Due South: s04 e05 – The Ladies Man


Due South

Episode 5 on the DVD, episode 3 in imdb. Shrug squared.

You’ll have to be patient with me today as, more than usual, this post will be a working out of my response to this episode. On the one hand, ‘The Ladies Man’ was a strong, serious and in places very emotional story, in which certain beats were predictable, but played very clever with its climax, setting up a clear and obvious villain but springing the real culprit upon us with deftness and skill. On the other hand, I have all but lost faith in Due South as a series, now it’s in its final season, and there were elements to this episode that put me off it irreversibly before it got to the really good bits. Especially the incredibly powerful close. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.

For the most part, the episode avoided levity. Such as there was was confined mostly to the open. We began with a glimpse of a headline about someone named Beth Botrelle being executed in two days time, before Fraser and Ray have their walk interrupted by a street incident that is written to set-up the closng line in which Ray, having responded violently to a man who’s threatened his life, is told by Fraser that he’s no killer, drawing the reply: ‘Oh yeah, well in two days I will have.’

It’s a good line to take into the credits, though it exposed the structuring of the open a bit too blatantly, at least to my increasingly cynical eyes. But the story it led into was very serious and the episode was right to avoid eccentricity after that (it could have stood losing the season 4 meme of having Fraser describe why he’s in Chicago in the first place, which we get every week now and had twice here, as if the writer forgot they’d already done it early on).

The person Ray’s guilty about is the aforementioned Beth Botrelle (Dixie Seatle). Eight years ago, she was Ray’s first big case as a rookie, in effect the foundation of his career. Ray was first responder to a call that took him to the Botrelle household where he found the body of Detective Jake Botrelle, and Beth, his wife who had previously publicly threatened to kill him over his philandering, cowering in the shower. Beth was convicted. The station is rejoicing at her imminent execution by lethal injection, she being a cop-killer. Dewey is being rankly offensive about the whole thing because that’s his thing, the utter jerk.

But Ray is disturbed about the whole thing. We’re left to infer that this is his first collar that’s going to lead to the death penalty and that’s what’s preying on his mind. Did he get it right? Initially, it’s more of a general malaise than any conviction that something was wrong, until he visits Beth in prison and she tells him she did it. Ray realises that she’s lying to him, to make him feel better and, with only 48 hours in which to act, and with everyone but Fraser against him, re-opens the investigation.

Of course there’s more to it. The show set up two plausible suspects, Sam Franklin (Bill McDonald), the Detective on the case, and DA with ambitions to become Governor Robert Bedford (Art Hindle). It leaned heavily towards the DA, suggesting that Botrelle was killed because he had been sleeping with Bedford’s wife (no evidence offered, just a plausible possibility), putting up Franklin as an early lightning rod for the experienced audiences’ anticipations, and then pulled Franklin out as the real villain, suppressing the evidence that Botrelle had actually committed suicide on Bedford threatening to expose him for taking kickbacks. A neatly worked out plot.

But that is merely what happened. Where the episode went on to be important was in the stakes, and in particular the hell in which Beth Botrelle had been incarcerated for eight years. Convicted, wrongly, of murdering her husband. Sentenced to death. The object of hatred, loathing and the peculiar nastiness of people like Dewey. Four times taken to the death chamber, four times reprieved, cat and mouse like, temporarily. The episode didn’t have to do much more than show us this in order for us to feel the implacable horror. Seatle was brilliant in the role, conveying the drained-out emotion of the victim without the least histrionics, though the show dipped towards that, somewhat, in cross-cutting between the showdown with Bedford and Franklin and Botrelle being strapped to the gurney, the hypodermic ready and the clock ticking.

But it went above and beyond in the close. Beth Botrelle, freed, her life handed back to her, wants Ray to show her what he found that night eight years ago, Jake’s body, the piece of paper, where he found her. In a strange but human way it releases her, even as she absolves Ray of everything that happened. It’s a transfixing moment, and the episode ends with Ray returning silently to his car, where Fraser awaits, and starting to sob.

Reading what I’ve written thus far annoys me over my lack of receptiveness during the watching of this episode. I simply didn’t respond as I should have. It’s true that there were certain flaws which, given my growing cynicism about this final series, i should have been able to acknowledge as merely flaws, not totally distancing reactions, given that only one of them was substantial.

To put things very briefly, the plot was sloppy in never explaining what Beth Botrelle was doing in the house and why she was in the shower. For another, in turning Franklin into its rabbit out of the hat, it was never made clear whether this completely exonerated Bedford – which would have been the smart twist, to have had him innocent all along and merely genuinely zealous for justice – or whether he and Franklin were partners.

But the biggest flaw was Detective Ray Vecchio, or rather Detective Staley Raymond Kowalski. Let us not forget that, since the beginning of season 3, the preise is that actual Detective Vecchio is in deep undercover within the Mafia and that, in order to protect his identity, Detective Kowalski has stepped into his life, taking his name, playing his role, a fact acknowledged but never discussed by those directly aware of the substitution. That factor was strictly maintained throughout season 3, and has been adverted to this season, but it’s been allowed to drift very much into the background.

The moment this episode flashed back to eight years previously, I began to worry about it. Ray wasn’t Vecchio then, he was Kowalski. It was a matter of public record that’s who he was. Beth Botrelle knew his real name, and her lawyer had to. Both Franklin and Bedford addressed Ray as Kowalski. It trashed the idea of continuity, and there was no mention of the fictional situation. So is Ray now Kowalski again? What about Vecchio? In imdb capsule summaries of episodes later in this season I notice that the character is named as Stanley. The reality of the series is suddenly ripped up on a fundamental level, and there was no way around it. So many people outside the inner loyal circle know the truth. Logic demands that RealRay’s body appear very shortly because, FFS, the situation draws attention to itself and practical signals that something is being covered up. Even comic books operate on better logic than this.

So, very much a mixed response to this episode. Ultimately, it would have worked far better as a standalone, a ninety minute movie with space to deal with the shortcuts, beholden to no existing continuity. But that’s not what it was. I wish I was better disposed to this final season than I already am, and that’s before we get to the silly stuff.

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Wednesday Morning Sitcom Time: dinnerladies – s02 e01-03: Cattering/Trouble/Holidays


dinnerladies

I’d watched the first series of dinnerladies because it was Victoria Wood, but on the first viewing I’d rated it enjoyable but not compelling, not in the way that As Seen on TV had been, not in the set-two-video-recorders-in-case-one-fails category. I enjoyed the first series far better watching it again in recent months. So I’d approached the second series with limited expectations. But just as I’d discovered a massive uplift between the first and second Discworld books, that I’d categorised as Terry Pratchett having taken a very close look at The Colour of Magic to understand why it hadn’t worked and put that right, the same applied to dinnerladies. From the first episode, even just the first five minutes of it, it was what it could have been and how. I laughed and laughed and laughed, then and again this morning.

Part of it was that the one-liners, the funny lines, were coming out in an endless stream, and every single one came from the heart of the personalities of whoever was speaking. They weren’t just funny lines, they were funny Bren-lines, funny Dolly-lines, funny Twink-lines. Victoria Wood was already gloriously famous for her generosity to her co-stars, refusing to hog the great lines to herself as ordinary geniuses might do, but here she was on another plane, giving Andrew Dunn, TThelma Barlow, Anne Reid, Maxine Peake, Shobna Ghupti, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie the kind of lines actors dream of. And they, in turn, respond with perfect performances. I mean, I could deliver some of those lines and people would laugh, because the words do the job on their own, but in the hands of a cast that understand their characters, their individual approaches made the words sing.

And it was a pure ensemble effort. The opening episode, ‘Catering’, didn’t really have a story. The canteen’s got a dopey work experience girl in for the day (Joanne Froggatt, looking both lovely and gormless). It’s supposed to be repainted over the weekend but the decorators turn up today because Phillipa forgot to tell them the plans had changed, a ladder gets stuck… That’s your story and it’s thin to say the least, but it’s an excuse for the cast to talk to and across each other, indulging their fancies, irritations, concerns and attitudes. The effect is simultaneously grounded and surreal. Every group has one witty bugger who picks up on everyday comments and puts their own spin on them, but here everyone’s doing so, and the effect is like a symphony, every instrument in harmony and contrast with all the others.

It was also a mark of the increased confidence of Wood’s writing for this series – remember that series 1 had been intended as ten episodes but ran six because Wood rejected four of her own scripts as not good enough – that she can drop the comedy entirely as Brenda, conscious of the chaos engendered by Phillipa’s oversight, dresses her down in subdued anger, angry but still being the conciliatory and caring Brenda, in defence of her colleagues and the stress placed on them. It’s got no funny lines, it’s a monologue, it’s in total contrast to everything before it, but it is perfect. Because it’s real and it’s serious, and that’s what theis series will be: funny, silly, fantastic and elevated, but built upon the bedrock of people who are real, who have lives away from this canteen, problems that they bring with them.

The other reason for series 2 being better was that, despite each episode being discrete, the series beame a serial, with a running story, developing through each episode, giving us a thread to invest in. Wood was confident enough to transform Jean (Anne Reid, superb) by having her husband leave her for a dental hygenist in Cardiff (the precision of such things and the combination of such elements has been the bedrock of Wood’s sense of humour from the beginning, the inherent hilarity of the banal and mundane), transforming her into an angry, hurt aggressor yet preserving the real pain inside, and even moitting her from the third episode as she stays with her sister in Tunstall.

And Stan, the handyman. In the second episode we learn that his Dad has been admitted to hospital, and that Brenda has sat up half the night with him, a thing she naturally downplays (the truly kind so often get embarrassed at being kind). The bunch of flowers he gives her in gratitude is misinterpreted as coming from a boyfriend, typically referred to as the Calorgas man. But in the third episode, Stan’s Dad has died. Duncan Preston excels in his stilted grief, the ex Army man torn between his old-fashioned attitudes and his genuine grief at losing not just his father but a man he’s admired, aspired to be like yet feels he has failed. This was especially poignant to me.

But the main thread was Brenda and Tony. There’s Tony, superficially sex-mad, but in reality a lonely man, disguising his lack of self-confidence behind an exaggerated and supposedly enthusiastic faced, who desperately wants love in his life but understands/fears that it isn’t going to happen: hell’s bells, could I empathise! Tony who likes Brenda more than he can admit, and Brenda, equally lonely but concealing that with her own facade of independence and self-deprecation, both fearful of saying too much to the other and giving away their vulnerabilities, covering up with jokes in case the other isn’twhat they would want them to be.

There’s a holiday coming up, a bunch of work-mates going to Marbella (pronounced Mar-bell-a). Tony’s going, and a slot opens up to invite Brenda. She wants to go, but there are complications and hesitations. In the third episode, Brenda’s scapegrace mother Petula (Julie Walters in the most surreal part of all, the show’s one weakness as she’s too OTT, frankly), claiming to be pregnant as a surrogate womb for Leonardo di Caprio and Gwyneth Paltrow, tries to con Bren out of her holiday money. Bren resists, fighting her own instinct to be the kind one. Everyone, not just Tony, glares at her. But Stan, oblivious to the moment, asks her top hear the poem he’s written for his Dad’s funeral. It’s awkward, clunky, meant to be embarrassing but so much from the heart, another astonishing piece of writing, that long before he reaches the end we know Brenda is going to sacrifice her money…

The rules of this blogslot are that it will be four weeks before I watch the next three episodes. Frankly, I’d like to go straight to a Wednesday Afternoon Sitcom Time and watch them now…

The World At War: e21 – Nemesis (Germany February – May 1945)


WAW

After last week’s focus on the horrors of the Concentration Camps and the Final Solution, what was wanted was to immediately see the final defeat of Germany, the deserved end to the War, death, destruction and savagery initiated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, to satisfy the primitive urge for justice and revenge. The makers of The World At War knew and understood that and duly delivered it, but like the events that were covered in this episode, the outcome was far more complex than the desire for retribution. Satisfaction there was in the end of the War in Europe, in the crushing defeat of Evil, but it was neither simple, primitive nor fully satisfying.

The construction of the episode made it so from the open: silence, Bomber Command instructions, silent bombing and strafing, black and white lit up with streamers and explosions. This was the bombing of Dresden, and whatever your subjective responses, rooted in the feeling that ‘they started this, now it’s their turn to suffer’, without some element of which we cannot release the hatred, it was nevertheless an atrocity. It was terror, pure and simple, and we did it. The military targets that justified the attack were, almost inevitably, the least affected.

From there, we shifted to the crossing of the Rhine, the British, under Montgomery, spectacularly, massing parachuting, the replaying of Arnhem this time as a visible win, the Americans under Eisenhower almost invisibly. The Allies were now on German soil, progressing swiftly, all but unhindered. Pockets of resistance were surrounded and by-passed, left to wither: almost universally they surrendered, like the 300,000 prisoners taken in the Ruhrland. People, especially Mayors and Councils who denied ever being Nazis, came out to welcome them.

But there was little of detail to this, nor was it necessary. The tide was rising, Berlin was the target, victory was now just a matter of time.

In the east, it was different. The Russians were further advanced. They were already in Germany, they would be first to Berlin. They were more motivated by brutish revenge: after all, their country had been invaded, attacked, stripped, beseiged, murdered. It was time to pay this back. And they it was who liberated the camps. In that part of Germany, the Mayors and Councils, who had known they existed but who had, at least publicly, turned their faces from knowing what they were, were stripped of pretences. One Mayor, and his wife, went home and hanged themselves.

From here though, despite the constant cutting to the Red Army, advancing street by street, house by house, through Berlin’s outer suburbs, bent on encirclement, the episode went inside. Hitler’s secretary, his valet, ordinary citizens. Their testimony, their story of what it was like. Hitler and Goebbels’ near hysterical delight at the news of President Roosevelt’s death, imagining that it was the key to their resurgence and victory. The equally mad thought that Germany could ally itself to the Allies in the West in order to defeat Russia.

One woman made me laugh out loud. As Germany collapsed in on itself, the War’s end both inevitable and imminent, her mother listened to a propaganda broadcast from Goebbels, believing implicitly in everything he said about strength and victory. Our witness contradicted her on every point with clear-eyed realism, to which the mother, in horrified conviction, challenged her by asking if Dr Goebbels would lie at a time like this?

Another witness to the Russian advance told a queer but oddly believable story. Russian shelling had killed two women in tjhe house next door. When the first soldiers arrived, demanding women, saying, ‘Frau! Frau! Frau!’, he tricked them by taking them to the bodies, pointing one out as his ‘wife’. And several of the soldiers knelt to the bodies, made the Sign of the Cross, gave him presents of cigarettes and food. Then they went elsewhere to find the flesh they were seeking and no doubt found (another witness spoke of being raped). But what they did was something outside the realms of belief, yet strangely human.

The testimonies of the secretary and the valet included the one taking down Hitler’s private will and, to her thrillingly, his political testimony, only for her to be horribly disappointed that it was stale, repetitious and contained nothing new, and the other discovering the dead bodies of Hitler and his ‘wife’ Eva Braun and arranging their informal cremation, was particularly fascinating. Some of it was my inability to listen without wondering at them, people who were so close to the Fuhrer but were here dictating unquestioned stories about what it was like inside the Bunker. Who had they been then? How could they have been only servants, and now be accorded this status as if being inferiors and employees made them entirely neutral, took them outside the massive circle of blame?

Eva Braun came into the story late. She was only presented from a distant exterior. We got to know nothing about her except a curiously impervious love/dependency on Hitler himself. There was nothing to say who she was and even less as to what and why. She came over, as she couldn’t help doing on this paucity of evidence, as a woman ignorant either naturally or wilfully of what was going on even ten feet from herself, and quite possibly attracted to Hitler as a power symbol.

But she died with him, poisoned with cyandide before he shot himself in the right temple. He was never going to end any other way, not for Hitler capture, trial, public and irrefutable defeat. Quite probably, he still thought of himself as a hero right to the end, a hero betrayed. Damn him. There was a lot still to do and his humiliation would not have served to repair the tinest fragment of what he did, except perhaps in the minds of people who had suffered loss and might have been eased in some respect by seeing his utter abnegation and execution. But at least it was over. Even though it never is.

Due South: s04 e04 – Odds


Due South

Episode 4 on the DVD, episode 6 in imdb. Shrug.

We’ve already had a nadir in Due South, and nadirs are absolutes, so we can’t have another one, but if we could have two or, god forbid, more, this would be a nadir. A poor plot, tricked out with innumerable complications to try to present a mystery, that amounted only to padding, based on a poor characterisation of RCMP Constable Benton Fraser.

Fraser is the stoic, the unfailingly innocent but wise figure, above all earthly things, including sex. So the series every now and then toys with that image by tossing someone into his path who might attract his attention, whilst being at least partly dodgy so that there’s no chance of any even semi-permanent liaison. We’ve had that before and here it is again, a repeat that adds nothing new to the mixture.

The episode started with a confusing open that required the equivalent of an ‘as you know’ once the credits passed to orient the viewer. Chicago PD are staking out an illegal gambling operation to catch professional poker player Denny Scarpa, aka ‘Lady Shoes’ (because she buys them), played by the beautiful, smooth Stephanie Romanov. Who’d previously appeared in Homicide: Life on the Street, not that I recognised her. The game is interrupted when a ski-masked man blows a hole in the wall and steals the pot, escaping from Fraser and Ray Vecchio. He’s actually working for Scarpa.

Straightway, story logic goes out the window. Given Scarpa was winning anyway, there was literally no point in she and Joey doing that, and it was stupid. It set the tone.

The Police have got Scarpa. Up pop two FBI Agents, played as twin idiots of very low intelligence. They want Scarpa to play an already planned poker game that has attracted underground figure Alex Farah back into the country, solely to play a grudge match against Scarpa. What we don’t know until the end, but which Fraser, of course, suspects, is that the game is a grudge match in another sense. The last time Farah played poker, before leaving the country, a man got killed: Scarpa’s younger brother who she looked out for. She’s drawing Farah here so that Joey can kill him for her, though Fraser prevents that from happening.

In between the episode just goes through a bunch of convolutions over Scarpa. Ray is naturally suspicious of her and is right to be so because she’s an odds-calculator, keeping her true motives to herself, playing straight with no-one. And Fraser is naturally trusting, amplified this time by the fact he is attracted to her (Camilla Scott is permitted a cameo this week, in evening dress, drunk from an evening out with the Spanish Consul and dropping into the Consulate, where Scarpa is dressed from head-to-toe in Fraser’s red longjohns because she’s going to sleep there: Thatcher drops in just to show off that she’s drunk and is probably going to fuck the brains out of her date but remains totally unaware of Scarpa’s existence, diminishing the point of this cameo beyond notice).

But it’s padding. It doesn’t hang together as a story with a coherent plot progressing in any kind of logical fashion. This is further exemplified by having Fraser jar his back in the open and struggle with it when the plot can think of nothing pertinent to do, or Francesca enlisting Lt. Walsh’s advice about applying to the Police Academy but for the fact her head is a strange shape and she can’t wear hats. The FBI pair are a joke but they’re meant to be: they’re just not funny enough to have bothered.

Needless to say, the episode climaxes with the great poker game, high-powered gamblers from all over the country plus Fraser, who’s learned the game overnight, can’t stop talking like Fraser whilst playing and of course wins all the money. Yes, this is a comedy, yes it’s basically slightly surreal, but no, that’s fucking stupid.

You can’t have two nadirs, but you can have a nadir with a cousin that looks like a twin brother, and this was a cousin of an episode. Bring back Due South!

Wednesday Morning Sitcom Time: The Office US s02 e01-03: The Dundies/Sexual Harrassment/Office Olympics


Office

At this point, I’m still having difficulty in separating the four principal characters of The Office US from their originals in the UK version. I cannot help but see the shadows of David Brent, Tim Canterbury, Gareth Keenan and Lucy Davis through Michael, Jim, Dwight and Pam, and no doubt that’s going to carry on for a long time yet: after all, this little bunch of episodes only takes me to nine in total, and the original Office has been ingrained as one of the best comedies ever for over twenty years.

Given the way US sitcoms operate in contrast to our homegrown lot, I was somewhat surprise to see the first season only run to six episodes. Was this an homage to the original? Or was it the equivalent of an extended pilot? Given that Amy Poehler’s Parks and Recreation, another mockumentary series later in the 2000s, started the same way, I’m guessing that’s the reason. Season 2 extends to a more traditional 22 episodes, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the show develops its basic format, and whether it can sustain its central concept at a sufficiently high level.

(I mean, in practical terms we know it did, it lasted nine seasons in total, but I’m talking about my response here).

The first three episodes of season 2 covered a wide range of subjects and each had their own effect. ‘The Dundies’ was the one that most harked to the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant approach, dealing as it did with the Dunder Miflin Annual Awards ceremony, and giving Michael Scott so much rope with which to hang himself, as cheerleader, MC and all-round ‘chilled entertainer’. The Dundies are basically joke awards that nobody except Michael are thrilled by. Even Corporate don’t want to know, refusing a budget for them after Michael has already held too many similar events that financial year. So this one is unofficial, without a beer tab.

This causes Pam’s fiance, Roy, to stand up and leave, dragging Pam with him, except that she refuses to go, returns to sit with Jim, who couldn’t be happier, and promptly gets incredibly drunk. It’s the first chance this pair have had to spend an extended, indeed concentrated time together outside the office, even if the rest of the office has been dragged there with them, and its a delight. Krasinski and Fischer clearly have an instinctive connection, making every interaction not just warm but slightly unbelievable in that anyone can see that he clearly thinks she’s wonderful yet it’s not blindingly obvious to her. Pam’s losing inhibitions and control, giggling and happy, but she’s in no danger from being so vulnerable around her, because Jim would never do anything to hurt her, not even when she kisses him enthusiastically.

On the other hand, this was also the episode in which I most missed Gervais. His role is meant to be an unwatchable cringe on a par with the UK original, but Carell’s performance, and the show’s direction, won’t go far enough. You’d be watching Brent through your fingers, dodging behind the sofa, the brain sweating with terror at the spectacle, all the character’s underlying meanness and pettiness pouring out, but Scott is too soft, too corners-rounded-off. It’s telling that one the imdb reviewers praises this episode for eschewing the cringe-humour of season 1 and says ‘This episode instead goes for smart/enjoyable humour, making it a much more likeable sitcom.’

You can’t really get more of a stereotypical comment as to the essential difference between American and British humour than that.

The entire episode seemed to be far too short, ending before it had really got into its stride: only to be expected perhaps since it ran only two thirds the length of a UK episode. But the same applied to ‘Sexual Harrassment’, and that felt as if it went on longer than it needed to be effective. Ironically, Michael’s performance in this episode came a hell of a lot closer to Brent’s petulance and peevishness.

To go back to imdb‘s reviewers again, one missed the point completely, intoning that ‘Sexual harassment is very serious and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. In my past memories of the workplace, I’ve never been accused of sexual harassment and no one ever has sexually harassed me. As for this episode, I give it a big rating but I don’t find it amusing.’ He still gave the episode 10 out of 10.

This episode introduced our Chris Finch equivalent in David Koechner’s Todd Packer. I didn’t think he worked at all. Finchy was a monster, an unashamed, unrepentant **** who you knew would never change, but he was unreconstructedly real from head to toe. Ralph Ineson made him into a human being, one you’d shrink from in real life, and get slated off him for doing so, but by god you recognised him. He was there to show you by contrast where David Brent could have gone but didn’t, primarily because of his insecurities. Packer was a sitcom character, offensive, unpleasant, loathed by everyone except Michael, but you couldn’t really imagne him when he wasn’t onscreen.

This episodewas very much in the original’s wheelhouse but missed its mark by not having the courage to be more open about the uncomfortableness of sexual harrassment. What there was was indirect, Packer’s talk, forwarded email sex-jokes, restrained and covered up. What was supposed to be funny was Michael’s reaction to HR and Corporate (Jan Levinson-Gould), acting as if this was a direct assault upo the First Amendment. No doubt that was my sympathies interfering but I thought it too excessive for the actual subject.

Two things were very noticeable, one being that Michael went down to the warehouse to collect a new really offensive joke, assuming that as these were the blue-collar workers their jokes would be nothing but crude and filthy, he was greeted with homophobic jokes directed at him, which wasn’t what he wanted. It made a point subtly that I think, in context, could have been made heavier in a more ouraged and therefore hypocritical reaction by Carell.

The other was that, whilst Michael’s approach is very much to distinguish his branch from Corporate, once he had it pointed out to him that he himself is Corporate, he was quickly seduced. This was interesting rather than funny, though if this season is setting out, as it seems to be, to distinguish Scott from Brent as someonne who likes and genuinely wants to be a friend to his workers, it’s a bit of an undermining factor.

The third of these episodes, ‘Office Olympics’, was just out-and-out funny, the best so far for me. It did this by splitting the story and the cast into two, physically. Michael’s going out to sign up for a condo and Dwight insists on going with him, out of his inflated sense of self-importance. Left behind, unsupervised, Jim and Pam organise an impromptu Office Olympics of silly games. Everyone, with the exception of Stanley and Angela, lets their hair down and has a great time. It’s Show not Tell that establishes brilliantly that all the things Michael wants his office to be are actually already there but that it’s him who suppresses that relatability between the staff.

And it’s lovely to see Jim and Pam flourish as they do, without a single romantic moment, underlined by Angela’s mean-minded ‘game’ of ‘Pam Pong’, a count of just how many times Jim gets up from his desk to go and talk to her. This was a momet of bhenius in the writing.

Of course, this contrasted wildly with the serious nature of Michael and Dwight’s half of the episode, a near-depressing counterpoint, whose power was further developed when the pair get back to the office, putting an immediate damper on the happy atmosphere we’ve had all along. Though this was relieved by Jim’s geerosity in bringing everything back together by holding a Closing Ceremony in which Michael gets a Gold Medal and Dwight a Silver, without either of them knowing what on earth this is about. Typically, Dwight accepted it as his due, whilst Michael was puzzled but decided not to ask.

So the American Office is taking definitive steps to creating its own shape. I think it’s going to end up being a totally different programme and if I end up thinking it to be inferior, as I very likely might, I also expect that it will turn out to be Apples and Oranges. More in four weeks.

The World At War: e20 – Genocide (1941-1945)


WAW

This was always going to be the hardest episode to bear. I am not inexperienced when it comes to the story of the Nazi Party’s campaign to wipe the Jews from the face of the Earth. I have watched other footage, little though I’ve wanted to. I have the books of Primo Levi, who appeared for a few seconds in this episode. He wrote of his experiences in Auschwitz in order to bear witness, to say that This Happened and to be an obstacle to the world forgetting and disbelieving as any normal person would want to. Though there is no ground upon which I can compare myself to him, I too bear witness, as must we all in these times when fascism and anti-semitism are once again on the rise, as if what happened never happened, and thus can be repeated.

There are ways to approach such a story. Something so monstrous might be thought to demand both passion and dispassion. The episode went for the latter. It explained, carefully, the progression from the formation of the S.S. under Heinrich Himmler, with its fantasies of racial purity and superiority, its underlying mysticism, to the ever-increasing scapegoating of the Jews, to the decision that they must all be exterminated. From the killings by hanging and shooting to the realisation that this was too slow, too piecemeal, too haphazard and therefore the need for an organised, planned, indeed industrial elimination, by gas in Concentration Camps.

Dispassion is perhaps the best approach. It can be overdone, to the point where it can sometimes be confused with lack of concern. The failure to rage can sometimes itself be seen as inhuman. But with plain statements and frequent use of silence to rub the point in in its own fashion, the episode avoided this risk. It decided that its audience was sane enough not to need lecturing on moral principles, that they would get it for themselves and it left them to do so. They knew what they were watching was wrong, was evil and insane and horrifying.

There were witnesses who spoke of what they had seen and undergone in a sober, sombre tone, leaving you wondering how they could have experienced what they did and not gone mad themselves. One former S.S. Lance Corporal in the camps spoke about his enthusiasm to see what the process entailed until you wondered long and hard about him, but the closing credits made the point of establishing that he had been cleared of all atrocities and had been commended for several times refusing orders to kill: an exceptional man.

As much time was given to a prisoner that survived, who made the clear and rational point that you cannot judge, that you don’t have the least right to comment unless you have been there, when only in its most extreme can you understand the will to live and what you will do for another minute of life. His was the last word, that every day he lives is pure profit, of how he could claim to be 27 years old, because in the camps he was dead.

The footage, in photographs and film, was raw and unsparing. What else could it be? Yet you had the sense that this was what had been deemed to be possible to show, that there were things we were spared from seeing because they would have been too much. Or is that morbid imagination? Either way, I was glad to see only what I saw, hear only the stories I heard. One was of a Rabbi, being marched to the Gas Chambers, calling upon God to show his powers, to answer this monstrous thing being done against God, and when nothing happened, pronouncing There is no God. He wasn’t the only one to see in this affront the non-existence of a God that, if he existed, would have intervened.

Perhaps, in its pathetic and shallow way, the low point came with Lord Avon, former Foreign Secretary, talking about what the Allied Governments knew. It was one thing to say, no doubt rightly, that the first reports were literally unbelievable, but when it came to doing something about the Concentration Camps, what followed was pathetic, bathetic and hideously complacent. The Allied Governments responded with a Statement, proclaimed simultaneously in all their capitols, stating that the perpetrators would be punished, after the War

It was, apparently, one of the greatest moments in Parliament ever. Lord Avon drew congratulations for his speech, including from David Lloyd George, who said he’d never seen anything like it. The entire House withdrew, possibly to go off to be sick en masse. That showed the Germans, eh, what? That was telling them. In the course of the War, there must have been nothing else they could have done. Yet the pride was sickening.

In the end, because the camps were in the East, it was the Russians who liberated Auschwitz and the rest. But that was all. The nightmare didn’t end there, though the episode could have made more of it. Here was where dispassion failed, where there should have been shouts and screams of rage, but there weren’t. The whole episode was a bubble. Perhaps it still is. Perhaps it’s still not quite possible to understand that we did this, us, human beings. Perhaps even bearing witness has limitations we can’t overcome.

Due South: s04 e03 – A Likely Story


Due South

The intention behind these posts about television series, or anything else for that matter, is to try to look at things objectively, from a subjective viewpoint: I choose to write about something like Due South because I enjoy it, and am interested in the first instance in analysing why. With very few exceptions, I don’t go around choosing things because I hate them, though that can lead to some very enjoyable snarking, as anyone who read my responses to Salamander, and some of the lesser Skandi series, will recall, I hope with pleasure.

But the subjective viewpoint is inherently flawed, as is the case today. I confess to having struggled to follow the story in this week’s episode – another instance of confusion as to where it stands in the series as a whole, being episode 3 on the DVD but episode 9 according to imdb – but whether that was because a rather convoluted plot was made insufficiently clear or whether it’s because I have a cold that’s spread to my head and am not thinking as clearly as usual is a mattter for debate.

It’s like the days I was watch/blogging Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: some episodes got a bad rap because I wasn’t in my best mind.

The episode did itself no immediate favours by opening with a bit of self-conscious Due South eccentricity, Fraser and Ray enjoying a campfire out in the wilds, Fraser telling a spooky campfire story, but they’re actually in a corner of the Park, which Ray points out. This will be repeated in the close, only Ray will be the one pretending its the wilds and Fraser the pragmatic. Either way, it was the set-up to introduce pretzel cart seller Franco Tucci, an elderly Italian with a sick wife he is devoted to, who works from sun-up to past sun-down. And who, within a minute, is shot down and killed.

This was the murder that drove the episode. Who wanted to kill such a harmless old man, with a distraught sweetheart of a widow? The episode introduced two strands. Up front, we had Mrs Tucci’s devoted live-in nurse, Luann Russell (Francie Swift, picture above) who was an absolute knock-out of a woman. Ray falls for her instantly. Fraser, being effectively sexless, remains objective. Given that the late Mr Tucci turns out to have been worth $1.7 million, as a member of his household being paid over the odds for a job she seemed to be carrying out happily and effectively, she became an obvious potential subject, and the episode flirted throughout with building her up as a shady character, whose interest in Ray could be interpreted as trying to use her appeal to smokescreen him.

The way it was done was so much a set-up that it was better than six to five that Luann would turn out to be innocent, which she did. What was interesting was that it was Ray who at first started piling on all the possibilties that she was the baddy, but displacing these onto Fraser and defending her to him. Very clever, in retrospect. Of course, as the plot developed, he comes to the conclusion that she is guilty, only she’s not, and thus he blows his chance with her in no uncertain manner.

The other strand was where my debilitation got me lost. Just how had a pretzel seller raised a $1.7 million fortune (perhaps he saved it?) Tucci was Italian. So too was Francesca Vecchio, complaining cultural stereotyping, but Tucci’s route took him past a notorious Mob headquarters and several ‘well-respected’ men attended his funeral. Unless I missed it, which can’t be ruled out, the source of Tucci’s wealth was never established. You were left to draw your own inferences.

One of which was that Tucci’s will left everything to Frankie Jr., with whom the old man had quarrelled twenty years before, leading to the pair losing contact. Except that Frankie turns up just in time to take the funeral (there was a Dalziel & Pascoe story/adaptation that featured exactly the same situation and that guy was a fake too). The thing was that Frankie Jr. had changed his name to Sammy Frank, gone into the mob business and supposedly been killed two years previously by an assassin hired by a rival family. Who was suddenly wanted for having taken the money and filed a false report to his employers.

What it ended up was that the assassin had killed Frankie Jr. This Frankie Jr. we were seeing here was the less-than-ethical Private Eye hired by someone I couldn’t make out – Luann made the most sense but I can’t say it was her without going back and watching the whole thing again – to prove Frankie Jr. was dead. Who had spotted his own resemblance to Frankie Jr. and set out to scam his way to the money.

So it was. On another day I’d have been more open to the story’s twists and turns but not right now. All I was truly fit for was observing that Francie Swift was a stunningly beautiful woman, in respect of which the picture above does her no fair representation. Which made up, a little, for my weekly complaint about insufficient Camilla Scott, i.e., none, yet again.

Normal service will be resumed next Thursday, with luck.

Wednesday Morning Sitcom Time: The Thick Of It – s03 e04-06


thick

What wasn’t immediately apparent from the first three episodes of this series was that the extended series length, eight episodes as opposed to three, was the ideal structure for Armando Ianucci and his team to build an underlying story arc. Now it’s becoming apparent. And, given that this series was being broadcast in 2009, with the real-life Labour Government on which it’s silently based sliding towards its end, what better structure than the Government of which Minister for Social Affairs and Citizenship Nicola Murray is a member sliding towards a near inevitable electoral defeat?

Not that any of this directly approaches our chaotic ministry until the third of these three episodes, but it’s implied from the first of these. We’ve already had mention of Shadow Minister Peter Mannion and now Roger Allam comes onstage, paying a visit to the Ministry. There’s not even an Election called but one’s clearly in the wind so this is a supposed courtesy visit, not for political purposes but to put faces to names, find out where the toilets are, that sort of thing.

Needless to say, it’s daggers drawn between the political advisers. In the home camp we have Glen Cullen and Ollie Reeder, and I am coming to loathe Ollie as the most hateful and hate-filled figure, full of poisonous remarks about anyone and everyone, a total prick constantly pricking everything it can see.You could say this is a testament to Chris Addison as well as the w riting, but at a certain point the construction of a radioactive shitheap in human form develops a toxicity that requires lead-lined bunkers built for a thousand year span and after episode 4, indeed long before I had finished watching it, I was mentally seeking contractors’ estimates.

Mannion has his own team, about whom he is appropriately jaded from the outset. in fact, that’s the keynote of Allam’s performance. He’s seen too much, he’s going through the motions, everything around him that represents Malcolm Tucker-era politics basically disgusts him but not to the extent of being prepared to give up in practice. We’re already familiar with Emma Messenger (Olivia Poulet), his scriptwriter and Ollie’s firlfriend, and his researcher Phil Smith (Will Smith), who’s the Ollie-equivalent, nowhere near as nasty despite his every effort, but equally a twat, a pathetic moron who hasn’t outgrown Prep School. Now we meet Mannion’s spin doctor, Stewart Pearson (Vincent Franklin), a laidback, quasi-visionary gobblede-gook speaker, who lacks Tucker’s rage and vitriol (he doesn’t swear once) but who is out there beyond the stars.

Mannion himself comes over as a decent human being who has a mind of his own, and has limits beyond which he w on’t go. This is woven into the other aspect of the story, which is that Ella, Murray’s daughter, the one forced into a shit Comprehensive, is turning wild, becoming a bully and about to be exc;uded, i.e., expelled. Murray’s an incompetent. If this weren’t The Thick of It, you’d wonder how she ever got to this level, with a husband who won’t support his daughter, but even though the chaotic situation is of her own making and due to the jellyfish nature of her spine, it’s a deeply painful and very human situation, and the eleven year old girl is an innocent victim of all this. Mannion, once he learns about this confidential situation that everyone knows about, assures Murray he won’t exploit it, and tells Stewart and Co to lay off, but once Tucker gets involved, things spiral out of control.

It’s a frantic episode conducted at extreme pace, as is episode 5, when Murray and Mannion clash on BBC Radio Five Live’s Richard Bacon Show. This is more of an orthodox farce especially in its speed, but both episodes come over as having forty-five minutes of material that’s got to be got through in thirty. This is funnier than epoisode 4 because it doesn’t have any degree of serious consequences to it, but it’s a clash of personalities, beliefs and opinions on every level, from the political to the personal – Emma is dumping Ollie through this though it’s the idiot Phil who delivers the coup de gras – and there’s way too much to summarise. But it builds up to a head to head between Malcolm and Stewart, in which both go nuclear with what H-Bombs they can through at the other before coming to a truce that’s as much mutual respect as it is recognition of the MAD thart would result.

After that, episode 6 is almost relaxing in contrast, the pace dialled down. It’s built on a subtlety that opens our eyes to the genuine perils with the Press. Nicola Murray is trying to launch her ill-thought out Fourth Sector policy but a casual and seemingly innocuous choice of words leaves her vulnerable to an accusation that she’s planning a leadership challenge to a Prime Minister who’s heading for electoral defeat. She isn’t. She’d never get anywhere. But Tucker arrives, stomping his boots and, for once, floundering under the extreme pressure he’s under. The PM’s on an International Tour, taking a rival spin doctor with him.

This culminates in an extraordinary scene in which Terri confronts Malcolm over the mistakes he’s made today and he undergoes a near mental breakdown that made me want to leap straight to the next episode but that’s for next time.

The increased stress of the first two episodes didn’t sit too well with me this week, and I wasn’t laughing too much at any of it. Overall, I think it was just that bit too fast and furious, and I would have preferred more space to let one line sink in when five others were hurtling past it, but that’s the point and design of the series. Time to relax.

The World at War: e19 – Pincers (August 1944 – March 1945)


WAW

This was an episode that began with scenes of joy, first the Liberation of Paris, clouded by the horrific yet unavoidably understandable treatment of women collaborators, Parisiennes who had taken German lovers and protectors, and then the Liberation of Belgium. Almost simultaneous with this came the second invasion of France, in the south, Operation Anvil. greeted literally with champagne on the beaches, which was as easy as the Normandy landings had been hard. There were now two arms of the pincer, ready to squeeze Germany between them, and squah it out of the War. Could it actually be over by Xmas?

This part of the story was about progress, and about victory. In the east, the Russians were rolling Germany back with almost obscene speed. It’s allies, the lesser nations of the Axis, were bening cleared out of the way: Romania and Bulgaria in the Balkans, cutting off Hitler’s last access to oil, Finland seeking an Armistice with Russia. No details of these, just an almost perfunctory broadbrush recitation over a map showing the black of the Nazi empire being squeezed on both sides.

But despite this slow, ongoing, remorseless progression towards the eventual victory, the episode chose to concentrate upon the failures. The reverses, the hindrances, what went wrong.

First of these, discussed as a tactical issue, were the different plans of attack by the British and the Americans. Montgomery wanted swift, decisive action, a strike in force along the coastal plain, harrying the Germans, giving them no space in which to recover, crossing the Rhine and swinging around to cut off the Ruhr, Germany’s great industrial heartland, effectively killing their ability to fight. Victory, clean and glorious, in 1944. But Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander, would not gamble, instead choosing a broad front strategy that would relentlessly, but much more slowly and surely, push Germany back all across the front.

The perils of Monty’s approach, despite those who argued for it as a gamble worth the taking, were illustrated by the first great reversal: Arnhem. Though I’ve seen it before, the shots of the parachute troops dropping down through the sky, suspended beneath billowing canopies of silk was something that contained almost beauty. It took me outside the War and the story, as in a way it did those men, drifting between heaven and earth. It was an astonishing and surprisingly peaceful sight, like daisies on a breezy day.

But it was a disaster. A Bridge Too Far, a defeat. The momentum spent, the breathing space the Germans needed to begin to resist. There were arguments, none too detailed, about how it could have worked, a suggestion of a piece of appalling luck that crippled the campaign almost at its start. But it made certain that the War would not be over in 1944.

Before we shift east, with the episode, to the other front, I want to highlight one of the talking head witnesses who made quite an impact on me. This was General Brian Horrocks, a jovial, good sort, with an almost light-hearted attitude to the War. He was the kind of soldier it would have been easy to hate yet there was something else that held me, made him palatable. He told a story of 1940, of being a Battalion Commander going into Belgium, and being forced to retreat, in shame, to Dunkirk, of faces of gloom and fear and tears and of making promises that they/he would be back. Now his tanks were crossing the border and he told of one young man, his face full of tears, reaching up his hand and repeating ‘You came back, you came back,’ and all this with an English reticence and imperviousness to the emotion of that moment. We would see Horrocks again.

As I’ve said, the Soviet advance in the east was treated as if in passing, but this was because the greater time was needed for the second great event of despair. The Nazi/Soviet Pact of 1939 had divided Poland between the two countries. It’s capiral, Warsaw, lay in the German half. The Free Polish Government in London distrusted Stalin and called for the strong Polish Underground to rise, to take control of the city from Germany, to allow the RAF to fly in the Polish Government before the Russians got there.

It didn’t happen. Stalin sat back and did nothing. The programme was euphemistic enough to suggest that it was an unfortunate coincidence that the Russian advance happened to run out of steam at that very moment, risking only the comment that it suited Stalin’s purposes anyway. The Poles were abandoned. Germany came down hard. Stalin wouldn’t lift a finger, not merely refusing to provide any supplies but also refusing to allow British planes to refuel on Soviet-held territory, limiting the ability to sustain the Uprising. Warsaw was made an example of. It was razed to the ground.

But though we neber saw the Esastern and Western Fronts operating in tandem, they were the biggest pincer. The Allies controlled Western Europe. They had pushed Germany’s armies back across the Rhine. But, as the episode made clear, you cannot maintain a 1,000 mile front with equal strength at all points. The Ardennes, heavily wooded, was the quiet sector, the least likely to see action, manned by a smaller force of inexperienced American troops. But Hitker had poured through the Ardennes in 1940. And he’d been hoarding all his remaining resources, of oil and men and equipment, to strike there again.

The Battle of the Bulge is the popular name for the operation. It would be Germany at their old finest, striking heavily and quickly, sweeping through to the sea to seize Antwerp, destroy the Allies’ main port of supply, cut off the Britains, force them to sue for peace, buy by massive defeat the time to steady themselves in order to face up to the greater resources of America. And, for ten days or so, in December fogs and snows, it was working, though Germany never got nearer than seventy-five miles from Antwerp.

But the weather changed. The fogs cleared. Aerial power could come into play at last. And the bombers bombed the advance to buggery and back across the Rhine. Hitler’s last resources wasted, resources that had left the Eastern Front bare and even easier to overrun. One witness was confident that the Battle of the Bulge shortened the War by six months.

Where would it end? It was clear that this episode was going to end with the crossing of the Rhine but first there was another heavy bombing campaign, smashing German cities west of the Rhine. Here was Horrocks again, still the light-hearted veteran, but now he was talking about Cleves, Anne of Cleves’ birthplace. The RAF asked him if he wanted it ‘taken out’. Horrocks explained to us, clear-eyed and practical, that this meant total destruction. On his head it would be, his decision to to destroy or to spare all the men, women and children who would be killed. You felt, in that second, thankful that you have never been asked to take such a decision and, in a curious way, Horrocks’ thoughtful and above all practical consideration – that you put your own soldiers first – reconciled you to his choice. And in the same, pass-the-post-old-chap evenness, he talked of sitting there in his chair as the bombers took off and feeling like a murderer, and of the nightmares he had after the War, all of Cleves.

After that, there was not much more the episode could say and it chose not to say it but to focus on the troops building up to cross the line, more of the floating paratroops, the troop carriers entering the water, the dance music of the period playing. Until an offscreen voice reported taking the first radio report, that the Black Watch had landed. An historic moment. The pincers were now across both borders.

Due South: s04 e02 – Easy Money


Due South

The above image comes from the penultimate shot of this episode. The boy is Benton Fraser, aged 12, run away from home to hunt and shoot a caribou because every other 12 year old boy he knows has been allowed to and his grandparents won’t let him. The man is called Quinn, a native guide and tracker, who has saved young Fraser from falling off a cliff and, despite being opposed to killing without need, has guided the youngster here to help him learn if he is capable of it. We are about to find out.

But before then we’ve followed a story, a strong, serious story set in present-day Chicago, that at least for one week refutes my concerns about the fourth season, because it’s damned near as good as anything Due South has ever done. Not perfect (here is where I bring out my weekly complaint about not enough Camilla Scott, on this occasion nothing at all), and there were two specific points where the episode could have done much better, but very satisfying.

This was achieved by having the story be serious, and approached seriously on each of the levels it occupied, saving the comedic elements for mostly naturalistic character beats. Ray was Ray, Fraser was Fraser, Wlash was Walsh. Only Francesca Vecchio, getting a little bit frustrated at the Lieutenant’s complete lack of basic politeness towards her, and Constable Turnbull being a dumball were given licence for more, and his turn was one of the two points in the episode when something much better was needed.

The spinal story was a gang of two pulling high-visibility, violent and dangerous attacks on jewellers. The extended open began peacefully and semi-comically with a neatly designed McGuffin to bring the much older Quinn (Gordon Tootoosis) to Chicago, attempting to prevent the building of a dam that will flood his valley, destroy his home and habitat and, essentially, bury his whole life and history under a hundred foot of water. The threat cleverly echoes the scheme that set everything in motion by Bob Fraser being killed to prevent an identical but crooked scheme.

The dam, and Quinn’s opposition, is an important element of the story, but not what it’s about, hence my calling it a McGuffin. What it does is to serve to put Fraser and Quinn in the same place as the latest jewel-heist, in which Fraser is almost killed by the leader, Tim Kelly (Phillip Granger, sporting no Eye of Zoltec), only to be saved by Quinn, who has stopped the other robber, the stooge Jeff Storey (Tyrone Benskin).

Quinn saving Fraser from falling from the roof crosses over into the flashback sequence interspersed as a parallel to the main story, which is capturing Kelly, rettrieving the diamonds and, along the way, a warming character-driven examination of Fraser’s relationship with his mentor. Basically, Kelly gets away, but doesn’t have the diamonds. These were stashed by Storey but before Fraser works out that this is the case and where they must be, Quinn has come to the same conclusions, much faster, and taken the swag for himself.

Whilst Ray Vecchio leads the Police operation to identify and track down Kelly, who is following Quinn, Fraser realises what has happened to the jewellery and assists Quinn towards its disposal – conversion into money for lawyers etc. to fight the dam scheme – as if he is completely unaware of Quinn’s intentions. At the same time, he’s utterly confident that Quinn will not do so, that he can’t do something like that, in which Bennie is completelky correct. But the very strand neatly and effectively foreshadows the episode’s conclusion.

So far as the action is concerned, the endsing is relatively unimportant. Kelly kidnaps Quinn and Fraser at gunpoint and tries to use them as hostages when the Police surround them, but between Ray’s desperate Steve McQueen-like jumping a police bike through a window, and Quinn and Fraser’s woodcraft and ability to undo knots, he’s taken and the jewels recovered.

But we had two other endings that were of much more importance to the story. One was very important and played perfectly, but the other was confusing and ineffective because it broke the continuity of the series at this point. This arose from the running gag that Ray’s parents were coming to Chicago to see him, which Ray dismissed every time it came up as a gag, and an unfunny one, although it was completely true. There was a set-up in a conversation in which Ray admitted to Fraser that he and his Dad had not spoken since Ray graduated from Police College, since when his parets had moved to Arizona.

It was a touch cliched but there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the introduction of this strand, except that everyone connected with the episode seems to have completely forgotten the basis on which the character ‘Ray Vecchio’ stood. RealRay, as played by David Marciano) is currently in deep undercover in the Mafia. The Ray we see here and ever since season 3 epiaode 1 is really Stanley Ray Kowalski, playing ‘Ray Vecchio’ to shield RealRay from discovery. The central characters know who is who but the general public only know this Ray as the Ray.

I admit that, having that knowledge in mind, I first assumed the parents coming to town were the Vecchios, expecting to see David Marciano, which would have been wrong as Ray’s Dad is dead, but no, they were the Kowalskis, they arrived as the Kowalskis, they treated NewRay as Kowalski, his mother even called him Stanley. All out in public. It was a complete WTF and a definitive black spot for episode and series.

thankfully, we had a better ending to come. This was young Fraser and younger Quinn, finally overlooking the herd of caribou. Constable Fraser had known Quinn would not fence the jewelley becaudse he knew him and knew he would not make that mistake. His confidence came from his lifetime understanding of the man. The man who, despite his opposition, expressed openly led him to where he could kill the caribou. We expected that, at the last, young Fraser would realise, and not take the shot. But Constable Fraser’s ultimate confidence in Quinn stemmed from him having let Fraser make one of the biggest mistakes of his life: young Fraser shot and killed the caribou.

So, a powerful, thoughtful, intelligent and excellent episode, marred somewhat but not not spoiled. If I gave ratings, I’d say the episode’s flaws reduced it from an A- to a B+. Whatever else follows in the remaining eleven episodes, I hope this will not turn out to be an outlier.