Do you ever get the feeling that the Universe is conspiring against you? I mean, I have that most days to begin with (it’s obvious!) but there are times when the sense is particularly acute. I have spent much of the last three months transcribing an old and autobiographical novel about unrequited feelings, and no sooner do I finish than the very next episode of Deep Space Nine throws the very same story in my face. It made for some unwelcome viewing.
After the scope and significance of the previous two-parter, I knew better than to expect anything of similar depth. In fact, I would have bet cash money on the next episode being a character story of no serious importance, and I would have been right (though I doubt I would have got good odds on it).
The story was simple: First Minister Shakaar Edon (Duncan Regehr in a role that requires him to do little more than be a clothes horse) is on DS9 for negotiations with the Federation over reducing the admissions process for Bajor. There is an assassination threat from Cardassian terrorists, over which Odo and Worf share responsibility for security.
But Shakaar is also there because he’s falling in love with Major Kira, which he confides in Odo, completely unaware (as is everybody else except Lwaxana Troi) that Odo secretly loves Kira himself. Odo is forced to watch their courtship, becoming distracted to the point that his carelessness almost enables an assassination attempt, and to the point that the terrorist is apprehended by Worf without Odo’s involvement.
Distraught after Shakaar has spent the night in Kira’s quarters, undoubtedly bumping Bajoran uglies, or whatever the young people call it these days, Odo smashes up his quarters, attracting sympathy, of a kind, from the only person to understand his secret: Quark. Whose advice is that Odo must either put up or shut up.
So Odo shuts up. He closes down the weekly meetings he has with Kira over the crime reports, he retreats further into cold efficiency, he grinds down upon the hope that she will think of him the way he thinks of her.
And I watch and compare this forty five minutes of TV with three months of writing that essentially adds up to the same thing, and I don’t really have much to say about it.
This is the halfway point now. The middle series, the middle episode: three series and thirteen episodes that I’ve blogged, week in, week out, and three series, thirteen episodes left. Whatever follows is on the downhill slope now, to an end.
And I still haven’t seen a single episode that I watched, all those years ago, getting home from work and curling up in front of early-evening BBC2 in those days before I acquired a family.
It was a long old double episode this week, covering a lot of ground, so much so that the two episodes felt, at times, like transmissions from different series. That this was so was down to the performance of Maverick Mess.
The first part, episode 7, could have been sub-titled ‘that idiot at his fucking worst’ and I would have still thought it didn’t go far enough. The BBC blurb had it that Mads was impatient, and that too was an understatement. Given that he spent the entire hour either raging at his boss, or raging at Alf, his trusty sidekick, for not being willing to completely smash the law to pursue Mess’s vendetta against Big Bad Knud, or else lying and bullying to smash the law in direct defiance of temp boss Henrietta’s instructions, and incidentally seeing Amoral Claudia at Absolen Bank, jumping to completely the wrong conclusion about her working for Big Bad Knud and then lying and bullying first her Parole Officer then Claudia herself, this was a fine example of how not to run a Fraud Squad based on intricate investigation, careful collection and interpretation of sensitive and intricate information and, above all, PATIENCE, you cretin!
Mess was on the rampage, convinced of his own rightness, his own righteousness, heedless of the concept that just because a thought had crossed the lonely wastelands of his mind, that did not make it concrete and irrefutable fact.
No greater demonstration of this was there than the end of the episode when Claudia (being illegally wiretapped) accepted the lovely Amanda’s suggestion to set up a meeting with Big Bad Knud. The Police have the meeting (legally) wire-tapped and Mess is all sweary and up himself about how Claudia lets Mr Christensen know the fuzz are onto his Risk Management Departmennt scam, so he’d better hut it down (on, and by the way, hand us back those one-sixth of Absolen customers you were stealing, to put through the ringer).
Mess goes mental, he goes postal, he goes abso-bloody-lutely crackers at how he’s been betrayed, until even Alf spits back at him for what a fucking disgrace he is as both copper and human being. And then the script slaps Mess one around the chops as Claudia phones them up to tell them what she’s done, and that they now have her in a trusted position where she can get the dirt for them on Big Bad Knud.
Collapse, if there were any justice, of stout party, but Mess is our hero, so the twonk gets away with barely even apologising, and behaves properly, sensibly, reasonably and even to a large extent like a Fraud Squad policeman throughout episode 8.
Then again, much of Mess’s time in the second half is diverted towards his real agenda, which is Vendetta. Mess still wants Sander Sodergren, and he wants him bad, so now he’s actually on good terms with Claudia, she spills to him two key facts. Firsrtly, that Sander’s first destination on leaving Denmark was to be Frankfurt, and secondly the alias under which he was traveling: Stig Lorentzen. She also tells him that Sander was not alone, that P, the Swede, was with him.
Thus, by a process of real deduction, our Maverick is able to track Sander to Sao Paolo in Brazil (it looked like Greece to me, but hell, I’ve never been to either one), where he disappears. At this point, a very Sander-specific unsolved murder victim crops up, soon DNA-ed and ID-ed. And by comparing passenger lists on the flight route, our boys track one Bo Peterson, a Swede aged 59, who’s recently been in hospital…
So Mess and Alf call on P’s home away from home, catching him as he’s packing to leave. Mess has warned Alf in advance that this is the guy who killed his lady reporter friend Mia in series one. P shuffles about weakly, denies everything, fakes a heart attack, needs his pills. Alf follows him to the bathroom, but instead of pills, P )or should we now call him Bo?) produces a silenced gun from the bathroom cabinet and shoots Alf twice in the stomach with it.
Alf is not yet dead, which is a surprise, given P’s experience and skill level, but he’s in a really shitty situation, and that’s the cliff-hanger on which we pause.
Obviously, I’ve concentrated for so long on Mess, but Claudia’s story has gotten intertwined with his, and as we reach the end, Nicky’s is about to cross lines in a manner that has been so thoroughly foreshadowed this week that we don’t need the last two episodes to know where that’s going.
But Claudia first. I’ve already mentioned how Nova are digging their claws into Absolen by extending their Risk Management team role to one whole sixth of Absolen’s customers. Amanda is horrified but Simon isn’t. He’s so very thoroughly already gone native with Nova and Big Bad Knud, the muppet, and is using Nova to expand Absolen by taking over a progressive French Bank, Credit Thingy (whose chief Legal Adviser just so happens to be Amoral Claudia’s ex, and father to her boy Bertram, Steen).
Claudia tries to head Nova off by getting Steen to slow down the sale, put conditions on that will shut Nova out, but Steen’s on the edge of financial ruin if this deal doesn’t go through. Demonstrating that she can be at least as ruthless when she wants, Claudia goes behind his bank, only to find that Credit Wotzit (begins with an S, that’s all I can remember) is desperate for the money.
And we find out why in the second half, courtesy of a Nova risk manager who gets abruptly terminated, and who should be escorted out of the country by Nicky. He spills the beans to Amanda and Claudia: Credit Oojah has a lot of dodgy loans out to French tech firms and if the tech market drops just one leedle percentage point, it’ll drag the French Bank under.
And if it drops just one half more, guess which Danish bank goes with it?
And whilst we’re guessing things, just what do you think Big Bad Knud is manipulating?
Simon, the would-be Knud Jr, gets presented with the evidence that he’s been nothing more than a sheep in sheep’s clothing among all these wolves, and can see for himself that all those promises Christensen made aren’t worth the air in which he spoke them: Big Bad Knud does not write things down, as Claudia has found, trying to get some evidence of fraud that points to him, not her. Whilst she and Amanda rally to call an overnighter to rescue Absolen, all Simon can do is sob.
And Claudia, after Christensen didn’t fall for her ‘sign here and here’ trick, is mortally afraid she’s been blown. When she hears about Sander, it’s not just him and the memory of that screw on the kitchen table she weeps for. Mess’s assurances that he and Alf will look after her are of curiously little comfort. And she’s right to be scared: she’s being followed by Nicky.
About time we got to him. After last week’s balls-up with little Olga, Nicky’s in the doghouse. P won’t return his calls, two men in a black car are permanently hanging around the garage, his little boy Milas goes missing for a few minutes. Nicky can’t take it: he grabs and tortures one of P’s men, holds the Swede’s daughter and gunpoint and tracks him down, threatening him to his face.
But P/Bo has been training Nicky up to take over for him, and he talks Nicky down, until the only person he uses the gun on is the thug who led him there, killed in cold blood.
So Nicky replaces P as Big Bad Knud’s go-to guy. He’s still not flawless, but he’s getting there, and all it costs him is the ability to respond to his lovely wife, Lina.
And right at the end there, he’s following Claudia, and she leaves a file for Mess at his house, with the lovely but weary Kristina. Kristina, whose late-life baby bump is now showing a long way out. Kristina, who’s been told that her sclerosis has been concealing a quite advanced case of cystitis. Kristina, who’d been told she needs complete rest or she’s at risk of premature delivery (i.e., miscarriage). Kristina, whose idiot husband is so obsessed with nailing Big Bad Knud, he can’t spare a second to listen to her so she has to confide in Alf instead.
Kristina, home alone with a file in a house towards which Nicky is advancing, under instructions from Christensen to get it back…
So tune in next week for the inevitable, and whatever else is planned to end series 2. And don’t worry about Alf, shot twice in the stomach at contact range by a master-assassin: whilst trying to find out the name of that blasted French Bank, I happened to catch site of the blurb for episode 10. Alf hasn’t bought it. The Main Character Exemption applies again. I bet Mess could survive being hit by an Atom Bomb…
It’s not all that long ago that I was worrying about getting stale on DS9, wondering whether I should take a break. But it’s episodes like this two-parter, that I didn’t at first realise was a two-parter, that restore my enthusiasm for this series. This was what it should have been all the time, a high-stakes, wide-ranging, game-changing story that involved the very roots of the whole series. My one regret was that when I come to the next episode, I hardly dare hope, let alone expect, that it will live up to this standard.
“Homefront” began in typical fashion, with an open full of trivia. Odo is full of wrath towards Jardzia for her mischievous habit of sneaking in and shifting his furniture whilst he’s in his gelatinous state, Bashir and the Chief are fighting the Battle of Britain from the holosuite, complete with flying gear, Quark is being Quark. Oh, there’s this puzzling matter of the Wormhole opening and closing at random, without any (visible) ships coming through from the Gamma Quadrant, but it’s all very light.
And then the programme switched up through the gears. There has been a conference on Earth with the Romulans, at which a bomb exploded, killing 27 people. It’s the first such atrocity on the paradise planet that Earth has become in over a century. And the evidence indicates that it was contrived by a Changeling.
Sisko is summoned to Earth, along with Odo, by his former Captain, now Vic-Admiral Leyton (Robert Foxworth). He takes along Jake, so that the two of them can also spend some time with his father, Joseph (Brock Peters), who is still running his restaurant in New Orleans, and refusing to co-operate with his Doctor over preserving his health.
But Leyton hasn’t summoned Sisko home because he might have left a detail or two out of his report. Sisko is Starfleet’s best officer at fighting Changelings: Leyton makes him Acting-Chief of Security for the planet.
The main problem Sisko faces, initially, seems to be cultural. Earth is a Paradise planet, peaceful, happy, undisturbed. If it is under threat of a Dominion attack, if the Wormhole’s aberrant activity was actually cloaked Dominion starships entering the Alpha Quadrant, that peace will have to be radically rearranged by the security provisions required to identify and keep out Changelings.
The Federation President, Jaresh-Inyo, little more than a quiet bureaucrat who only wants to keep things peaceful and as they are, is reluctant to sanction such steps, and even after a demonstration of how easy it is to sneak a Changeling – Odo – into his personal office, completely undetected, will only allow certain limited measures devised by Sisko, with Leyton’s encouragement, to be put in place.
What’s clear even from the first part, before things start getting spelled out in “Paradise Lost”, is just how much this will change things on Earth. I was ahead of the wavefront at that point, already recalling the infamous Vietnam line, ‘to save the village, we had to destroy the village’, which was paraphrased openly by Sisko in the second part. There was too much emphasis on Earth being a Paradise, but peaceful Paradises are entirely too vulnerable to suspicion, and violence.
Joseph Sisko demonstrated this aptly. Sure, behind that gloriously jovial, outgoing restaurateur exterior, he was a cantankerously stubborn bugger, refusing to let prolonging his life interfere with how he wanted to lead it, but his utter refusal to allow a blood test to ‘prove’ he hadn’t been replaced by a shapeshifter, his indignance at being asked to prove he was innocent, and by his own son who feared he was guilty, encapsulated all that was at risk.
Then the power went out, all over Earth, simultaneously. And Leyton got his way, with a Starfleet officer on every corner. Every corner, with a phaser-rifle.
I was confident there was no attack being planned. Some of it was that this was not quite halfway through the season, some that I was sure that, even with all my efforts to avoid spoilers, I would have heard of it. But most of it was that what did the Dominion need in attacking? Look what they stood to gain by simply creating the fear of one? They were on the way to destroying the Earth through its own paranoia. If this had been written after 9/11, instead of seven years before it, it couldn’t have been a better response to the actions of the Bush Administration.
But I was off the mark, and “Paradise Lost” had begin setting this up before a Changeling in Chief O’Brien’s shape sat down beside Sisko to cheerfully boast of their superiority to solids, and how much havoc they’d caused with only four Changelings on the whole of Earth.
No, this wasn’t a Changeling operation. It was entirely more sinister. It was the Big Lie in operation, and what made it so insidious was that it came from a palpably good man, doing what he genuinely thought was best, not for himself, not for his own power, but for the safety of his own. It was all a carefully calculated plot on the part of Leyton, which would end up with Starfleet taking military control of Earth, under him, for the Duration. Foxworth was superb in portraying a man who was betraying every principle he’d ever held, every duty he’d accepted, for the sake of what he saw was the higher good.
You could still see that, if he had succeeded, power would inevitably corrupt him, as it inevitably does, but at this point, Foxworth’s thoughts were forearth, and its preservation against the threat of the Dominion. To save the planet, we had to destroy the planet. It’s a dictum easy to mock, and despise for its illogic, its intolerance, its cruelty, its indifference to others’ thoughts, but you could see the roots in loyalty and duty from which the weed sprung.
In the end, it was both loyalty and disloyalty that brought Leyton down. His Executive Officer, Erika Benteen (played by TNG alumnus Susan Gibney is a cool, dispassionate manner) had been promoted to Captain, as had many of Leyton’s former officers. When she was ordered to fire on the Defiant, bringing evidence to Earth of Leyton’s treason, and carrying all the senior staff of DS9 on board, she was prepared to stop a fellow Starfleet craft, but not to destroy it.
It was the defining moment, but until that moment, all things were possible. The story could have gone anywhere from here, taken Deep Space Nine into any waters it chose. That it settled for what was the closest possible reset of the status quo was of no matter: it was an ending we were emotionally hoping for, and the episode covered such territory that there could be no real status quo. Things changed. The worms got out of the can.
In the the week that Follow the Money II reaches its midpoint, no less a TV authority than Mark Lawson has pronounced that ‘Scandi Noir is Dead’ (find your own link, I’m not supporting that), which leads us to the obvious question: where does the Guardian get allthese wankers from? Lawson, an intellectual, was part of the infamous televised sneering session about Terry Pratchett, during which Tom Paulin claimed Pratchett couldn’t write because he didn’t even put chapters in.
The reason for Lawson’s recent pronouncement of execution is a rather contrived Swedish/French crossover crime series, which sounds unlikely to threaten the likes of The Killing or The Bridge, but to assert that the whole genre is dead – less than a year after Trapped – demonstrates the by now inevitable confusion between opinion and concrete fact.
A real intellectual would not have ignored the fact that television has always broadcast a mixture of good, bad and indifferent series, and that no culture is free from the urge to cash in on successful and innovative concepts with cheap, derivative and inferior copies.
We are watching Follow the Money, after all, aren’t we?
That said, it was disappointing to find that, in it’s new, more serious and better-plotted style, the middle two episodes were, well, dull. The storylines began to mesh more closely, our three principals moved forward in the face of obstacles, Mess didn’t do anything massively dickish, and it was pretty much boring. Short of summarising developments, I have little to say.
I’m not totally without adverse comment, mind you. On the Fraud Squad side, a new figure came into play, one Helge Larson, former staunch collaborator with Big Bad Knud, until he went down for Fraud in 2007. Larson can put the finger on how the wily Knud operates, that is, if he can refrain from blackmailing the self-satisfied old bugger for his silence. All this gets him is Knud delivering direct instructions to Nicky the Apprentice to kidnap Larson’s bright, perky, sixteen year old granddaughter, Olga, in return for the relevant paperwork. No police.
There are a couple of egregious cliches coming up on this strand, and the pre-episode 6 warning of ‘Disturbing scenes’ pretty much gave away that little Olga was not long for this world. Firstly, she’s wearing one of those Fitness watches which, when she switches it on, enables Mess and Alf to track her via its GPS to the factory where Nicky is keeping her. Except that when they arrive, she’s gone… but the watch has been left behind.
Next, Nicky takes her to a house in the woods. Olga manages to escape, brains him with a fire extinguisher, but not hard enough (once you’ve got them down, smash their head in with the blunt instrument: that’s a cliche I’d like to see get established). So she runs, and he runs after her, until she slides down a mini-cliff to the beach, and gets a chunk of rotted wood right through the abdomen. From which, of course, she dies.
Second egregious cliche time: Mess tracks Olga’s footsteps back and finds the deserted house. Nicky’s inside, doing a professional job of cleaning the place under P’s instructions. Mess is prowling around. Any moment, he’ll see Nicky’s car, with the open boot showing the full clean-up kit… except that at that very moment, Mess’s phone goes, with the sad news of Olga’s passing, so he returns without completing his investigation. Sigh.
Having brought Nicky’s strand in so close, let’s stick with him. He’s still the model Apprentice, though he risks alienating Bimse further when Annika, P’s daughter, turns up at the garage, drops hints as heavy as lead balloons that he shagged her after the club last week, and wants more of it, in the office chair. Bimse, who’s a friend of Lina as well, is well pissed-off, but when Olga dies, and Nicky, suddenly scared shitless of where he’s arrived in his part-time career path, decides he has to run, the Bozo is immediately supportive, and tops up Nicky’s getaway 10,000 kr. with 5,000 of his own.
To no avail: P turns up, mob-handed, and Nicky gets the shit kicked out of him.
But we’re ignoring Claudia, who gets shafted in more ways than one this week. Enter Nova, with a 50% increase on their last, already inflated if for Absolen Bank, the literal ‘Offer-you-can’t-refuse’. Claudia helps Amanda put together a last minute pitch to a better buyer, the progressive Italian bank, Banco Fiore, who’ll match the deal. Amanda’s pretty wiped out by now, so Simon has her sign Power of Attorney over to him, so he can conclude the deal.
By sacking Claudia with immediate effect, blowing off the Italians and going direct to Big Bad Knud, waving the listening device, and negotiating a ale on condition Simon only is Manager.
A semi-drunk Claudia invites Jens Kristen around to mope with, and ends up shagging the arse off him, though she will learn, at the darkest hour, that not only does he have a partner already, said partner is about eight months pregnant. Is that enough to be called an egregious cliche? I think it is. Let’s make that number three, then.
But Claudia is not giving up her battle against Big Bad Knud in only episode 6, so she cleans up the manic Amanda (a bit too quickly and efficiently for direct plausibility, but then how long had plausibility been a key factor of this programme?) and sets her off to blackmail dear brother Simon. It just so happens Amanda has some pretty potent stuff up her pretty sleeve, so Nova Bank buys Absalen, with two Managers, one of whom has promptly re-hired Claudia.
But what, you are all demanding to know, about Maverick Mess? He’s pretty damned rational and reasonable this week, which is oddly offputting. True, he subjects his son Albert to a Police interrogation over Albert’s mate’s missing iPad, which is there at the Justesen household (GPS comes in so useful). But the moment he finds the missing electronica under his car seat, he immediately goes and apologises to the lad.
But Mess cannot leave off being Mess totally. In his grief over Olga’s death, Larson supplies the key information which will let the Fraud Squad, under the pretty, blonde Heenrietta as acting Chief, get Knud for offences sufficiently serious as to not be statute-barred, but that’s not good enough for Mess. So they can put Knud in prison for two years, destroy his standing, have him disbarred from company ownership, etc. Two years is not enough for Mess, who personally demands life, rot in there, man’s a shit.
That’s the Mess we are used to. Instead of catching a guilty man now, let’s do nothing, monitor his takeover of Absolen Bank, catch him out doing something more serious. We do have four episodes left, remember. Let’s do something really stupid, just because one idiot detective says so.
If you were as old as I, you’d know who I mean immediately. Tony Haygarth was a consummate comedy actor, forever turning up in sitcoms as boorish, slobbish, sexist eccentrics that you’d shudder from in real life, and who, by all accounts, were a world away from his intelligent, cultured, gentle real self.
His biggest success was as the co-star of Rosie, about which I once wrote here. Haygarth relished the part of PC Wilmot, young PC Penrose’s patrol car partner in the three series of the revised format, and what a great joy he was, every week. I close my eyes and I see him and hear him: lazy, unwashed, prowling around pretty women, blustering about making do with the willing-but-lumpish WPC Whatmough, as if she were beneath him, when there probably wasn’t a woman in the world Wilmot wouldn’t have had to look up to.
We accept them in comic fiction, because we can look at them and laugh and pretend that because they’re extremes, they don’t represent us, but we are all of us men in the Wilmots, and Tony Haygarth one was one the best bloody Wilmots there ever was.
There was never anything he wasn’t perfect in. Go on ahead, mate, and get the beer in ready. We know you’ll be ogling the barmaid whilst you wait.
The title makes it plain who’s in the middle of this latest episode, and I’m old enough to spot the reference, but whilst ‘Our Man Bashir’ had the potential to be a good, fun, lightweight entertainment, I think the show made a serious error in not embracing the essential goofiness of the concept as fully as they should, by undercutting it with a supposed psychological depth that the story didn’t need. Sometimes, you need to have the confidence to just sail out there and enjoy things on a purely superficial level.
The set-up was that Julian Bashir has recently taken possession of a holosuite programme that he’s devoting all his spare time to. And no wonder: it’s a nearly-straight James Bond fantasy, set in 1964, with impossible glamour, world-threatening villains and leggy birds in (mildly-anachronistic) mini-skirts and knee-length boots.
(Actually, though we automatically think Bond, the episode title references the James Garner film, ‘Our Man Flint’, which was an early spoof of ol’ 007.)
But, and here’s where the mistake was made: Bashir’s programme was invaded by Garak, impeccably tuxedoed, curious as to what’s obsessing his friend, and more than sceptical about this fantasy version of the job Garak was highly-trained to carry out, which bears no resemblance to the real thing, on any level.
The intention is to provide a cynical and modern commentary on the absurdities of the genre, but since Garak makes plain from the outset that he’s going to nag, carp and generally be a complete bring-down, the episode loses a great deal of credibility instantly, when Bashir agrees to let Garak stay and piss all over his favourite fantasy, and Garak’s complete refusal to go with any kind of flow detracts from the quality of the spoof.
That’s all a build-up to a seriously tin-eared argument over what is and isn’t real when it comes to being a spy, that tries to touch on a psychological depth in Garak, offended at his profession being fantasised, and fails on a story level: Garak’s determined pragmatism about cutting losses etc. is out of place when he and Bashir are operating in a fantasy world whose underlying rules and assumptions are ‘heroic’.
There is a genuine serious element to things that, if left to itself, could have been very well integrated into the spoof. In what seemed, at first, to be a B-story, the senior staff (i.e., Sisko, Kyra, Dax, Worf and O’Brien) are returning from a conference when their runabout is destroyed by sabotage. Eddington attempts to beam them aboard, but the teleport is disrupted. He uses all the station’s computer powers to store their details until they can be reintegrated, with the result that their physical data winds up in, guess where, the holosuite programme.
So Bashir’s private programme suddenly starts substituting the missing quintet for keys roles in the holo, starting with Kyra as a Russian Colonel in a very low-cut and slinky dress – a classy little number for a classy little number – that had the more backward among the audience looking up appreciatively, and going on to add O’Brien as the eyepatched mercenary, Falcon, Dax as the beautiful scientist, Dr Honey Bear, Worf as the slick enforcer, Duchamps, and of course Sisko as the mad scientist, Dr Noah, who plans to flood the world and rule its remnants from the only remaining island mass, Mount Everest.
It’s glorious, utterly glorious, and Avery Brooks is gleefully OTT in a way that fits the bill entirely. Bashir’s problem is that he has to play out the programme, ensure nobody gets killed in it (as ought to happen) and keep anything from shutting down until the missing staff can be extracted.
Which is where Garak comes in and should have been shown out promptly. He’s completely at cross-purposes, pragmatic, self-serving, nit-picking at cliches that we can see are cliches, which are being presented as cliches, and constantly trying to stop everything in its tracks, sacrifice one, or two,to save the others. And himself.
In the end, his presence isn’t totally irredeemable. There’s the traditional final confrontation, in which Bashir has to play for time, which he does, brilliantly, by adopting the defeatist words Garak has just used on him. Oh, and by pressing Dr Noah’s button and destroying the world, but then this is just a holosuite programme, it’s not real, which Garak completely misses.
Everyone is extracted, safe and sound, mission accomplished and Garak, perhaps having learned something, piously hopes that the whole experience won’t have blown the effect of the programme for Bashir, it being such a personal and private fantasy (that Garak has just spent the whole of the last 45 minutes trying to wreck). Bashir however is made of sterner stuff: this isn’t his last mission. Good forhim, and bad for Garak, whose whole presence here has been a total drag that kept a fun episode from being an unalloyed pleasure.
After last week’s snark-infested introduction to the second series of Bedrag (Deception), I found the next pair of episodes to be extremely confusing. On the one hand, the show is displaying clear signs of taking off into very serious, and very deep-lying waters, in all three of its inter-twined strands. On the other, my distaste for each of its’ trio of heroes is growing, and in one case is turning into disgust.
The dichotomy presented itself in the opening moments of episode 3, which immediately had me both admiring and groaning, and which became emblematic of what was to follow.
We ended last week with Nicky, growing increasingly curious about the business of the enigmatic but laid-up-with-heart-trouble P, tracing the fruits of the wiretap back to the Big Bad, Knud Christensen, but being caught out trespassing by the man himself. Christensen is all avuncular and secure, wanting Nicky’s name and threatening him with the Police. But Nicky, who in series 1 would have panicked nearly as badly as would Bimse the Bozo, counter-threatens by revealing that he is wire-tapping for Christensen, who lets him go (though not without a warning, to both Nicky then, and P very shortly afterwards, about how unwise such things are).
Nicky, having successfully faced down the Man, returns to his car. Where he promptly reverts to most abject cliche by pounding on his steering wheel to relieve his frustrations. Seriously, does anyone outside crap television ever pound on their steering wheel in frustration? And they always do it three times: not four, not two, but bam! bam! bam! Cripes.
But the problem is that, as the various stories start to unroll properly, we start to see that Follow the Money 2 is getting very serious indeed. On the one hand, we have the Fraud Squad, investigating what appears to be a disgusting scheme by one of Denmark’s major financial institution, Nova Bank, to force small but promising businesses into bankruptcy so that their assets and customers can be taken over by already-established businesses at an undervalue.
Then we have Nova Bank trying to takeover the up-and-coming and entirely innovative Absolen Bank in a very hostile manner, applying public pressure and naked appeal to Shareholders’ greed on the one level, and dirty tricks on the other.
Christensen is behind both of these schemes and, on the third hand, we have P carrying out the dirty aspects of the jobs by remotely operating the increasingly efficient Nicky to wire-tap, deal drugs, blackmail and, entirely off his own bat, viciously assault and probably seriously injure someone who stands up to him.
Let’s stick with Nicky for the moment. Remember that he started off in series 1 as an experienced car thief, looking to clean up his act for his wife and her baby bump by becoming a garage owner, but getting mixed up with the rather more active P. By this series, he was a regular ’employee’ of the Swede fixer, as primarily a messenger boy, but P’s health problems (double-bypass heart operation) have led to him being promoted to an active role as his stand-in.
What we’re watching here is Nicky going through an apprenticeship to become another P. He’s taking to it like a duck to water, which is disturbing to watch. For the sake of his wife and his trusting kids, you want him to come to his senses, back out, go back to just petty crime (because this guy is never going to actually go straight, you can tell).
But already it looks like its going to be too late. Nicky forced Bimse into a dangerous scheme to recover P’s Black Audi, that Bimse has sold to an East European gang for shipment abroad, and all so that he can tell Bimse to take it to the Police, cough for Nicky’s assault on Mess last week, and do Nicky’s time for it. Sure, he’ll get 20,000 kr a month for it, but if the Bozo won’t voluntarily do a head-first into the shark-infested pool, Nicky will kick him in there, without a a qualm, and without any 20,000 kr a month.
If that’s not enough of a bastard’s trick, Nicky’s next job is to provide drugs to the son of a major investor in Absolen Bank, and blackmail the Dad into voting Nova’s way to ensure the photos don’t get into the Press. On the way, Nicky ends up snorting coke himself and, whilst coked out of his brain, staying out all night and impliedly shagging P’s daughter.
Let’s just go back a moment for a brief scene where Nicky tells his missus that he hates his dead father, who assaulted him and cheated on his mother. Unusually, the scripters have her ask and him explain why he’s never told her this before, which he passes off, indirectly, as a determination to leave it in the past, but which is really so that we will readily understand his loss of control when, the takeover bid having failed, he pursues the Dad, who didn’t vote for Nova Bank, and kicks the potentially living shit out of him for not defending his son.
One youngish man, on a dark path, leading only downwards. I bet P doesn’t take too kindly to Nicky shagging his daughter…
I’ve already had to reveal that the Nova Bank takeover has been thwarted, at least for now. This is the story for Claudia the Amoral. Claudia is determined to stop Christensen having this victory, and says so, impassionedly, to convince another top-ranking businessman to enter the fray as a White Knight. The big problem, and this is directly voiced by our old friend, Jens Kristian, is whether Claudia means this, or whether it’s a ploy.
Claudia says she means it, but we have our doubts still. Claudia is still set on getting her life back as quickly as possible, which suggests that she’s not thoroughly internalised the message that massive fraud and dirty financial tricks are not ideal behaviour. She’s already trying to skirt some of the conditions of her parole, and expecting her Parole Officer to bend the rules in her direction, just because that’s what she wants.
Of course, she’s ideal to head off Nova Bank’s takeover, because she knows what sort of dirty tricks, above board, that they’ll use. Pardon my ignorance of such things, both here and in Denmark, but do companies aiming for a takeover really get to go on TV finance programmes and basically say that the people refusing to sell smaller, successful, innovative, creative enterprises are a bunch of shits for not letting us buy them out considerably over the odds so that we can destroy absolutely everything remotely innovative about them and just make shitloads of money (I paraphrase)?
Claudia’s biggest problems are the Absolen twins. Simon is basically a wet and a weed and of no practical help whatsoever (until the very end of episode 4, to which we’ll come shortly). Unfortunately, the very much more effective Amanda (hello, Sonia Richter) doesn’t like Claudia that much, doesn’t agree that she’s completely and utterly right, and is, let’s not forget, a recovering coke addict (and I don’t mean Diet, or Cherry).
And Amanda is struggling. There’s a powerful scene, opening episode 4, where she’s at Narcotics Anonymous, where she’s bitter and sarcastic, wanting – needing – a fix, and unwilling to accept what she sees as platitudes from the others in the group. It’s suggested, very cleverly, that Amanda is a very intelligent woman, much more so than the people her life causes her to associate with, and that her use of drugs and drinks is to suppress the frustration of cdealing with those she sees as stupid.
That’s bent in a slightly different direction later when, to Claudia, she affirms that she’s starting one of those periods where she keeps getting strange thoughts. She says this whilst constantly sipping from a wine-glass she keeps refilling. The inference is a mental issue, as is a reference to enjoying being the centre of attention, but it’s not inconsistent with the notion that she’s simply too bloody bright for everyone else. There also some hints at secrets in the background of the relationship of the twins (an incestuous fascination frustrated by Simon’s supposed homosexuality?).
Anyway, Amanda’s out of control and in no fit state to be the Bank’s public face in the EGM that will decide its fate. But when the already lesser Simon is completely floored by having his entire speech, word for word, given by Nova Bank’s representative, Claudia has to get Amanda in at the last second, for a crowd-turning speech that saves the day.
Am I the only viewer who is wondering if this miracle recovery was brought about by Claudia slipping Amanda a fix? Let’s see.
Before leaving this strand, let us pause to recognise that Simon isn’t quite the weak link he has been presented to be thus far. Claudia’s too busy putting out fires (and enjoying a surely premature sneer at Christensen) to care about the plagiarised speech, and the excitable Amanda dismisses it as Simon having been too bloody predictable, but he’s suspicious. Very suspicious. And on the right trail. It takes ripping the room apart, but episode 4 ends with Simon finding the wire-tap, with an entirely justifiable cackle.
I’ve saved the worst for last, and the worst is Maverick Mess. You already know what I think of him, but honestly, throughout these two hours, this idiot topped himself over and over again. I mean, at one point, his boss, Nanna, head of the Fraud Squad, screams in his face that he’s so bloody naive, he only sees things in black and white, which is spot on the money (he also can’t wait two seconds for anything, the big kid), and then the programme has him acting like he’s the winner, and in the right.
Basically, he and Alf, with the increasing assistance of the computer wizard, Henriette (this series’ version of The Bridge‘s John: there’s only ever one person who know how to do more with a computer than surf Facebook), are building a case. It starts with Nova Bank’s Bjarke Strand, the middle-manager on the Crisis Team, who selects which small businessmen are to be forced to the wall. Mess and Alf investigate him for signs of unreasonable wealth, of which there are none, until he’s caught stepping out with an attractive blonde (tsk. And he with the lovely and trusting Lise for a wife, plus eighteen month old twins).
Mess proposes to stalk Strand, get proof of his affair and blackmail him into coughing up, which is probably page 5 of the Fraud Squad Operating Model. Instead, it turns out far more than an affair. It’s a business deal, with prominent businessmen. The blonde is a professional Trustee in Bankruptcy, who sells off the businesses forfeited by Nova Bank (at a precise 7% below valuation every time), to these very businessmen.
Mess, very professionally, and now on page 7 of the Fraud Squad Operating Model, shows her photos of Hans Peter with his head in a pool of his own blood and shouts in her face until she inadvertently gives something away.
Moving on to page 8, he arrests Strand and, when he won’t talk, promptly calls in a favour and has the claustrophobic Strand taken to a spare cell in prison for the 24 hours until he has to be arraigned. Fur hilven! I don’t mean the Police cells, I mean an honest-to-goodness, doing-their-bird, fucking State Prison!
It works, of course, we are in idiot country here and given what issues the series is starting to develop (and I haven’t even finished exploring them all), we get stupidity like this? Strand knows nothing more than that he’s told who to push over the edge, from a higher-up department, but he has something interesting to tell them: he knew they were coming.
That catches our intrepid pair’s attention. Yes, Strand was warned they were on the way to arrest him, and was told to get out of the country for a few days, because it’ll all blow over, the fix is in, the case will not proceed, the Head of the Fraud Squad will kill it.
This isn’t actually news to the viewer. Episode 3 ended with Nanna insisting on getting every detail of the burgeoning case, and then calling on Christensen, though episode 4 suggested that she wasn’t entirely under his thumb, just going to make sure that the investigation didn’t get above a certain level at Nova Bank. Of course Mess, with that subtlety for which he’s famed, heads straight for this restaurant-cum-bar where Nanna is out with some bloke and accuses her at thhe top of his voice of being in Christensen’s pay. Smart cookie.
And yes, Nanna has to obey some orders. Christensen’s got a hold over her. And guess what it is? It’s all Mess’s illegal fuck-ups from series 1, over Energreen. Nanna covered for Mess and Alf over everything. She put her job on the line for him, and her reward was to have Christensen lean on her to interfere with this investigation, and the dumb, stupid, self-centred fuck can’t even lessen his contempt for her not being as pure in pursuit of crooks as he is.
Do you wonder why I loathe the self-righteous bastard?
What Nanna does next is resign, which is a highly principled step at deep personal cost to herself – cost brought on because Mess was such a stupid bastard in series 1, let’s remember – and what is the git’s response? I mean, she’s not just thrown herself on the sacrificial sword to protect him, she’s left them a lead that points directly to Christensen himself at the top of every woodpile. Does Mess how the slightest sign of personal responsibility? No, he’s just pleased to have an obstacle removed, and Alf drips on his neck that it’s Mess’s shining example that’s inspired Nanna to do the decent thing.
Do you wonder why I find this series confusing?
But that, even now, is not all. There is the lovely Kristina, Mess’s wife (though she doesn’t wear a ring), mother to his children, Esther (who has vanished without explanation) and Albert, and putative mother to a third baby. Only Kristina has sclerosis. And doubts.
Serious doubts. About her age, her condition, her future and the fact that she might not have a long one. She has very serious concerns about birthing a baby that may very well lose its mother at an incredibly young age. What mother, or possible mother, could face a late-life pregnancy in such circumstances without very deep thought about the consequences?
But Mess wants the baby. And what Mess wants, Mess has to get. It’s all dead simple to Mess. We didn’t have Esther and Albert under ideal circumstances. Look at this home movies of our children when they were dead young. It’ll all work out. It might not happen. I CAN’T THINK ABOUT IT.
There’s a line Mess has, when Kristine brings up the real chance that she might die sooner rather than later. “I can’t go around thinking that you’re dead already.” It shows that the scriptwriters are not entirely stupid. It’s an incredible line, I feel it, I understand it, I understand how this feels to him, all from that one line. He loves her, he doesn’t want to lose her.
But he’s also insisting on her having this baby, at her age, in her incurable medical condition, out of her body, with all her fears and doubts, and he’s prepared to emotionally blackmail her to get his way, and take a risk with shortening her life, and he won’t even fucking think about her side of it?
Do you seriously wonder why I loathe the self-centred twat?
So. Let’s hope for something a bit better next week. Suddenly, we have a story worth watching, worth thinking about. I just wish we had a set of ‘heroes’ I could better respect to play it out.