Person of Interest: s04 e02 – Nautilus

The Number That Got Away

A few years ago, I blogged a short series Italian crime drama, Inspector DiLuca (I think it was called). It was set in Fascist Italy, under Mussollini and one of its aspects was the problem of solving crime in a criminal country. The second episode of season 4 took a similar turn: how can the helpers of the Machine protect Numbers in a society where honesty cannot exist?

‘Nautilus’ set out to show us a way in which it can be done. It made a first step to draw us back to normality by reinstating Finch’s opening monologue, unchanges, with the twist that the surveillance feeds are drawn now from Samaritan, not ur operating-in-secret Machine. And there is a new meaning to the key word Irrelevant, applying to each of our secret quartet who, each time they are identified as enemies are reclassed as Irrelevant.

Everyone is separate under different covers. At least they can talk on the phone on their private, secure network, and Detective Riley invites Professor Whistler for a late night coffee. Except a Detective’s paperwork is hell so Riley doesn’t turn up. But Clare Mahoney (Quinn Shephard) does. And Clare’s a Number.

She’s a Number vouxchsafed to Reese, not Finch, who wants nothing to do with her. They don’t do that any more. Well, he doesn’t. But Clare’s a brilliant Math student, a chess master, an asset of major proportions and not unlike Finch himself.

She’s also a thin-faced, not unattractive young woman with no concern for anything but a game she’s playing, or rather a competition she’s set on winning. A series of genius level mathematical puzzles laid out as a Treasure Hunt across New York, each clue marked with the sign of a Nautilus Shell, a shell whose chambers are a natural logorithmic progression (thank you, Root)

It’s a competition being played out in different cities at 27 day intervals, first to solve it wins. And Clare is determined on being the winner, for good or ill, and the intensity that Shephard brings to the part convinces us early on that tis is not going to be a good thing to win. It’s going to take a high level of genius not to mention a kind of desperation-fuelled ruthlessness, and people don’t set underground competitions for that kind of person to recruit staff to care for fluffy bunnies.

The episode tries to peg Clare’s fanaticism to the random death of both her parents a year before and her subsequent search for meaning, but that to me seemed entirely too facile, and rational. Shephard was, if anything, too good at embodying Clare’s utter obsession for it to have an external reason; this woman was screwed a long time before from within.

There was an added complication in the form of Silverpool, a private military company whose files Clare had hacked to win an earlier round without ever being bothered by their contents, which could bring the company down. Reese cwas following Clare to keep her safe, Silverpool were following her to kill her and retrieve the file and Finch was trying to reach her on a psychlogical level, because something was bad about all this, something seriously stunk and it was the puzzle’s creator: Samaritan.7

But Clare was lost before we first met her, driven by her obsession to win, intent on constructing a meaning around herself, the structure being her sole concern and the exact meaning… meaningless.

Clare walked away to Samaritan. Silverpool whent down. So too did its big project a surveillance system built to utilise and analyse Government feeds. A potential rival for Samaritan, shot down in flames; how convenient.

But Clare served yet another purpose, this time one not of Samaritan’s design. She brought Harold Finch back into play, the underground space he discovered last week being an abandoned subway service tunnel wired to be undetectable. It’s not the Library, but it’s a new base from which to fight back, and the mayhem twins are no longer working without back-up.

The game is once more afoot, even in an abnormal world.

The Infinite Jukebox: The Rembrandts’ ‘The Other Side of Night’

When people mention The Rembrandts, inevitably it’s in connection with the theme from Friends, ‘I’ll Be There For You’, twice a top five hit in the UK in the heyday of the sitcom. Me being me, and liking the song’s R.E.M.-esque vigour and melody, dug deeper, to the extent of buying the band’s most recent CD, which they’d called, amusingly, LP , a follow-up to Untitled. Some people are born smartarses.
It wasn’t a bad album by any means, but it wasn’t as distinctive as I hoped. The overall sound, and songwriting, was much more reminiscent of Crowded House, and the release was not all that long after Woodface, but in the end there weren’t enough compelling tracks to justify keeping it, and I recorded the ones I wanted to keep and sold the album on. One of those songs was “The Other Side of Night”.
If all you listen to is the music, then this is a pleasant, low-tempo song, set to a gentle, shuffling beat, with an appealing but not overly-demonstrative melody, sung in a restrained and sometimes gently yearning voice. But that yearning note is not there for just fun, and when you tune your ear to the song, what this is about is loss, loss of a love, a might-have-been love. And it doesn’t take much to understand for what the Other Side of Night is a metaphor.
Sadness is encoded into the song, whose gentility becomes fragile in its playing out. Whoever she was is unknown, whatever she was is plain to see, and what has happened to her has been a sorrow that can never be relieved, and also a guilt. No farewell words will ever be heard from the other side of night.
This song is a companion to The Pierces’ glorious ‘Glorious’. It hasn’t a tenth of the fire of that song, and nothing of the Pierces’ determination not to take life as being over, but to live as loud and as hard as they can. The Rembrandts are a long way from recovering from their loss. They are calm and placid about it, accepting in part of what cannot be undone, but still they look back, seeing the absence, rather than forward, to the life best lived in honour of the loved one gone ahead.
It’s easy to say, no doubt in response to that early and devastating loss, that my thoughts turn too often to a mournful tone, that sadness and loss will always affect me more than joy and happiness. And the other side of night is right in my wheelhouse when it comes to words that describe.
Because Danny Wilde and Phil Solem are singing about a girl who took her own life. A girl who was not a love but who might have been, had there been another year, another season. A girl who’s become a question, not an answer. The sun shines where she is but The Rembrandts see only night, under a moon that throws a beautiful light but not one that eases, because no beauty can answer the unending questions.
Because nobody loses someone to suicide without questions as to their own part, the invisible responsibility, the unanswerable guilt at what might have been different had I been different. Those dead are always close at hand, around a corner, just out of the line of sight. Thank whatever passes in your world to a God, I have never experienced such a loss, but survivor’s guilt is one of the most powerful guilts that can be borne because it can never be lifted except by your own head.
For The Rembrandts, all that might have been were possibilities. Would I have fallen in love with her if there had been a longer time? The unspoken fear: was it for my failure to love that she chose to go beyond?
But she is where she chose to be, now and forever. Would she have inspired so beautiful a song without the mourning that exists in every note? That no-one can ever know.

One SkandiThriller too many…

So I’m just thinking that, you self-isolate one whole Sunday, not even getting a paper and what do they do? They spring an unexpected SkandiThriller on you in the good old BBC4 9.00pm, Saturday slot. It’s called Twin, and on the heels of Wisting it’s another Norwegian one. And it’s full of good awesome mountain scenery.

And what’s it about? It’s about these identical twins, Adam and Erik, both played by Kristofer Hijvu,both tall, burly with long red beards. The twins haven’t seen each other for 15 years because they’re completely different characters.

Erik’s a surfing instructor if he’s anything, which is another way of saying he’s a lazy, shiftless bum, a freeloader who thinks he’s entitled to whatever he wants, completely irresponsible, a thief and a lawbreaker many times over in the first thirty minutes and still he thinks he should get what he wants when he wants it. In short, a total arsehole.

Adam, in contrast, is clean-living and upright, a married man with a wife and two children and a business. He’s also so big a stiff you could poke the fire with the poker shoved up his backside.

Erik comes to Adam for help, well, basically, to be taken care of at everybody else’s expense. Adm won’t have anything to do with him and orders him to go. Erik won’t (he only understands the word ‘No’ when he’s the one saying it). The two get into a fight on the boat Erik’s about to steal because he has to have somewhere to crash. Adam’s wife, intervening with a boathook, inadvertently kills Adam.

The plot of the series is that she then asks Erik, who everybody he usually rips off thinks is dead because he’s let them, being an emotional vampire as well as every other kind, to pretend to be Adam.

Why? What for? And with what consequences?

Well, you’ll have to tell me. Because this was the point I switched off. Because I was completely cold about Adam and I loathed Erik. Because I would sooner paddle in squishy shit in my bare feet than watch a programme about that kind of character. Because there isn’t the fantastic Norwegian scenery under the sun that can compensate for putting up with this waste of a human being who, even if ground up in a meat-grinder, would poison the pigs he was fed to.

Jeez, I’d rather watch a hundred new series featuring Maverick Mess…

No recaps, not even to snark. This one I don’t want to know.

I’d even rather watch a third series of Black Lake…

Film 2020: Incredibles 2

It wasn’t until after I selected this weekend’s film that I realised this made two fantastic films in succession, but even though I try to vary the film series so it’s not all one thing all the time, this is still ok. In these days of extreme limits on getting out and doing things, it’s great to get out in any other way possible.

Two years ago, in Film 2018, I raved over The Incredibles ahead of it’s long-awaited sequel. Direcotor/writer Brad Bird had made usall wait fourteen years before returning t his subject, admirably refusing to make a sequel for the sake of it but waiting for the ideas that would make a film worth making for itself. And given that superhero films had become as big as they are in the meantime, a film that was still utterly individual.

And he was right to wait, because Incredibles 2 (note the missing definitive article) is one of those rare sequels that not only stands up in its own right but which, for me, is actually better than the first film.

Bird makes the decision to start exactly where the first film stopped, coming at it from a different angle by using Violet’s date, popular kid Tony Rydinger, to replay the last few moments of the first film as a lead-in to the continuing story (he is then promptly mind-zapped to forget seeing Violet without her mask and, unintentionally, his date with her on Friday, not to mention her entire existence, oops).

The Incredibles ended on a positive high, with the Parr family going into superhero action openly and above board. But Bird doesn’t forget that superheroes are still illegal so, after saving the day – actually, the underminer gets away with the money and the Incredibles cause massive damage in trying to stop him, more than if they’d just carried on shopping – they’re arrested and, what’s more, the FBI programme which supports them is cancelled. So: two last weeks in a motel (their house and all their possessions were burned down last film) and they’re homeless.

Enter Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Better Call Saul Odenkirk) and his younger sister Evelyn (voiced wonderfully by Christine Keener). The Deavors jointly run Devtech, a communications megacompany. Winston fronts and sells, Evelyn designs and invents. Winston, in keeping with his late father who idolised the supers, wants to sell something new, or rather old: he wants to lead a campaign to legalise supers again.

Evelyn’s point of view is different, and she expresses it in their first meeting with Mr Incredible, Elastigirl and Frozone. Deavor senior died when burglars invaded their home, he refused to go hide in the safe room, tried to call his super friends to help and was shot dead. To Winston, that’s evidence for the restoration of supers to their rightful place, protecting us To Evelyn, it’s a pointless, wasteful, stupid death resulting from placing onself at unnecessary risk expecting to be protected by superior beings instead of being self-reliant and getting yurself out of your own problems.

That argument isn’t developed at first. Cleverly, it’s introduced, and talked over, half-complete, but it plants a seed the film wants to develop. in the neantime, we move onto a another trope that caused great controversy from the terminally hard-of-thinking, but which seeded the story with multiple aspects and implications: Devtech want Elastigirl – not Mr Incredible – to front their campaign.

The logic is impeccable. Mr Incredible is a character of brawn, not brain. He’s massive, he’s powerful and he tends at go at things like a bull at a gate because, like the bull, the gate can’t do much to stop him. It’s the old adage about when you have a hammer yu treat all problems as a nail. Bob causes endless damage wherever he goes.

Elastigirl is different. For one thing, she’s a woman, and therefore less likely t think of brute strength as a first option. Secondly, her powers are flexibility taken to extreme lengths, and therefore its concomitant, ingenuity. Elastigirl thinks her solutions and uses her powers to achieve results as a consequence.

Of course she’s the one you want up front. It makes perfect sense, but not to the army of idiots who howled about having a woman – a girl! – leading the action. It’s feminism spoiling things, it’s an SJW agenda, our porn… sorry, our comics are being spoiled by people forcing their beliefs down our throats, we want our shit to be the same shit over and over again, world withut end or change, and we’re going to force our beliefs down your throat, or we would if we weren’t total and ineffectual idiots away from Twitter. As you may have gathered, i have little sympathy with this point of view.

And it’s subtly rendered into pwersonal terms in the film. Elastigirl, complete with shiny new, dark and edgy costume not designed by Edna, goes out upfront and public, saves the day, faces off against a new villain, Screenslaver, with powerful hypnotic powers does the cause great good and, frankly, has an absolute blast!

Whilst Bob Parr stays at home to look after the kids, and grumble about it, and suffer and stress, but with that undercurrent of resentment that it’s her, not him, that’s getting to play: this is his game.

Bob gets to deal with the family: Violet’s misery, frustration and general 14-year-old girlness about life in general and the humiliaion of being stood up by the hot boy in school who’s asked her out but who has been mind-wiped and forgotten her: Dash’s hyper-enthusiasm for the new, luxurious home they have, it’s multiple gadgets and the desire to just do everything: and Jack-Jack, the baby, whose multiple, indeed spiralling number of powers and his infany delight in them, causes the biggest headaches of them all.

But lets get back to the Screenslaver. It’s not entirely obvious who that’s going to turn out to be, not to the point of collapsing the film, but it’s regretfully unsurprising that it should turn ut to be Evelyn. The clue’s been planted early on, and her technological mastery is there to support it, although its over-elaboration on her part and sheer intelligence on Elastigirl’s that gives her away.

Evelyn Deaver is angry, angry and hurt. She sees her brother wanting to wrap himself in a cocoon of external protection whilst she, who has solved all her problems herself, is consumed with bitterness at her father’s failure to protect himself because he relied on superheroes. Under her hypnotic control, Elastigirl, Frozone and Mr Incredible, plus a half-dozen new supers Devtech have gathered, are going to cause a massive dsaster that will ensure they are suppressed forever.

The film gives Evelyn plenty of time to articulate her beliefs, and they are presented seriously because they are a serious, and a valid, philosophy. humanity would indeed be weakening itself by placing itself under the protection of superior beings it would lose strength, intelligence and ingenuity by not attending directly to its own problems but letting gods in the sky do it instead. It’s like the blob people in WALL-E, grown fat,  unhealthy and incapable for having everything done for it.

The counter-argument? The film’s smart enough not to have one or present one. The nearest it comes is by quietly stating the need for people to be what they really are and not have to hide it, which here is superpowers but is a metaphor for everything else, most commonly homosexuality. Otherise, the supers themselves are pragmatic. FBI Agent Dicker defines them as people who do good just because they can, the kind politicians dnt understand and therefore don’t trust. When Evelyn’s finally arrested, she makes the point that she’s still right, and Elastigirl’s sole rejoinder is Evelyn is still alive.

Fourteen years of development has made the CGI even better. I raved abut The Incredibles being the perfect superhero film because it was CGI and I’ll say the same things over again. The film makes the superheroics credble because they are part of the entirety, not an unachievable physical move superimposed on a mundane world by CGI. By making everything CGI the stunts are not a lie of which we’re conscious but integrated into the worl we’re watching.

And the contrast betweem the hyper-reality of everything, and the cartoon distortion of the characters -not just the supers but everyone – ensures that the characters are not lost in the detail. They’re caricatures, unrealistic, making them the perfect match for their unrealistic actions, and borrowing some of the sheer enjoyment we get from cartoon characters. It’s far better than watching real persons ding something we know they can’t do: Bob, Helen, Violet, Dash, Jack-Jack Lucius are exagerations and as such are a perfect blend with their exagerated deeds.

One thing I’d like to touch on is the design feel of the film. It’s not dated to any year and most of the look is contemporary. But from the cartoon style adopted for the film’s opening and closing credits is utterly Fifties in its look, and from that I began to notice things abut the film that echoed tat style and feel.

The Parr’s house, for instance, cmes out of the Fifties, notwithstanding it’s modern facilities and software. It has the feel and style of luxury, self-indulgent houses for the rich in that decade

It’s most notable in Evelyn herself. The short hair-style, the shapeless tops, the narrow slacks ending above the ankles, the air of worldliness rm the get-go, Evelyn is a Fifties woman, a career girl, someone you’d see working around a film set in a film set there. To be honest, though she’s no more realistic than anyone else, she intrigued me, I liked her, she was the kind of woman who surrounded herself with a shell of cynicism that you’d enjoy the combat of getting behind to discover the real her. I didn’t want her to be the villain.

All this talk and I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what Incredibles 2 contains, which is another reason it’s so good. None of it’s real, which is exactly why it can be real, on all its levels. If someone ever does try to translate Kurt Busiek’s Astro City into film, they’d better crawl on their knees to Brad Bird…

Bill Withers: Ain’t No Sunshine

They’re talking about him in the context of ‘Lean on Me’, his only British hit and a fine song, but Bill Withers, who has left us aged 81, also wrote ‘Ain’t no Sunshine’, which gave Michael Jackson one of his earliest hit singles over here, but his original was infinitely superior (not that Jackson’s fans will ever agree).

But Withers was a veteran, with a deep voice and one in which a wealth of experience lay, audible in every syllable. Jackson sung a song, but Withers felt it, in every dark second of the loss it portrayed.

By one more degree we who are left move deeper into that dark for which there is no sunshine.

To be Brave and Bold: Part 1 – The Historical Phase

Some comics series, especially those without a character to lend their name to a title, lead volatile existences. In recent posts, we’ve seen just how often the likes of Adventure Comics and More Fun Comics chopped and changed their approaches, with multiple serial leads. The same goes for Mystery in Space. I’m now moving on to DC’s long-running title, The Brave and the Bold, which ran for 200 issues from 1955 to 1983, eventually being cancelled not because of its sales but because DC wanted to replace it with a more modernised version of its fourth, final and longest phase.
Brave & Bold (as the title was most commonly called) was introduced in an issue cover-dated August-September 1955, just over a year before the debut of the Silver Age Flash in Showcase. B&B debuted as a bi-monthly status, a frequency it would retain for almost twenty years, under the editorship of Whitney Ellsworth.
It was very much a comic of the In-Between Age, the desperate expenditure of resources on anything that might attract the kids’ attention again, this effort being about historical adventure. The first issue featured The Golden Gladiator (sheepherder Marcus framed for a plot of which he was innocent, turned galley-slave, turned gladiator, freed due to his prowess) created by France Herron and Russ Heath, The Viking Prince (an amnesiac found floating in cold seas with an obvious warrior background) created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert and The Silent Knight (medieval-era Brian Kent, robbed of his right to rule, fighting in silence) created by Kanigher and Irv Novick.
Of the three, Viking Prince was clearly the best, thanks to Kubert’s art, though the story itself also rung with a deeper resonance. Jon the Viking did not know who he really was, only that Baron Thorvald wanted him dead. We knew that Jon was a rightful heir. So too was Brian Kent, albeit out in the open, and a bit blander. Both these I had read in reprints but the Golden Gladiator was new to me except in reputation and I reserved judgement at first.
The mix was varied in issue 5 when England’s Robin Hood appeared in place of the Golden Gladiator. This wasn’t DC’s first use of the character, and it isn’t even mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on Brave (or Bold) Sir Robin, but this version was by Bill Finger and Russ Heath. Next issue, it was the Viking Prince’s turn to sit things out so Joe Kubert was free to draw Robin Hood. Whereas he was a clean-shaven blond in Lincoln Green in one issue, now Kubert drew him like Errol Flynn, dark-hair and pencil moustache.
The new rule appeared to be that Robin Hood and the Silent Knight were permanents and the Viking Prince and Golden Gladiator alternated for the third slot. But Jon the Prince only missed issue 6 and retained his place for the remainder of the comic’s run as an historical hero anthology, with the Golden Gladiator the full-time loser.
Cover duties alternated between the Silent Knight and Robin Hood, with the Viking Prince not getting a look-in. Maid Marion made only rare appearances in the series but Jon’s love, Gunnda, daughter of Captain Olaf was an ever present, never afraid to go into battle to aid him, a true shieldmaiden, whilst both Brian Kent and the Silent Knight hobnobbed with Sir Edwin’s daughter, the fair Lady Celia. Officially, Celia did not know her two attendants were one and the same, but her knowing remarks to Brian leave me convinced that she wasn’t fooled at all.
Then issue 16 threw everything open, Viking Prince-wise. Not only did he claim the cover on an issue from which Robin Hood was missing, but suddenly he’s losing his memory multiple times in between which he knows he’s the rightful heir to the throne, but it’s not the one seized by Baron Thorvald, this one’s occupied by Turgunn and Jon has to complete the Twelve Tasks of Thor before he can challenge for it, meanwhile Gunnda’s disappeared and Jon’s knocking about with a mute minstrel: what?

Brave & Bold had now turned into a two character title, the pity being that the Viking Prince’s series had gone haywire, with his next adventure being under the sea, aiding a displaced naiad recover her castle but turning down her fair blue body when she offers it.
The rot spread to the Silent Knight, with Brian Kent suddenly becoming Brian Greystone, and I’ll eat my hat if Lady Celia didn’t know absolutely it was Brian all along.
The Viking Prince’s stories got sillier every issue in proportion to how more impressive Kubert’s art got. Over and over, beauties of all hair-colourings would throw themselves at Jon’s feet, closing in for kisses, offering their all. At least his would-be love of a Gulliver’s Travel knock-off adventure in issue 22 reminded him of fair Gunda for the first time (single-n spelling per the story).
Then the next issue it was all up for grabs again, with two Viking Prince stories, one his origin, introducing his father, King Rikk, and his beauteous Princess and lifelong love Asa, daughter of Eric, King of Skane, and that was another set of parameters chucked out heedlessly. Robert Kanigher replaced Whitney Ellsworth as editor and jettisoned The Silent Knight. Brave & Bold was now The Viking Prince’s solo title. For one more issue.

And then the comic’s era as a vehicle for historical adventure was abandoned for good, in the first great change of phase. About which we’ll read in the next instalment.

Lou Grant: s03 e23 – Guns

A patriot

Oh boy.

That was my reaction to this episode’s title, knowing America’s relationship with guns and the right to bear arms. But this story wasn’t about gun control, despite the programme showing its hand with on, deliberately comic line.

No, this was about something bigger than that, and about something a lot closer to our home, because it was about the IRA, and the ongoing Troubles.

The episode began with a break-in at a gun shop and the methodical theft of eleven automatic rifles, banned from sale but part of the owner’s private collection. His was the positional statement that got slipped in: challenging Rossi’s lack of interest in his position on gun control, his answer was, ‘Like any sane person, I’m against it!’.

The first real giveaway to the story’s true aim came in McKenna’s at lunch. Owner Maggie McKenna (played by future Golden Girl Rue McLannahan) is over from Ireland for the night’s big St Patrick’s Day party, and she’s shaking the collection tin for starving children back there. The wives and children of the men held in prison in the North.

It’s an old story now, swept thankfully to the pages of history and, we fervently hope, confined forever there, but this was about the support given to the IRA by Americans, support in money, support in guns, support in money-for-guns, bought in Los Angeles and smuggled back to the old country. And the programme trod carefully, allowing the Freedom Fighters their say about what they were doing, justifying their actions, their use of force as unwelcome but necessary, as force was the only thing the Oppressor understood, without condemning them in any but a polite, cautious manner.

In its way, it was a history lesson, a pertinent reminder to those of us who lived through those times. There was a reminder of the death of Earl Mountbatten that brought back in an instant where I was and what I was doing when that news broke, in 1979, on Anglesey, and there were two women, housewives and mothers, one Protestant, one Catholic, to recall the Mother’s Peace Process, wanting nothing but an end to fear and death.

The programme allowed those who represented the cause to make their argument a point of principle whilst allowing the viewer to make up their own mind on the extent to which the death of ordinary people was justifiable by any principle. It allowed the supporters to condemn themaselves out of their own mouths via the passionate but unthinking Maggie, at one point relishing the takeover of the North and showing the protestants what it feels like, and at another refusing to even think about how the British could be removed from Ireland without the very real damage a precipitate withdrawal could cause. Yet Maggie would also be the means by which the episode offered its sole hope of minds changing.

First though, there was Francie Fitzgerald (Redman Gleeson), intrduced by Maggie to Lou as a fellw journalist. Francie was one of those easy-going sons of the blarney and it’s to Gleeson’s credit that, whilst playing him to the hilt as an Irish charmer, he kept him the right side of an Oirish caricature. You liked Francie, you’d have a beer and the craic with him any day, but he was the militant, the gun-runner, stealing Lou’s Driving Licence and Social security card to set up a fake, gun-buying identity.

Francie also turned out a target at the last. He had doubts, or so he said, he wanted to resign, or so he said, but you don’t get to resign. Besides, he was too sloppy, known to the FBI and the Police. So a bomb was planted under Francie’s car.

But this was the show’s only serious failing, and that because of what it was and when this was, and what it couldn’t show. Two kids were throwing ball in the garden. One threw it too hard and it rolled under Francie’s car. The other went scrabbling for it. The show underplayed it too much, neither taking you by surprise nor tightening your stomach with tension of the ‘oh no, they’re not going to…’ kind. We didn’t even hear a bang. Just Police sirens, Rossi arriving to see a totalled car, and a far too offhand resigned line from a Detective to tell us the kid was killed. The moment was thrown away.

At least it had its decent aftermath. The epilogue took place in McKenna’s where a drunken buffoon announced Francie’s death in sententious tones of faked regret. Rossi corrected him: Francie got away, to which the buffoon cheered. Lou told him to tell the rest: our barometer buffoon sighed about it always being the innocent suffer in this war, but in the only shaft of light possible, Maggie herself, the unthinking patriot, told him to shut up. And she tok the collecting jars from the tables and put them away in back.

Back in 1980, that was pretty much the only hope anyone ever dared have about the Troubles, that minds be changed, one by one. I thught that the episode suffered from not once giving the viewpoint of the North, coming closest with Art Donovan’s refusal to be co-opted by reason of his Irish roots and making the practical point that the British simply can’t be thrown out bag and baggage on the next boat, much as the simplistic Maggie wanted.

It was a strong and memorable episode, my choice for the best of season 3. It did its best to stay neutral from an editorial perspective, concentrating upon death and misery rather than the politics, and I’ve tried to do the same today. My curse has always been to see the rights and wrongs of both sides in such situations as this, and whilst my instincts always come down against the users of violence, I do know that sometimes it is necesary, in the same way that Hitler and Nazism could, in the long run, only be overcome by blood and destruction. All I can say is that it is complicated and blessed are the peace-makers of every stripe.

I am so glad that this story is, for now at least, out of date.