a replacement wife after the death of his first wife, Rachel. Their adopted son Jack is imprisoned for murdering Rachel, despite protesting his innocence. He is punished in place of the real culprit, the first of a series of troubling substitutions.
As the tale unfolds, we realise that many of the family’s problems stem from the fraught motivations that first led Rachel to adopt a number of orphans, including Jack. When one of the children finally asks her why she adopted them, Rachel retorts: ‘I was sad […] and I thought you could make up for that sadness. It’s not your fault you couldn’t.’
Rachel is seeking love, satisfaction, and fulfillment in the wrong place. She’s not the only one. Each of the characters, in their own way, makes the same mistake. Each of them responds to a need within themselves, but fails to find the right way to meet it.
We can all be guilty of this at times. We have a loving, faithful father who longs to adopt us into his family. But all too often we refuse his loving invitation. We recognise the ‘God-shaped hole’ in our hearts but we insist on taking matters into our own hands. We seek love in the wrong places. We substitute his love with things that will never satisfy; no replacement can ever compare. This story is a stark reminder of the ordeals we face if we do so: hurt, bitterness, resentment, disappointment, jealousy, anger, and worse.
The show has one final switch bound to delight and enrage: they’ve changed who the murderer is. So even if you’re a fan of the original novel, you’ll be guessing until the end.
Rachel Helen Smith
Rachel works in marketing for higher education. She attends King’s Church Durham.