Three Pines (Season 1 Finale), Episodes 7 & 8: An experience that most likely wouldn’t leave behind a lingering effect can still be a worthy experience. It is perhaps a more outdated expectation that a show must achieve cult status to be successful. And it is doubtlessly an expectation that we have been carrying along ever since our earliest grand experiences with some of TV’s masterpieces. We seldom want to look back and revisit our favorite shows from a critical perspective. What if we find flaws that we overlooked before? What if our feelings for the shows change for the worse? And while that is entirely acceptable, it is needlessly rigid to start off with an unfair set of rules that a show must follow according to its genre.
Three Pines, while quietly effective with its general style of mystery, is tremendously brave in breaking the rules of detective TV shows. The detective we get is not just functionally humanized with his lackluster personality; his demons are also not given any over-the-top melodramatic treatment. Allowing the graver and more dangerously relevant sociopolitical issues a greater space to project themselves, Three Pines keeps its tension limited to the atmospheric kind. It is an imminent and ongoing catastrophe that is to be sensed instead of seen. And even the ending of the season stays loyal to the more grounded phenomenon of danger.
Three Pines (Season 1 Finale), Episodes 7 & 8: Recap
The Hangman Part one & two
Detective Armand Gamache’s personal predicament has been under a cryptic veil of visions and dreams. With the season-ending, the mask of his prevalent trauma begins slipping off. I am taking a slight liberty here to analyze what went on behind the writing of Raine-Marie as a wife who is oblivious about her toxic positive spin on his trauma responses. But having a wife who isn’t as sensible as she should be about his mental health may also be the reason why his issues have gone untreated. Gamache had lost his parents as a child, and with that, he lost his childhood. Always on the edge of a looming breakdown, the detective is barely holding on to his sanity.
The search party led by Arisawe is promised help from Isabelle. In the maze of the pine ridge, they are in search of Blue and Tommy’s bodies. But instead of finding what they’re looking for, the search party chances on the hanging corpse of a strange man. Upon arriving, Gamache immediately rules out the possibility of the death being a suicide. The same man we saw causing a ruckus at Oliver’s in the opening scene is the same man who now lies lifeless.
A cordial visit from Clara Morrow comes with the first identification of the deceased. His name is Arthur Ellis. Gamache is skeptical of the suicide note they discover in his room at Angela’s B&B. Ellis had threatened the townspeople at Oliver’s with the revelation of all of their secrets. The altercation had even escalated to him hitting Gabri. But when he is questioned by Gamache, Gabri trivializes the account as a random drunken incident. He also denies knowing anything about Ellis when Oliver tries to talk to him about a previous argument he overheard between the two. Although with just a little snooping, Oliver finds Ellis’ wallet in Gabri’s coat pocket.
Meanwhile, a startling realization and consecutive follow-ups lead Gamache close to discovering alarming aspects of Blue and Tommy’s death. When he first saw Ellis’ corpse, he found a distinct pine needle. Having Bea around certainly came in handy as she told him about the rare white pine tree that pine needle has come from. There is only a handful of the rare pine tree variety in the entire pine ridge forest. Feeling that there may be a connection between the white pine needle and Blue’s murder, Gamache implores Isabelle to find out if the pine needles found in Kevin’s house were of the same kind. And as luck would have it, his hunch turns out to be true. Looking through the spot where the rare white pine trees grow, Gamache stumbles on Blue and Tommy’s bodies. And along with them, he unearths the bullets that took their lives.
Before the bullets are even submitted to ballistics secretly, Isabelle has figured out that one of the dirty cops that killed them is Daniel Chowski. While they wait for the ballistics report, two significant discoveries about Ellis’ murder find their way to the detectives. Myrna’s book club happens to choose a fateful book, The Hangman, and they immediately come to the right conclusion about Ellis using an alias. That, along with his wallet that is brought in by Ruth, help Gamache figure out the real identity of Ellis.
A visit to his house in Ottowa reveals that his real name was James Hill and that he was in Three Pines with a vengeance on his mind. His family was killed by the university students, and the cracks of the law set the perpetrators free. Three Pines has long been a sanctuary for people who wanted to get rid of the ghosts of their past and be amongst kindred spirits. To find out who was driving the truck that killed James Hill’s family is like finding a needle in a haystack for Gamache.
Bringing in further twists to the investigation, Peter tells Jean-Guy that he saw Gabri running out of the woods on the same night that Hill was murdered. Questioning Gabri, however, doesn’t go as expected. He thought that his secret was protecting the real perpetrators who were in danger of being murdered by Hill. At the same time, the findings of Blue and Tommy’s bullets ballistics come as a jarring shock to Gamache. While one of the bullets did come from Chowski’s gun, the other two came from one of Gamache’s closest friends and colleagues, Pierre Arnot. Even in his horrific realization of his friend’s truth, Gamache is certainly not one to stand for the wrong. He turns the reports in to Francoeur and hopes that the justice system will do right by the victims this time around.
Three Pines (Season 1 Finale), Episodes 7 & 8: Ending Explained
Who Killed James Hill?
Jean-Guy has been keeping his marital issues from his colleagues. When the Hill murder case gets close to coming to an end, Gamache asks him to go home and spend time with his wife. But Jean-Guy doesn’t have anyone to go home to, and he decides to drink down his loneliness at the pub. When Isabelle arrives to take Mike and Angela into custody, drunk Jean-Guy joins her. Mike and Angela were the last two that Hill wanted to bring to justice. Mike was behind the wheel on the night of Hill’s family’s fatal car accident. Before he could play the hangman and punish them, they decided to protect the new lives they have found in Three Pines by killing him. Before the cops can get in, they’ve already packed up their belongings and driven away.
Isabelle chases Mike and Angela with Jean-Guy driving the car. She soon realizes that Jean-Guy is drunk when he starts speeding dangerously. But before she can get him to pull over, the high-speed chase runs Mike and Angela’s car over the bridge and down the river. In a sense, however dark it may be, a death like that serves as poetic justice. They die exactly how they killed Hill’s family. While she is clearly upset with Jean-Guy’s irresponsible and, frankly, criminal action, Isabelle feels a protective urge. She decides to get their stories straight and offers to risk her own career with a lie. Isabelle has always been someone with more empathy than self-preservation instincts. She has stuck her neck out selflessly countless times and has even risked her life by meeting Kevin. While it’s unsurprising that she would sacrifice her own peace of mind to save Jean-Guy, Isabelle truly stands as the rare example of a genuinely good cop in a hoard of self-serving “protectors of the law.”
Is Gamache Dead?
A little overhearing in the SQ locker room made Nichol aware that Gamache was about to be arrested for the murder of Blue and Tommy. Obviously unaware of Gamache and Isabelle’s secret investigation, Nichol feels the dilemma brought on by fearful doubt. She doesn’t want to believe that Gamache did it, but she also will not be entirely convinced without an actual confrontation. When she runs into Gamache and lets him know about his impending arrest, it doesn’t even take him a second to grasp the long game Pierre is playing. Instead of going to the SQ, Gamache heads straight to his friend’s house. Not finding him there drives him to his cabin, where he walks into a room completely wrecked. At this point, the seasoned detective can’t be fooled by a wreckage that looks obviously staged.
While Pierre has always been a dirty cop, he has also been Gamache’s true friend. Be it the friendship that burdens him into making all the silly mistakes while covering up or the panic that messes up his rhythm, Pierre is too ditzy for a cop who is supposed to be good at sweeping things under the rug. Gamache notices Kevin’s truck burning up in flames and runs out to find Pierre. The murdering cop hopelessly fails at landing a convincing story that can clear him of the crime. He has burned Chowski along with Kevin’s truck and now hopes to transfer the entire blame of the crime to the dead cop. Intimidated by Gamache standing right in front of him and shooting down every fable he comes up with, Pierre can hardly hold it in any longer. He ends up confessing to it all. Chowski and Pierre had a habit of snatching a portion of any illegal substance that they came across. And that is what they intended to do with the tobacco shipment they busted. But instead of giving in to their unfair demand, Blue started filming the whole ordeal on her phone. In the chaos of it all, Tommy tried to run and was shot by Chowski. Blue was subsequently shot and killed by none other than Pierre.
Gamache tries to get Pierre to do the right thing and confess. It isn’t just a detective tactic for him with his old friend. His heartbreak and disappointment seep out with every word he speaks. And for what it’s worth, Pierre seems to be considering coming clean between his moments of panic. But ultimately, he takes the path that was expected from a man who has extensively shown as much cruelty as an instinctive criminal can. Instead of letting himself be taken in custody, Pierre shoots Gamache in cold blood. This could’ve been entirely avoided if Jean-Guy and Isabelle weren’t occupied with Mike and Angela’s accident and could be there when Gamache went to confront Pierre. But fate had other plans. Although ending the season with a cliffhanger while Gamache is still breathing does suggest that his story doesn’t end here. The next season, if there is one, will evidently be led by the same detective trio trying to locate Pierre and finally bringing Blue Two-Rivers’ killer to justice.