Hello, my darlings. This piece is an absolute labor of love for me, as Christie’s And There Were None (which went originally by Different and Very Racist Titles, which I did not learn until I was an adult!) is a book I read a thousand times as a kid (which is why I am so weird now, no doubt.) I also watched the new BBC adaptation that aired over Christmas as soon as my UK TunnelBear VPN fired up and gave me access to the Beeb’s iPlayer, and I encourage you to do the same (if you need more guidance, I am sure people in the comments can help.)
You will still enjoy this piece if you HAVEN’T seen the adaptation, as very little about the plot sequence has changed (some motivations have been given more backstory, Secret Gayness added, etc.), but I do recommend it wholeheartedly.
NOW, let us establish the central conceit and begin ranking murderers!
Our ten anti-heroes have been summoned to a Murder Island by a Dexter-esque vigilante (the truly fabulous Charles “Tywin Lannister” Dance, playing Justice Wargrave), confronted with their past crimes (they have each gotten away with a murder or MURDERS), and then killed in reverse order of their guilt (such that the least heinous people get to die first without spending too much time freaking their shit out on Murder Island while contemplating their imminent deaths.)
Here’s the order in which I would have murdered them (we’ll assume the judge still dies last, obvi, and I understand that the surgeon had to remain alive in order to help him fake his death earlier on, but I will place the surgeon into the guilt ranking just the same):
Look. SHE didn’t smother the old woman, her husband did, and she was consumed with guilt and went literally blind from it, and also he knocks her around, so I really don’t think she deserves to be ON Murder Island, frankly.
Tony Marston (seen here carelessly chewing)
Tony is almost always cast as (probably) gay, young, gorgeous, careless, and sulky. I have always been perturbed by the decision to take him out immediately following that first dinner, because I think he is a terrible person! He ran down two kids while speeding and literally does not care. Justice Wargrave seems to think that because Tony doesn’t care, he’s less guilty, but I profoundly disagree. He is much worse than Ethel Rogers.
I feel bad for Dr. Armstrong (not very bad, but a little bad), because he wound up living for way too long in order to help Justice Wargrave fake his own death, and he’s just not a terrible enough murderer to deserve that. He was a surgeon who got drunk and killed someone. He didn’t mean to do it, he had a lot more residual shame than Tony Marston, and he quit drinking after it happened. I still place him after Tony, because carelessly driving too fast is not as bad as deliberately PERFORMING SURGERY while drunk, but he was clearly broken by the experience and should have died sooner.
This is a tough one for me, honestly. I loathe her with every bone in my body. When we got her backstory, my husband said “I have never felt such sympathy for Justice Wargrave’s mission of vengeance before.” The adaptation has saddled her with Secret Gay Lusts that were not really present in the book (or WERE THEY?), but basically she is a super-religious lady with very snotty ideas about Virtue who violently boots her knocked-up maid/protegee out of her house when she discovers her pregnancy. Having basically no options in 1930s England, said maid hurled herself under a train.
So, the thing here is, she didn’t actually MURDER anyone, which is a point in her favour, and also it’s not super productive to talk about anyone driving someone else to suicide, because that’s not really how it works, it’s deeply personal, but she is a hypocritical monster who radiates badness, and this is where I wish to place her. Because she’s cruel.
This dude killed a buddy/subordinate of his for fucking his wife, after finding their very lurid love letters (in the book, he just sent him on a suicide mission, in the adaptation, he seems to have pulled the trigger.) Due to the Fog of War and it being a heat-of-passion murder, and also for love/revenge instead of money, I think he deserved to get packed off before:
…this fucker right here, you guys! Smothering an old lady with her own pillow for MONEY. Get bent. Smacking around your blind wife! Being generally creepy. I am cutting him all the slack for being a servant to these toads, but he was No Good and got off too lightly.
A cop who decided to kick a young gay man to death in his cell for no reason. He feels bad about it now. I do not feel bad that he has to sit around being terrified for a few days. Also, Burn Gorman is freaky-looking and I am always suspicious of him. The adaptation sort-of implies he might be closeted and self-loathing, but that only gets you so many sympathy points. He deserves to ride this shit out almost to the bitter end.
This bitch is COLD-BLOODED. My husband hadn’t read the books in ages, and clearly thought Vera was pretty cute, and kept saying things like “I’m sure Hugo put her up to it, what a cad!” and “wait, it wasn’t her idea, was it?” and “I mean, Cyril was swimming and she just deliberately didn’t save him, she didn’t TELL him to swim to the rock, right?” and it was fun watching him slowly cotton on to the DEPTHS of her DEPRAVITY.
To recap: Vera thought about it, and then deliberately murdered a child for money so she could marry her boyfriend. She is terrible. She deserves to watch everyone else die, and then die herself, and have to give me her adorable red bathing suit (link me if you can find a place to buy it?) EXCEPT FOR:
Philip Lombard (ribbed for your pleasure)
The fact that Philip Lombard isn’t the last of Wargrave’s victims has always bugged me, but people have a very visceral reaction to murdering kids, I get it, and Vera is a WOMAN, and thus especially vile to audience. Who did Philip kill?
21 “East Africans” bc something something “diamonds”
Well, good gravy, that is a LOT OF PEOPLE, is it not? In the book, he just took all their provisions and supplies and left them to die on their own (which is bad), in the recent adaptation, we are led to believe he straight-up killed them so he could take their diamonds for his Fenian fundraising needs. There is also no indication that said “tribe” did not include children! Certainly, in the book, one would think so. This is serial killer behavior! This is the worst. He is the worst. We’re supposed to cut him a lot of slack because he knows he’s a murderer and owns it, but I think it is better to be mildly delusional about your goodness and do something less bad than to be a murderer of 21 people and be all “IT ME!” sexily while smoking cigarettes.
Badly done, Philip! Badly done. I am actually mildly impressed (!?) that Christie ranked him as high on the guilt list as she did, honestly, even though she devotes zero time to giving personalities or identities to the 21 non-white people he murdered. I felt like the adaptation let down the side here a bit: we get one quick scene of Philip looking sexy and conflicted in an African Landscape, and no further information, while everyone else gets at least three flashbacks and named victims and the aftermath. The main flaw in this lovely adaptation, for me.
…and Peggy (Justice Wargrave)
Thank you for playing! You may now disagree about culpability in the comments.
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.