The Infinite Jukebox: Lush’s ‘Ciao!’


By far the most common subject of pop and rock songs is love. Love that lifts, love that hurts, love that frustrates and, to quote my recent Warren Zevon essay, love that brings heartbreak. Ah, the break-up song, in all its myriad forms. This, my friends, is a break-up song. But it might not be quite what you’re expecting.
Given that, by the early Nineties, I was drifting away from listening to contemporary music, I’m not sure where or how I came across the term ‘shoegazing music’. I’d stopped listening to John Peel, I’d stopped buying the New Musical Express, I’d given up on Top of the Pops, I could barely recognise a Radio 1 DJ’s name, let alone their voice. But I knew the term if I had my own impression of what it sounded like.
Lush, consisting of guitarist/singer Miki Berenyi and guitarist Emma Anderson, plus a male rhythm section, had been a shoegazing band but, for their third and final album in 1996, made the leap towards Britpop. And they invited Jarvis Cocker to duet with Berenyi on one of the latter’s songs on the album.
Three singles were released off the album, all of them Top 30 hits but no higher. I don’t believe I heard any of them, but I heard that song with Jarvis Cocker, the one called ‘Ciao!’, and loved it, and I still can’t understand why that was never issued in its own right.
The idea of the song is simple but genius. Berenyi and Cocker are a couple who are splitting up, have split up, acrimoniously. Maybe they were married, certainly they lived together, and from the lyrics, though it’s never said, it’s obvious that they were passionately committed to each other, deeply involved and that when it went pear-shaped, it went pear-shaped in a very big way. Only love can spawn hatred like this.
From the very first line, the contrast in Berenyi’s and Cocker’s voices are perfect. She’s full of sarcasm and spitting fury, he’s the deadpan Jarvis we know and love, the most infuriating response to her energy and sense of resentment. Oh, I’ve been happy, they duet on the first verse, since I walked away, I never thought that I could feel as great as I do today, cos you were nothing but a big mistake and life is wonderful now that I’m rid of you.
Ok, right we get the picture, and if we didn’t, here’s Jarvis to explain a bit more, about how he must have been crazy to think he was in love with her, telling her to go to Hell, because that’s where she took him, and Miki responds with claims of how brilliant her life is, a non-stop party since she flew the coop, can’t believe that she fell for a loser like you.
You can hear it behind the words, the absolute desire to prove that each of their lives are better alone, are better than yours, you couldn’t possibly have a good life because of who you are. There’s a split verse, two lines each, bouncing blame back and forth.
The music’s unexceptional, you might almost call it functional, because this song’s about the words, and the backing only has to frame it, a brash, brisk acoustic guitar, a metronomic beat, a well-mixed bass. There’s a brief melody played on a melodica that resurfaces in the brief instrumental break and at the end of the song, and a curious middle eight where Berenyi sings in the background about how she bets Cocker still misses her and he’ll never get a girl like her again, whilst he talks through a mini-fantasia about her sitting at home in the kitchen with the curtains drawn and eating meagre meals.
Oh, but this is glorious! The invective, and the two singers’ respective approaches to delivering their lines is heartfelt and vicious, but at the same time it’s sufficiently OTT that you can’t help the feeling that both of them are trying to convince two people that they’re telling nothing but the unvarnished truth, and themselves is one of that audience.
It gets better in the second half because the pair are desperate to let the other know that their life is so much better, and especially when it comes to love, romance and, well actually, just sex. He’s met a girl who’s wonderful, really beautiful, dedicated to making him happy (without any thought of her own wishes and needs), in fact she’s fifty times the person his ex will ever be. Good luck mister, she replies, in individual words delivered through gritted teeth, she’s got it coming at her from all angles because it’ll hurt him more to know that not just every guy wants to get into her knickers but that she’s going to let them. A million guys lining up for her, her life is ecstacy, if nothing else from all those orgasms she’s going to be getting.
To end the song, Berenyi and Cocker duet again on the first verse, with a couple of minor changes, calling each other a waste of space, and ending by saying that ‘I’m over you’.
Do you believe them? I half and half do. The anger is unmistakable, even if it’s so desperately exaggerated. They’re taking their disappointment out on each other, in a near cartoon manner, but the true sadness in the song is not that what was good love has gone so bad but that the intensity of their strikes at each other are serving to ensure that the last and deepest feelings that might, in another way, be the basis for reconciliation, are being stamped out, washed out and thrown out.
There will be no Wait Till Tomorrow for this pair, no matter how much it might have been best for them. They have only themselves to blame.

Film 2020: Thunderbird 6


Returning to the Thunderbirds boxset so quickly, for the final and less successful attempt to take the puppets to the silver screen is a choice forced on me by the combination of a Working Sunday and, for the first time in ages, the lack of available leave to avoid it.

Thunderbird 6 is the end. Series 2 had been cancelled when America wouldn’t buy the show – this is a common theme among series commissioned by Lew Grade – and the Andersons’ next notion, Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons was already in motion. But United Artists were prepared to fund another film, and Gerry and Sylvia had taken on board the criticisms of the script for Thunderbirds are Go and tried to write a more integrated, full-length story with fewer assembly sequences.

The plot breaks down into two parts. In his capacity as a renowned designer, Brains approaches the Airspace industry to discuss the future of commercial aviation. When he suggests a revival of airships, they laugh their puppet heads off but, two years later, Alan Tracey, Lady Penelope and Tintin are guests on the maiden flight of Skyship One. A flight subject to piracy and hijack by the Hood, still after International Rescue’s technology.

(Actually, though this is nowhere mentioned in the film, Sylvia Anderson maintained that the Hood himself was actually killed in the first film and this ‘Hood’ – given the name Black Phantom – is his son. Given the number of times Scott of Lady Penelope shot the Hood down in the series to stop him getting away with his microfilm, I and, I’m sure, most of the scanty audience just assumed he’d got away again.)

The other element of the film is Jeff Tracey’s stubborn conviction, backed with no rationality or concrete reason, that International Rescue will shortly, and urgently need a Thunderbird 6. Which is where the film collapses full-frontedly in its own length.

Thunderbirds are Go had its flaws – Cliff Richard Jr? – but one thing it got right was a sense of scale. It went for magnificence, for gloriousness and, when it couldn’t hit either of those it at least scored for expansiveness. Thunderbird 6 trivialises itself from the off: the aircraft designers laughing their heads off at the idea of a slow airship sets a tone the film never loses.

And what attempt at gravity the film wants to take is lost beyond recovery when Alan chooses to spend two weeks flying to England for the launch – in a garishly painted, yellow and red striped Tiger Moth biplane. It’s meant to be light-hearted and it is in keeping with Alan’s character but the effect is bathetic.

The Tiger Moth launches from Thunderbird 2’s storage bay. The palm tree’s flop to each side. But the plane is out-of-proportion small to all these efforts and what’s meant to be a joke is turned into a dismal appreciation of just how limited the plane is. It’s also a mistake on that it looks too much like what it is, a model, a real plane that you could have bought as an Aitfix kit model and glued together yourself.

There’s another piece of undermining it that Tintin is going with Alan. Jeff Tracey decides a two-week flight in a Worrld War 1 biplane is no place for a delicate young woman (bollocks: he just doesn’t want the pair shagging their way to England for a fortnight) and buys her a First Class jetliner ticket only she sneaks out and stows away any, plus she puts on a stunt flying exhibition above Creighton-Ward Manor in order to put the fear of God into Parker, who, as the only non-middle class figure in the film, is the butt of all the jokes.

The serious plot is about Skyship One. About half an hour before (fully-automated) take-off, a gang of men enter a security-heightened base, shoot and kill the Captain and stewards and take over the (fully-automated) ship. Their objective is to obtain recordings of Lady Penelope saying verious things that can be edited into a message instructing Jeff Tracey to send Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to a deserted airfield near Casablanca where Scott and Virgil will be killed and Brains and the vessels taken on behalf of Black Phantom. The International Rescue lot are already suspicious of the less-than-fully-knowledgeable crew (they’re not fully-automated) when Penny discovers the first bug. Nevertheless, the message is compied and broadcast and the boys on their way before Penny sends a real message of warning.

This is where I have a moment of pause to reflect on a contradiction. International Rescue exists to save lives. They go to extraordinary lengths to do so. And instead of getting out and falling into the trap, Scott and Virgil just draw their weapons and blast the entire airfield into blazing rubble, killing everyone there. It’s of a piece with the climax where Alan shoots and kills three of the imposters (three? There were five. Where did the other two go?) For International Rescuers, the Traceys were never too concerned about leaving a trail of dead bodies behind them. Snoop on us, would you? Pow pow pow.

The need for rescue arises when Alan confronts the hijackers in the Gravity Compensation room (a bewildering, eye-tricking array of revolving metal circles that the eye cannot keep straight). A stray shot smashes the controls, switching them off. Skyship One loses height and crashes into and becomes stranded on an Early Warning Tower above a Missile Base: yikes! What’s worse is that neither Thunderbird 1 nor 2 can get close enough to carry out a rescue because the turbulence from their jets will unbalance the airship and cause disaster.

But we’ve got this nonsense about a Thunderbird 6. It’s unfounded and unfoundable. Jeff Tracey wants a new machine capable of multiple rescue missions to fill a non-existent gap left by Thunderbirds 1 to 5. Brains is working to an impossible brief because the brief is as vague as the one I’ve given above. He’s spending weeks on models that are rejected, getting himself worked up in frustration. But he will have a brainwave and, even if you’ve never seen the film before, you’ve probably already guessed what it is.

However, the first brainwave comes from Gordon. Gordon Tracey. You know who he is, he”s the one who got shafted for screentime in the first film as well. They’ve got a ready-made slow air-speed, lightweight craft that can land on Skyship One and ferry people off and yes, it’s that bloody Tiger Moth.

So, we kids have gathered together to watch this large-scale last ever representation of our favourite and most imaginative TV show and what we’re going to get or the last twenty minutes or so is not the Thunderbirds but a bloody yellow and red Tiger Moth biplane. All right, we get a classic Thunderbirds explosion as the missile base blows up in the grand manner, but we also get this tiny little archaic plane flying around the Engish countryside. And even at the age of 12 and still unable to distinguish one American comic book artist from another, I could tell the difference between puppet scenes and real-life flying Tiger Moth scenes and it just felt wrong, and disappointing. I came here to see Thunderbirds!

It destroyswhat little merit the film has, and franky even when I saw it at our local cinema, the Burnage Odeon, in 1968, I was disappointed. It felt as if the heart had gone out of it, as if the Andersons had lost conviction. The Shark had been Jumped. Because Brains’ newly-revealed Thunderbird 6 was, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, the Tiger Moth.

That was the end of it. Lew Grade had cancelled the TV series, no more films would be commissioned. Only mesmerised kids like me still dreamed of future stories and how could this Thunderbird 6 fit into those? But then I’d never bought the premise: a Thunderbird 6 was never necessary, it couldn’t be more than the specialised rescue machinery Thunderbird 2 transported to the rescue zone, another Firefy, another Mole.

It was such a let down as an ending. Fifty-two years later, it has gained nothing. An adult perspective perceives no hidden depths, no subtleties that went over my pre-teen head then. Thunderbird 6 is still what it always was, a bust, and a bust I recognised for myself in 1968.

A Southport Expedition


It’s been a while, since Derby in january in fact, since I went ahywhere further than Manchester City Centre, so the time seemed ripe for a day out on Friday. Even so, having survived six months of the pandemic, I’m a little twitchy about venturing further afield, especially given how much time that’s goimg to mean breathing through a facemask.

Nor did the lead up on Thursday make me feel calmer. I’d been encouraged by my manager to give myself a treat, take a day off to do something I wanted, and I wanted to do this anyway: a Friday off work, especially one that balanced out a Woorking Sunday I hadn’t been able to get out of, was tailor-made. I was up for it, psyched, ready, except that the leave hadn’t been put through. My manager works from home: I e-mailed him. No reply. Time passing. Oscillating between rising frustration and the fury I’m going to feel if it falls through.

It’s not as if I’m not worked up already. I got home Wednesday to a letter asking me to phone in to make an appointment for my flu jab this year except that they told me to ring an obsolete number then the transfer option kept telling me  it had failed and cutting me off. I don’t need any more aggravation.

Eventually, I go to another Manager and between him and my very sweet Ops Manager, who’s an absolute darling, it’s agreed – but still not booked into my schedule when I leave at 9.00pm – and I am spared the horrendous Friday I would have inflicted on everybody within socially distanced reach.

Standard Operating Procedure gets me to Stockport Railway Station with only half an hour to spare, which is ample time to steady and serious rain to set in. This is August, isn’t it? The Friday before the Bank Holiday weekend? Of course.

There are two changes in the outbound journey, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Oxford Road. There used to be direct trains to Southport but no more. The journey will take nearly two hours. I could cut that down to eighty minutes and save 80p on the return fare if I spend ages on the bus and walking to travel from Manchester Victoria, plus have to get home from the City Centre on top. I am lavish, I spend the money.

As far as Bolton it’s a familiar journey, one I made five days a week for most of the 2000s, so I turn immediately to my big heavy book: there are few happy associations with that journey.

It’s a long, slow, stopping journey that stops everywhere but still manages to outpace the rain, if not the overhanging cloud. I get in a good long shift of reading as we cross the plains of lower Central Lancashire, the wet fields to each side, the numerous level-crossings in our favour, but my bum is sore from sitting by the time we reach Southport and I can stand up, shuffle and, once out of the station, full down my facemask: the fresh air is a heady wine.

I have a long history with Southport. My parents hated Blackpool for its noisiness, its brashess and its crowds so this was the first experience of a seaside resort, with its long beaches and invisible seas. Here was where I played with my first camera, getting great shots without pointing. Here was where Dad and I spent one early morning before breakfast waking a mile out across the sands without reaching the sea. Here was where Mam would occasionally take my little sister and I to the seaside for the day: in 1968, the year I discovered Test Cricket and watched the Ashes avidly, we visited on the last day of the series, the one at the Oval, when hundreds of volunteers mopped the field dry to give England a chance of the draw, ten fielders crouched round the bat. At least every third bloke on the Fronty had a transister radio tuned to the Test pressed to his ear and I flitted from one to another, never more than thirty seconds away from the next update, until Deadly Derek Underwood took the last wicket. Was that the one where we got back to Victoria and found Dad there, straight from work, to run us home, the perfect end?

But I’m not in Southport for any of that, not today. I’m here because Southport is where the Eagle was created between Marcus Morris and Frank Hampson, and where Dan Dare was created at the latter’s kitchen table. It’s the 70th Anniversary this year, albeit not this time of year, and there’s an Exhibition. I head straight for the Atkinson Gallery to visit it.

The Dan Dare part is very small, far smaller than previous Exhibitions I’ve visited, basically one little room and an additional glass case as a component of a larger Exhibition dedicated to the Sefton Coast: Dan’s contribution is the ‘Inspirational Coast’.

There’s an array of books and comics, many of which are laid out in a bit of a jumble, all but a handful of which I have in my own collection. My copy of Eagle no. 1 is is far better nick than theirs though I can’t say the same for Annual no. 1.

But as always it’s the original art that makes the journey worthwhile and though the pages are few, they are especially wonderful. To my enormous glee Hampson is represented by a page from ‘The Man from Nowhere’, the cover of the issue of Eagle published the day i was born!There’s original art of Don Harley and Bruce Cornwell’s ‘The Platinum Planet’, misidentified as its sequel, ‘The Earth-Stealers’. And Keith Watson, on whose art I grew up, is represented by the last Dan Dare page he drew, the page that was the foundation for Spaceship Away.

Hampson’s pages intrigued me. Usually,  Hampson took the cover page and divided the several panels of page 2 between his assistants, but this is a paste down of individual panels in ones and twos. I’d love to know why.

But there’s more than just Dan Dare. There’s a Martin Aitchison horizontal ‘Luck of the Legion’ strip next to a Thelwell ‘Chicko’ cartoon, a superb Ashwell Wood Cutaway of the Naval Vessel St Kitts, Frank Humphris at his glorious best on ‘Riders of the Range’ and Frank Bellamy with a back page true story, ‘David – The Shepherd King’.

There’s another Bellamy original that troubles me deeply. Immaculately framed, it is the first page of ‘Frasier of Africa’, all yellows and sepias, and it disturbs me because I cannot work out how to steal it and get away with it.

It’s magnificent but it’s too scanty. The one I came to for the 40th  Anniversary was nearly ten times as big and was so good I visited twice, once on my own then with a bunch of mates to whom I’d raved: four hefty fellers in a Volkswagen Polo that needed me to start braking a loooong way before usual.

After leaving the Gallery, I check if there’s still a Pizza Hut in Southport. There is, but it’s no longer on Lord Street, instead it’s way out to Hell and gone on the Front, which means a long walk, starting off along the pier, which forms a bridge over the Marine Lake – there has to be a Marine Lake or else the only water you’d see in Southport would be out of a tap – and through a shpopping estate dominated by Matalan.

This is my first sit-down and eat-in Pizza Hut meal since before lockdown. They’re still operating on limited ingredients, no tuna for my favourite tuna’n’onions, no sweetcorn for my second favourite chicken’n’sweetcorn so I have a Hawaiian with garlic bread side.Nice and tasty and filling. And amusing to note that i finish five minutes before I would have logged in for Friday’s shift.

I have neither the weather nor the inclination to walk on further to see the beach, and neither would you in this early October greyness, so what is left is how much of awander I feel like having. Today would have been an ideal time to pay a visit to the Bakehouse, the little lean-to where six artists crammed in tho draw Dan Dare and the three other pages the Hampson Studio was committed to, but I didn’t think of that in time, and haven’t got the address on me, nor anything more than  vague idea where it is: another time then, again.

So I stroll back to Lord Street and wander northwards under the old-fashioned continuous glass canopy that accompanies the shore-side shops. A couple of times I wander into Charity Shops to fruitlessly peruse the cheap DVDs and every time i come out it takes ages before I remember I can pull down the facemask.

I went as far as a sign for Stockport Samaritans, which was apt: the Samaritans were created by the Reverend Chad Varah, who wrote adventure stories for Eagle, and Dan Dare himself for all but the first two weeks of ‘Marooned on Mercury’.

But there’s not much to look at, or smell, except cafes, restaurants and feeding places: no shortage of these in Southport. So I turn round and walk back an equal distance south but there’s nothing to attract my attention. Southport has always been an old people’s resortand whilst I might be an old person myself now, i’m not that kind of old person. The one i seem to be is the one with the arthritic right knee and hip and the lower back pain on the same side that’s exacerbating both and putting a severe crimp on how far I can walk.

So I slowly limped back to the Station. I’d tentatively identified the 15.43 for returning, a long way round via Liverpool so, with an absence of suitable attractions, I advance an hour and settle down for another long read. That’s actually been one of the best parts of the day. The isolation of a train is an ideal situation for taking a good big bite out of a long book, and I don’t get to do that kind of sustained reading as often as I used to. The train tracks down the coast, stopping everywhere, until Liverpool South Parkway interchange where I hope on a norwich train and off again in Southport, though by the time I limp heavily up our street I’m absolutely shattered – and it’s still only halfway through my shift…

Lou Grant: s04 e20 – Stroke


The last episode of Lou Grant‘s fourth season was not merely by far and away its best, but one of the strongest ever in the programme’s 114 episode run. ‘Stroke’ focussed upon Nancy Marchand as Margaret Pynchon, the patrician proprietor of the Los Angeles Tribune, as well as guest-starring her real-life husband, Paul Sparer as Doctor Walter Goren.

The central story was simple. Mrs Pynchon waslooking to expand by purchasing ‘Lively Arts’ magazine, a San Francisco based company that she had exciting plans for. She’s stressed about it, it’s a lot of money, a lot of running around, a lot of travelling. She’s lively and active in the opening sequence, full of enthusiasm, a little disorganised. There’s a non-telegraphed telling moment when, out of sight of Charlie and Lou, she cannot find her pills and instead pours a small slug into her orange juice.

Back from San Francisco, she is found unconscious in her office. She has had a stroke, a serious one.

Sparer plays the Doctor who guides her through this. Charlie and Lou and everyoe else shuffle around to accommodate her absence, everyone down to Rossi moving up one place, Rossi to temporary Assistant City Editor.

Billie’s accommodated by being assigned to a story about campus girls posing naked for an upmarket skin magazine and the consequences this has on both personal and First Amendment levels, but that really is trivial in comparison.

Because this is Nancy Marchand’s show. She’s always played her part to perfection but truthfully she’s not been asked to do much. Mrs Pynchon is Queen of the Hill, a fair-minded, principled woman who usually sees the right side of things. If anything, she’s been too much of a paragon, too good to be true. Marchand was great but the role, though enjoyable, was limited.

But in this episode she was astounding, playing her way through hopelessness, frustration, helplessness, self-loathing and in the end the determination to regain everything of herself that she could, returning to the paper in the final scene to the evident delight of everybody: on a stick, in a leg-brace, still struggling with her words, but upright and intent on being all her old self, to the point that eyers became suspiciously moist.

The campus story could have been a decent B story to another episode, something less compelling, something that alowed it a little more play. But there was too much to the min story, including the ever present threat of Mrs Pynchon’s nephew Fred Hill (Alan Fudge, who had two other appearances in the show, as different characters, neither of them Fred on his previous appearance). Fred and his brother aren’t happy with the minimal income the Trib delivers and he really doesn’t like the idea of buying this magazine. Given the chance, he’ll close the newspaper and sell. It takes the almost strong-arming of Mrs Pynchon’s lawyer, who has Power of Attorney, to get the sale through and beat Fred back.

I’ve long wanted to see this story. Back in the early Eighties, i’m convinced that ITV did not take up either of the last two seasons of Lou Grant. I was well aware of the controversy over the show’s cancellation, and once saw a brief clip of the emptied out newsroom which I’d assumed came from this episode. It didn’t. The scene doesn’t seem to fit the synopsis for the final episode so I just have to wait and see where it comes in. Let’s hope season 5 representsan upturn.

Person of Interest: s04 e22 – YHWH


An appropriate word

If it had ended here, it would have still been a good ending. It would have been an ending in defeat, almost like the infamous and controversial ending to Blake’s Seven almost forty years ago, the nature of which still rankles with me. The difference is that the ending to Season 4 would have left a shaft of light, a glimmer of hope, that it wasn’t completely over.

Ratings fell during Season 4. The nature of the show changed, it slid from series to serial. Some people hated Samaritan, some just didn’t like change, there’s always some. Person of Interest was in danger of cancellation. Once upon a time and not very long ago that would have been it. Networks are commercial entities, governed by income from advertising. Without eyeballs there is no advertising, without advertising there is no show. Person of Interest would have died then.

But things have changed. DVD box-sets give shows a long tail. Who, though, will spend for four box-sets of a show without an end?

If Person of Interest had ended here, where would it have left us? Like last week’s set-up, there were three elements: Control’s attempts to divert the Correction, Reese, Fusco and Elias’ capture at the hands of Dominic and the Brotherhood, and Finch and Root’s attempt to rescue the Machine.

It began with a revelation, as a Thornhill Industries box is fixed to a telegraph pole. What it was for we had to wait to see, though it’s later description as a Line Modulater was meaningless to me. whatever it was, we, or at least me, instinctively understood that it was the Machine, that all of them were. Two years ago, when the Machine vanished, it didn’t go somewhere, it went everywhere. Into the National Power Grid.

And now Samaritan knows where it is. Power surges and brown-outs are occurring all the way across the United States, the Machine’s visual feeds are fritzing and blurring. It is being driven East, until there is nowhere left for it to go, until it can do nothing but die.

Root goes into god-mode, constant communication starting from a telephone built into the walls of the Subway, walled over (Amy Acker swings a mean sledgehammer). This sends them on a helter-skelter scavenger hunt, for an improbable collection of things whose purpose is unguessable. It also has them break into the offices of Caleb Phipps (Luke Kleintank), reintroduced in episode 16, who was once a Number. The moment Finch steps forward to be recognised, to congratulate Caleb with genuine pleasure at his success, Caleb gives him the compression algorithm, no questions. Whatever the man who saved his life in season 2, episode 11 (2 Pi R) wants, he can have. Caleb’s belief is absolute.

Elsewhere, the Reese situation is relieved with almost bathetic simplicity. Dominic continues to rule the roost. He demands from John the same arrangement Elias has, with Harold as his inside man. What Dominic doesn’t understand, or believe, because his life and career conditions him to see things only within one pattern (he’s not the only one we’ll see doing that this episode) is that there is no arrangement.

And it falls apart rapidly. Dominic sends Floyd to kill Fusco, but Harper (no, sorry, still can’t stand her) has picked the lock on his handcuffs, he’s got away and he returns with the FBI to arrest everyone, including Dominic and Elias. It’s the pugnacious little fireplug’s moment of glory, and it earns him a handshake from John, who’s now free to slip off to first warn Iris Campbell to get out of the city for a few days, then join Finch and Root, the faithful muscle guarding the techsperts, the core of Team Machine on one final wild ride.

So that’s that. But it’s not. We’ll return to this. But for now, Control is fighting back against the Correction. Shipman, her right hand woman in the nerve centre, cannot detect any potental flashpoints, Senator Garrison regards her as paranoid and unbalanced when she wants Samaritan shut down and areversion to Northern Lights, which never lied to them. She and Grice (Nick A Tarabat) invade a Quarantined house in Washington where they find evidence of massive bomb-making. The target is the Supreme Court, hearing an anti-surveillance docket. Control steers greer into a private meeting at which she triumphntly advises him that it’s all over, in a moment he will be black-bagged and taken to a hole so deep and dark that Samaritan can’t see it, where he belongs. But remember what I said about people whose life and career have conditioned them to see things only in a certain pattern? It’s a bomb. It has to be  bomb.

Team Machine has reached its destination, an electricity sub-station concealed in a suburban house. Here at last Finch understands where the Machine went, and explains for us. Thornhill Utilities. Thornhill. The company that, in ‘God Mode’, exactly two seasons ago, was the Machine’s human alias. The Machine is dying. it is being forced out of existence. But with Caleb’s compression algorithm, a part of it, a ‘strand of DNA’, can be downloaded via a series of laptops, into a collection of high capacity RAM chips, stored in an indestructible briefcase. It can live.

No-one knows if it will work, if the Machine can survive wiithout the equivalent of brain damage. A screen lights up. The Machine talks to its Father, to Finch, its creator, who it feels it has failed. Father to son/daughter to Father, a completeky human exchange. With its last power, the Machine puts Reese into god-mode too, continual direction that enables him to take down an entire army of Samaritan operatives. Then it’s gone. God in the Machine becomes God in the Briefcase. If it’s worked. A shaft of light. A glimmer of hope.

Elsewhere, Greer is his usual superior, unconcerned self, despite Control and the gun with which she will kill him. It’s a bomb. But it’s not a bomb. Greer explains in his philosophy that the vast majority of human beings are docile and do not cause trouble (he doesn’t quite call us cattle or sheep but the words hang in the air). There are only a few hundred trouble-makers at any time, the ones who disrupt, who question authority. After a year, Samaritan has identified these people. The Correction has been a colossal bluff, a careful manipulation and a loyalt test. It is a surgical strike, nothing so crude as a bomb.

And the wagon taking Dominic and Elias downtown is rammed by one of Elias’s men, who helps him out of the wreckage. Dominic hauls himself out too, having grabbed aweapon. He is about to shoot Elias when he is stopped, again, by Fusco, who has his gun on him. Who will shoot first? in true PoI tradition, the shot comes from offscreen, a bony-faced man we’ve seen in the street before, a sniper’s rifle set-up on a rooftop. Corrections. He kills Dominic. Elias makes it into the escape vehicle ut is shot through the window. He appears to be dead.

Shipman’s dead, lying on the floor in Control’s nerve centre. Grice is dead, sat behind the wheel of a car outside the Supreme Court building. Others are dying. Control is black-bagged, to be taken to a hole so deep and dark, only Samaritan can see it. Where you belong, Greer states, with relish.

It would have been a good ending as it was. A week after this episode was broadcast, it was announced that it had been renewed, for a final season. That’s where we go next week. Now we are on the countdown

The Infinite Jukebox: Half Man Half Biscuit’s ‘Trumpton Riots’


Was it really 1984?
If it had been a year later, or maybe a bit more than that, it might never have happened, to me anyway. I can’t remember exactly when it came to the parting of the ways with dear old Peely. He was certainly down to only three nights then, Andy Kershaw having been awarded Thursday night and Tommy Vance still bestriding Friday night with the kind of music I would go a long way out of my way to avoid.
But it was 1984, and I was still among the faithful and one night Peely played a song from a band from the Wirral, a five piece bunch of Scouse layabouts playing a crude, post-punk blend of short, sharp, direct songs. And it was called ‘Trumpton Riots’.
I remember Trumpton. I was old enough, or should I say young enough, to not only have watched the series when it appeared in the Sixties, and indeed to have gone through Camberwick Green before it (though the third of the trilogy, Chigley, was my younger sister’s thing: it was after my time, so to speak). The song title alone had me swivelling round to listen.
I was stunned by the combination of total improbability, the high-speed energy of the song and the lyrics. Nobody had ever thought of that before Nigel Blackwell, the singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist. All it was was mashing together the twee world of Trumpton and its denizens, and the real world of our society, with particular reference in this case to the countrywide riots that had taken place in so many towns and cities in 1981, including Croxteth in Liverpool.
Unemployment’s rising in the Chigley end of town, and it’s spreading like pneumonia, doesn’t look like going down, there’s trouble at the Fire Station, someone’s had the sack and the lad’s are going to launch a scheme to get rid of Captain Flack.
Genius. It was genius. It was Britain in the recession-hit early Eighties, the underlying anger of even those of us who were not affected by unemployment, and desolation and the Tories’ overt decision to run places like Liverpool down and not try to improve the lives of the people who lived there (not only were they Northerners but they voted Labour: they were not One of Us).
And this was being brought into the sharpest of focus by projecting them onto an idyllic country town of peaceful and content residents with no connection to real life, suddenly thrown into the same upheavals as all of us.
Someone get a message through to Captain Snort that he’d better start assembling the boys from the Fort, and keep Mrs Honeyman right out of sight cos there’s gonna be a riot down in Trumpton tonight!
What on earth were they thinking. What would Brian Cant think? But, with respect, who cared? Two impossibly distant worlds suddenly came into contact with each other, with rude energy and total lack of respect. The music might have been crude, the singing more energetic than tutored, but there wasn’t a single false note to this song.
It could easily be one glorious moment, but Nigel Blackwell was no flash in the pan. At first, Half Man Half Biscuit lasted about eighteen months, before splitting up due to ‘musical similarities’ (at the time, it was being said that the pressure of being a ‘star’ got to him and he sold his guitar). One album, a couple of singles, some riotous gigs and a sweep up album collecting b-sides, EP tracks and John Peel sessions.
My mate and I got lucky, we saw them live twice. I have seen bands where the audience sang along with all the choruses. I have been to gigs, usually in folk clubs, where the audience has joined in on the verse. I have only ever seen one band play where the audience has chanted along to the intros and the instrumental breaks.
The band came back. They come out with a new album every two or three years. Nigel Blackwell remains one of the most iconoclastic and observant lyricists around, acutely tuned into icons in a multitude of areas and able to bring improbabilities together in a surrealistic fusion that boggles even as it seems completely natural.
If I have never heard anything from the band that surpasses ‘Trumpton Riots’ (I love the melody and music of Reflections in A flat’ but it still doesn’t compare), that isn’t meant to talk down the rest of the band’s history. Sometimes, you can’t quite capture the same amount of lightning in your bottle. And nobody can hear something for the first time twice.
The shock came in 1984. I’m so glad I was stood under the right tree.

 

Film 2020: The Last Emperor


Big films take time, to watch and to digest. I remember The Last Emperor from 1988, Mary and I going to watch it. Memory places me once again in the old Odeon, in front of the big screen needed to absorb a big film, big not merely in time but in scope. Memory says it was a Sunday morning and somewhere in my diary for that year I can find out the truth, but I don’t want to. Emotionally, a Sunday morning outing is more true that whatever day of the week it might really have been.

It was a big film, winning nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Bernardo Bertolucci, and it was everywhere you went, then upon a time. So why did I and the world forget it, me until only seven days ago, enough to find and buy the DVD dirt cheap on eBay?

That I don’t know. Given the appearance in the Twenty-First Century of a vigorous Chinese film industry, working within its own culture, is it that people have turned against The Last Emperor because they see it as cultural appropriation? I don’t know. All I do know is that the world seems to have forgotten a massive, powerful film.

The Last Emperor was based upon the 1964 autobiography of Pu-Yi, who was the last Emperor of China, who ascended to the throne as a toddler of 3, who was deposed without his knowledge, who became a puppet of the Japanese as Emperor of Manchukuo (Manchuria), a political prisoner of the (Russian) Red Army, a war criminal subjected to deprivation and re-education and finally a gardener, content with the simplest of lives. Who amongst us could go through that and remain sane?

The film is a marvel. Bertolucci obtained permission to film inside the Forbidden City itself, the Emperor’s ‘Palace’ from which he was forbidden to leave. That means that the film is being filmed where these things actually happene, making the film simultaneously both real and unreal. It starts with the toddler Pu-Yi being taken, separately, from both his mother and father, to become Emperor, cuts to Pu-Yi’s arrival at the Re-Education centre and his attempt to commit suicide, then alternates between interrogations and his history to that point.

I said simultaneously real and unreal. The film is real in being filmed in concrete surroundings, but the story it tells is far from real. Indeed, it is almost incomprehensible at times. The world in which Pu-Yi, the Emperor of Ten Thousand Years, who holds the most absolute power of anyone on Earth, is aworld in which he can do nothing, in which he is a prisoner of time and fate and history and tradition. Rituals happens, alarms sound, things are done and we do not know why.

I couldn’t help but contrast The Last Emperor with Curse of the Golden Flower, though beyond featuring a Chinese Empweror the films have little in common. That film too is a mass of incomprehensible cultural moments that as unexplained but which are more of a whole at which we look. The Last Emperor is more strange, more unfathomable to Western minds because it is not steeped in these significances. It’s also a drabber picture, lacking the glint and sparkle and saturated colour of Golden Flower.

It’s also one of the most massive arguments for republicanism that I’ve ever seen. Pu-Yi is Emperor of all and impotent prisoner all at once. He cannot leave. He does not even know he has been deposed, is now only Emperor of the Forbidden City, because he cannot be told anything that would disturb him. He was to marry to become master even there. When he is forced out of China in 1924, he first becomes a decadent playboy, having nothing better to do, and is easy prey for the Japanese, plotting to take control of all Asia. Pu-Yi becomes Emperor of Manchukuo (his native province) despite the warnings that he is only being used, against China, that his desire to be an Emperor again makes him an easy mark. What happens in Manchukuo shows how much he is completely ineffectual.

The film doesn’t make a direct case for republicanism – after all, the Chinese Republic and the Warlord era is every bit as corrupt and rotten as the Empire, and when the film flashes forward to the 1960s in its final phase, we see the revolutionary devotion to Mao Zedong and his teachings and we see it as no different in that respect to the Emperor of Ten Thousand Years – but in portraying Pu-Yi’s life, and that of the people around him. Pu-Yi’s life is destroyed by becoming Emperor, it is twisted and perverted out of all recognition by his position, to the point that any sensitive viewer must ask themselves why these people have to be put through that? Why must our ridiculously naive and simplistic desire for someone to tell us what to do, take responsibility from us, be visited on anyone?

Is it true? That’s what you have to ask yourself about any historical film. What’s been made up, what’s been left out, what’s been distorted for dramatic effect? How far can we believe it? That question’s doubly important because the source material is Pu-Yi’s autobiography, written after ‘re-education’, published in a country not known for allowing ideological nonconformity, especially under Mao. How true is true? Is it what happened, or what Pu-Yi was taught had happened?

I’d like to think it true, not out of any sympathy for Chinese Communism, ut because I’d like the ending to be true, that Pu-Yi’s last years were happy and content. The simplest of things, a gardener, living the most self-effacing of lives. How much further from his childhood could he have travelled? It’s a marvellous irony. Wikipedia doesn’t point up any historical inaccuracies or deviations.

The film ends with a moment of magic uncharacteristic of the film in its whle near 160 minutes length, and a touch of sentimentality. In 1967, Ordinary Citizen Pu-Yi buys a tourist ticket to enter the cold and empty Forbidden City. Sneaking over the ropes that guard the throne he’s challeged by an officious sven year old. Smiling for almost the only occasion in the film, Pu-Yi tells the child that was where he used to sit, that he was Emperor. Chellenged to prove it, he sits on the throne, scrabbles behind it and produces a little case. The child takes it down to the light and opens it. We recall it: it contains the cricket given to Pu-Yi in 1908, when he became Emperor: still alive. In wonder, the boy turns to the man on the throne but he has disappeared. A tourist party being shown the throne room twenty years later, is told that Pu-Yi died in 1967.Not in this film. In this film he moves sideways, out of reality, to become something mystical, something mythical: The Last Emperor, and what they did to him.

John Lone played the adult Pu-Yi demonstrating an extraordinary range. Joan Chen played his wife, Wan-Rong, whose lie becomes an even worse tragedy. Peter O’Toole, tall, austere, undemonstrative, is magnificent as Pu-Yi’s Scottish tutor, Reginald Johnson. Ying Ruocheng plays the unnamed Prison Governor who is responsible for Pu-Yi’s re-education. The rest of the cast are mostly Chinese, with Japanese actors playing their nationality’s roles. All are excellent. The film deals with many incidents at an oblique angle, mirroring Pu-Yi’s lack of knowledge about what is around him, letting the audience build up a bigger tapestry out of their own perceptions.

How I came to forget The Last Emperor, I don’t know. I shalln’t forget it again.

Soldiers or Legionnaires?: Leading Comics


No, there’s definitely eight of them…

In the last couple of years, with immense thanks to David Simpson, I have collected thousands of old comics as part of a pile of DVD-Roms about three inches high. At first these were the British weeklies I remembered from my youth in the Sixties that is now gone, but along the way I discovered that I could get complete or near-complete runs of Golden Age series. Not just the run of All-Star Comics that I had in hardcover Archive format but the four titles featuring the adventures of the characters who made up the Justice Society of America.
Yes, the Golden Age comics are rough and ready, naïve, clumsy, amateurish, but energetic and enthusiastic. Most of all, they have been an opportunity to read and learn, to know what the stories were, to not have to rely on sketchy references and re-tellings that never give the details I automatically thirst for.
I have always wanted to know. Summaries, however accurate, are never enough. Only the original will do.
I haven’t yet reached the end of these revelatory DVDs, the latest of which is Detective Comics Inc.’s Leading Comics, an initially quarterly title introduced in Winter 1941. The title was conceived by Mort Weisinger and artist Mort Meskin in emulation of sister company All-American Publications’ All-Star and the JSA.
The idea was for Detective to have its own team of characters, coming exclusively from Detective’s titles. These were The Green Arrow, with Speedy, from More Fun, The Shining Knight from Detective, The Vigilante from Action, The Star-Spangled Kid, with Stripesy, from Star-Spangled and The Crimson Avenger from Adventure. Apart from the Shining Knight, who had magic armour and a flying horse, none of the team had actual superpowers.
Nobody seemed to know exactly what to call this team. The last panel of their debut adventure, in Leading 1, names them for the first time as the Seven Soldiers of Victory, though it has the feel of a description rather than a title. On the other hand, the team – which had no headquarters – were also referred to as The Law’s Legionnaires.
My first exposure to the Seven Soldiers came in Justice League of America 100-102, the first three-part JSA team-up and the first to introduce a third team. Len Wein brought them back from almost thirty years obscurity as a second Earth-2 team, time-tossed and forgotten, with a recap of the team’s origin in the form of a skeletal summary of the story from Leading no 1. It was a delight, another forty-six years on, to read that story myself.
The Seven Soldiers become a team by accident. Master criminal The Hand, believing himself to be dying of cancer, recruits five villains – Professor Merlin, The Needle, Big Caesar, The Red Dragon and The Dummy – to carry out his five best unworked plans, and challenges our five borrowed features to stop them. Needless to say, the heroes stop them, the Vigilante aided by sidekick, veteran Billy Gun and the Crimson Avenger by his aide, Wing, in every respect an eighth Soldier except for not being on the team. The team then follow the Hand, who has just learned his cancer is curable after all, to his lair, where their attempts to escape his death-trap lead to – not a very subtle irony – The Hand dying.
Until he comes back in Justice League of America in 1972, which was where I came in.
Though Leading Comics was an anthology title, it adopted the same approach as All-Star. There was one story running through the sixty-four page comic, a couple of comic strips excepted, but the heroes, with and without sidekicks, all went off on their own to fight the villain’s schemes separately. In the Forties, no-one seemed to properly grasp the idea of a team.
I was already familiar with the story in issue 2 from when it was reprinted over two issues of the 100-page Giant Justice League of America in 1974. Indeed, that’s the version that’s on the DVD, complete with colouring errors. It’s interesting that the Star-Spangled Kid, who calls the team together, refers to them as the Legionnaires, but more interesting to note that the story is structurally identical to the first one: a master plotter sets up five criminals to execute his plans, concealing his plan to collect the real object, and dying of his success.
And stone me, but issue 3 was identical! This time it was The Green Arrow who saw the problem. An evil scientist, Dr Doome (note the ‘e’) brings back five of history’s greatest dictators to rob precious metals for a time machine to go forward and take over the future. Same as before, five defeats later.

We are definitely talking formula here, and much more rigid than the JSA, but if Mort Weisinger is writing this, are we necessarily surprised?
Thankfully, there was a change made for issue 6, as the Seven Soldiers team-up to recover a billion dollars of Inca Gold for Uncle Sam’s War Effort, only to find various of its members turned against each other as a bad guy joins the race. This more sophisticated approach was used again for the next issue, but it was back to solo adventures again in no. 8, as The Dummy sent them back in time in a failed attempt to strand them.
And another twist was introduced in issue 10, as the Soldiers head to the Pacific to rescue a missing scientific expedition, get shipwrecked and split up and have to get themselves out of it in unexpected teams. This story emphasised one aspect of this team that was missing from the JSA, the sense of comradeship. The Seven Soldiers mixed a bit more and looked out for each other a bit more openly. In contrast, comradeship in the Justice Society was more of a case of pulling Johnny Thunder out of whatever hole he’d gotten himself into this time.
The story in issue 11 was barely a team-up at all. The Soldiers meet up, JSA-style, in the first and last chapters, to settle the hash of underworld boss Handsome Harry, in both, but in between they’re not on missions, just going about their ordinary business, solving crimes linked by the Hard-Luck Hat. This is Harry’s hat, which he loses in chapter 1, and which goes on from head to head, bringing disaster in its wake, before returning to Harry in the final chapter, by which time he’s become a hobo. If we’re to take this story at all seriously, which I wouldn’t recommend, years must pass during it. How silly is that?
In passing, I’ll mention that issue 13 was the first to appear in the interregnum when Detective and All-American were separated. Naturally, the Superman DC logo was unchanged by the list of comics promoted in the inside front cover was suddenly diminished by the exclusion of the latter company’s titles.
But the Seven Soldiers of Victory were only the number two team, and they never acquired the traction of the Justice Society. Issue 14’s goofy story of battling figures from literature, accidentally given life, was fun, and some splendidly vigorous writing went into the dialogue of Long John Silver and Sir John Falstaff especially, but it was the swansong for the Law’s Legionnaires. Though one last script existed, to be drawn as a curiosity, and serialised in Adventure Comics in 1975, the Spring 1945 issue was the end for them.
Why they were less successful will always be a matter of conjecture but most people agree, and I share that opinion, the overwhelming reason was that the JSA had the big guns, whilst the Seven Soldiers consisted of second stringers. The absence of actual super-powers, save for the Shining Knight, was another reason in limiting the appeal of the team, and the final factor was the times. The War was in its final year, Starman and The Spectre were about to lose their series, other costumed characters were falling by the wayside.
As well as its superhero series, Detective Comics had begun to introduce funny comics, like All-Funny and the teenster series, Buzzy. If the Seven Soldiers were to be removed, there was a lot of comic to fill. And the answer was funny animals. With issue 15, Leading Comics was transformed, the first DC title to drop its superheroes completely.
That’s not what I wanted to read. Nevertheless, in fairness I scanned issue 15. Six new funny animal features, including a funny animal version of Sherlock Holmes (is there anything less funny than a funny animal version of Sherlock Holmes?), all of them dross.
Nero Fox was the cover feature until issue 23 until he was replaced by Peter Porkchops. From issue 34, the series was retitled Leading Screen Comics, in which form it lasted until 1951 and issue 77.
I wanted to read the short career of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and now I have.

Lou Grant: s04 e19 – Depression


As we roll towards the end of season 4, we’re finishing on a couple of really strong stories. Both halves of the penutimate episode were glued together by our title character but were otherwise separate, but both were personal and affecting stories, well-written, full of nuance and subtle. So what if one of them was left unfinished in the show’s signature manner, this was genuinely  story whose nature would have been betrayed by a wrap-up-in-45-minutes ending.

The primary story, which provided the episode with its title, focussed upon irregular guest star Peter Hobbs, playing veteran reporter, George Driscoll, the Trib’s man on the Police beat (fourth and final appearance). It starts with Driscoll getting into a shouting match with Rossi over the timing of new information that requires Rossi to re-write his piece. Driscoll’s angry and abrasive. It looks like he’s building up to fall off the wagon again. Sure enough, next we hear of him, he’s in the hospital. But he’s behind a Do Not Disturb sign when Lou calls. No, he’s not drying out again. George Driscoll had attempted to commit suicide.

For all the man’s flaws, Lou has vast sympathy for him, as a veteran, as a fellow old reporter, as someone whose thoughts and writing he understands. Puzzled, upset, Lou starts to investigate why Driscoll might have done this.

I don’t want to recite the details. They’re carefully thought-through, they add up to the life of a bright, talented, ambitious man who didn’t get to where he ought to go, who never progressed beyond a certain point, through small flaws, psychological issues imposed by an ‘old school’ father who crippled his son by his refusal to care about him. Reverses hit harder, the future he was fit for didn’t come about. The family life that was damaged, the wife who, it is all but stated, is carrying on an affair, the bright, clever, purposeful daughter estranged. The stuff of ordinary lives that eventually becomes unbearable when you feel that you are living behind glass walls that bar you from others, this I know.

It was a story that had no ending, no promise of a bright future. The closest it came to that was a reconciliation with the daughter, Amanda, in a scene that demonstrated just how bloody good Hobbs was, lay on his side in a hospital bed, shielding himself with shame and embarrassment, to be such in front of a daughter you want never to see you like this. Hobbs said nothing, until the end, when he gave in, but in body and face he was amazing.

So it ended the only way it could, in a beginning. Could amanda’s rediscovered love for her father help rebuild him? Could a final separation from mother Elizabeth be part of the answer, an answer? Not for us to know. But we wished the poor bugger well.

Inevitably, that story overshadowed its parallel, though that too was well-presented and given near equal time. Mrs Pybchon, growing envious of friends who have time to travel abroad, decides to create a new post, that of Executive Editor, someone to create the Trib’s future, help it grow, extend itself and set its own direction. naturally, she turns to her right-hand-man, Charlie Hume… to find a candidate.

This looks like being a guy called Hank Dougherty (James Sloyan), young, bright, forward looking, impressive. But what of Charlie himself? Good old easy-going Charlie, he who smooths out all paths. Charlie is bitterly hurt at not even being thought of, and whilst he puts his energies into securing Mrs Pynchon’s wishes, encouraging and approving of Dougherty, underneath he’s the proverbial smouldering volcano.

Lou sees this. Well, everyone sees this, or at least feels the effects of Charlie’s growing temper, but only Lou knows where it’s coming from, no matter how much Charie denies anything’s wrong.

This one at least could have a more-or-less ending. Lou sits in on the final meeting with Dougherty, studies his designs. All is well, everyone approves, it looks like a done deal, but Lou provokes Charie into an outburst, abut how resentful he is at being passed over, about Dougherty’s ideas being good but the same as one’s he’s proposed before, about change has to be managed gradually, not dumped in the readers’ laps all in one go, about how he’s been doing the job for years without the title and if Mrs Pynchon doesn’t make him Executive Editor, she’ll need a new Managing Editor.

It’s splendidly splenetic, not to mention cathartic, and confusing for poor Mrs Pynchon, who probably won’t get her holidays abroad after all. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!

Good stuff for once and what promises to be a strong season finale to follow. Coming up in seven…

Person of Interest: s04 e21 – Asylum


It’s all gone pear-shaped

This is how it’s done. This is how to go from a standing start to a cliff-edge climax in which everything is placed at risk in only 43 minutes. This is how to race, headlong, at a brick wall, and still not show the impact. That comes next week, in the season finale.

‘Asylum’ took what felt like half a dozen weeks of story and crammed them into one episode, without short-changing any aspect of what was needed, whilst touching upon a million angles, whilst flirting with the greatest of disasters, and bringing in a host of guests, only one of whom was new to the series. Control, Greer, Rousseau, Elias, Dominic, Link, Harper, without cramping or overload.

Instead of the by-now-common two stories there were three. A middle-aged primary school teacher named Shelley Spencer (Erin Dilly) had her brakes cut and crashed on a deserted parking garage ramp. She’s black-bagged, a dead blonde is placed in her car, it’s blown up. Shelley Spencer is dead, and she’s going to be, unless she admits what she is to Control. Admits she’s an agent-handler for Samaritan, including moles in the ISA. But Shelley is merely a frightened middle-school teacher, a mother of two, the victim of a desperate mistake, doomed to be killed for being unable to give answers she doesn’t have.

Detectives ‘Riley’ and Fusco are called to a murder scene, four dead Brotherhood soldiers, without warning from the Machine: how could that happen? But the Machine has a warning, a Number, two Numbers: Carl Elias and Dominick. The War is coming to a head. It needs to be averted for the sake of the innocents between who will be killed. There’s a canister that explains everything and gives away Elias’s whereabouts, a pneumatic canister, a relic of the pneumatic tube system of communication that underlines Manhttan Island, incapable of electronic interception or surveillance, because it isn’t in any way electronic.

Riley and Fusco visit Elias’s headquarters. They are not welcome, nor are their efforts to intercede. But before they can leave, the Brotherhood attack in force. They take the bank, they take everyone. Dominick is leader but can he lead? He wants ‘Riley’ and Finch working for him now. He wants Elias to acknowledge his leadership. He taunts him over his role in Anthony’s death: what does that feel like? Be careful what you wish for, Elias replies.

Dominick also wants Harold and his network. How does he even know about Harold? Someone told him, someone for whom only money matters, who constantly lies, cheats, twists and who has not an atom of loyalty in her body except to herself. Harper Rose will sell out nyone for the right price.

And this, not either of her first two appearances, is why I loathe Harper. She has no conception of Good or Evil, just of Me and Them, and by her actions she has betrayed half our team to death, destruction and the end of the world.

But that leaves Finch and Root, the cerebral half of the battle. A message rings through on Sameen Shaw’s phone, a half-line, a plea for help. Shaw is alive. It’s a trap, the most obvious of traps, but that doen’t deter Root. Shaw is out there, she has failed her once, she will not do so again. It takes playing chicken on a ledge thirty floors up, placing her own life in the most proximate of danger, but Root forces the Machine to give up Shaw’s location, a government-run Asylum. Just like the one Finch put her in. Now, Root commits him as a means of getting both into the building.

Which is Samaritan’s base of operations. Rousseau confronts Root. They are both captured. Greer will have Root’s cochlear implant cut out to locate the whereabouts of the Machine. Rousseau will torture Harold. Everybody will die, the whole thing is over, Samaritan will win.

And the future will be a boot stamping on a human face, forever.

But we are not done. Control proves Shelley is lying. Shelley’s character turns in an instant. The Correction is coming, on May 6, something that will change the world forever. It’s nothing more than Control has done all her life. Shelley says “Go home to your loved ones. Hold your daughter tight, because a new day is dawning. And those who impede progress – the disruptive, the aberrant – will be systematically purged from our society. There will be no mercy. No stay of execution. For some, this will be the end. But for others, a rebirth. A second chance to live the life they were designed for. Every life given a purpose. Samaritan will build a new world. A better world.” Control says “Too bad you won’t live to see it.” and shoots her through the chest.

Dominick realises Elias has a rat in the Brotherhood. He tortures Elias, he tortures ‘Riley’ and Fusco. He threatens Elias with having all his loyal men killed unless he gives up the rat. Elias painfully accedes, provides a bank account number. It is traced. Dominick asks Link, his right-hand-man, his trusted lieutenant, his oldest friend, what to do about this traitor. Link repeats his already given advice: you don’t just hit back, you put them in the ground. Dominick guns him down. Link was the rat.

But he wasn’t. There was no rat. It was a beautifully executed play by Elias, knowing he was going to lose the War anyway and undermining Dominick first. Dominick can’t trust anyone now, he’s killed the only one he did. His men won’t trust him.

And he knows what it feels like to be responsible for the death of a friend.

In the asylum, Rousseau will make Finch’s torture painful. Root warns her not to lay a hand upon him. In response, Rousseau carresses Finch’s face. Then she leans over Root. Who, in a moment of shocking brevity, pins Rousseau’s hand to the bed, grabs her neck and snaps it. Harold is shocked by Greer’s complete indifference to the loss of an ally, threatens him with the prospect that one day Greer will be found dispensible by Samaritan: Greer sneers that Harold is arrogant to think that any of them are indispensible. He’s about to get a lesson.

There’s a deal on the table: Harold and Root’s life for the Machine’s location. Despite Root’s imploring not to do it, that Harold is right to say she and he are interchangeable for the Machine’s purposes, the Machine disagrees. It apologises for failing Shaw. It will not fail Harold and Root. They must be released first. Samaritan accepts the offer. The Machine reveals its location. Samaritan marshalls its forces. It is the end. Everybody lost.

Forty-three minutes.