Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Partners in Crime - Episode 3 Review - The Secret Adversary

 My review of last week's episode

Has there ever been a more British threat than a promise to imperil a boy's cricket skills? Obviously disconcerted by such grim portents, Tommy Beresford - left, last week, in the hands of the communists - caves to the wishes of his sleazy captors. Big villain Mr. Brown needs a file from MI6, so bumbling bee-man Tommy is obviously the man for the job (never mind that Mr. Brown could probably have gotten it himself, but more on that later.)


Having terrified Tommy with grim promises concerning young George's cricketing future, the bad guys drop him off somewhere in London, and he glumly finds his way home. Once he's there, he has to fend off Tuppence's cascade of questions. Thankfully, a host of distractions are available. Smooth Julius Hersheimmer is still around, much to Tommy's dismay - and even worse - wearing Tommy's cardigan (the horror). Then along comes Albert, who's fun but still hasn't quite found his place in the series.

George's imminent danger has really brought Tommy out of his shell: in what may be the most Agatha Christian moment in the series so far, Tommy fights off an insistent villager while he's trying to receive a secret call. And he's becoming a more accomplished liar: he manfully fibs his way through a debriefing before a board of sinister smoking men. (Here is introduced a possibly entertaining minor character named Bulldog.)

But Tommy's ingenuity is about to run out: when Tuppence finally corners him, he confesses and asks for help. Happily, she trusts him enough to give it (the show's already tried to manufacture drama by throwing mistrust into their relationship: it doesn't work). Acting on Tuppence's orders, Tommy sets off the fire alarm while she steals the file. Recruiting Albert, they then deliver the file to another set of sinister, dimly-lit suited men (this is starting to feel like The X-Files) and simultaneously plant a tracking device on the bad guys' car.

After a half-hearted assassination attempt from Mr. Brown (really, a bomb would have been more efficient), the two vow to abandon detective work forever. Tommy's pleading - "I'm just a man" - and Tuppence's softening combine to form the most touching moment between the Beresfords so far. Do I believe they're a married couple? Still working on that, but they're coming along. Not everybody can be Mulder and Scully.

Finally, back at Beresford HQ (which has been pilfered by a group of thugs who conveniently leave behind the one item they could use), Tommy deduces that Jane left the tape in the box with their queen bee. Anassa is "queen" in Ancient Greek. Before they can translate the message (it's in Russian), Julius appears wielding a gun (trigger-happy Americans) to steal it, be struck by Carter's car, and summarily confess: "I am Brown."

What?

As our heroes suspect, there's more to the story, and it's not long before they discover that the only other suspect, James Peel, is the real guilty party (which begs the question: why did he need Tommy's help to steal the file? But okay). The Beresfords manage to foil his evil plot using Tommy's honey (a nice touch, and surely a useful marketing perk for Beresford Honey in the future). Peel now, in a sudden attack of kamikaze nobility, decides to end it all rather than fight his way past an old man and two middle-class apiarists.  (Who knows: maybe Carter's got some killer moves he's keeping quiet about.)

This episode manages to accomplish three things I've been desiring. David Walliams abandons his glum quiet guy act and tries for something more charming: a not unintelligent, courageous father and husband, turning his clumsy reputation to his advantage and willing to risk everything to protect his son. I can root for that guy. Secondly, Tuppence mellows and the two actually begin to have some chemistry. And last, the pacing finally picks up, as the two dash about dealing with betrayals, showdowns, and assassinations. The scenery is more varied and interesting, and it seems to have genuinely found a sense of thrill rather than terror.

Will that stick around? I hope so, and I'm willing to give it a chance.

My review of next week's episode

Want something good to watch? Check out my full list of good detective shows.

Longish

2 comments:

  1. I'm willing to give it a chance.

    Yeah. I, too, will "board" the next episode, hoping the Titanic will reach New York this time. But already I am getting shivers remembering the waters of the icy Atlantic that swallowed me the first time around. The three-part first episode was so flawed in plot, characterization, and execution that it's almost not worth discussing. Tommy certainly held up well from the absolute thrashing he took in the previous episode at the hands of the thugs. That single thin "plaster" really sold it! And I can see how Walliams' Tommy would put forth an unbelievable and almost word-free tale of his escape since he has chosen to play the Village Oaf, rather than the smart, brash, and clever character Christie wrote. But for the life of me I can't buy how anyone listening to it would accept that. I can see why the Russian spy, brown, gave Tommy the task of stealing the file--to see that he would follow orders and protect Peel's cover. Now the fact that there was a traitor in the secret organization should have been a plot point, because a normal person, such as me, would immediately gone to HQ when the thugs released me, telephoned the school where my son was and asked them to take him somewhere safe until the local Constables arrived--armed knowing the Soho gang is armed. I would have told my Uncle that the agency should send armed men to collect him from the Constabulary. Of course, Peel would have heard all that and my plan would fail. Instead, Tommy stupidly keeping his mouth shut until Tuppence pries it out of him was the right (smart) thing to do, along with never checking to see that their son is OK-- much less protected. Ever. They had three hours to play with rather the the normal two with BBC detective dramas, and they couldn't plot their way around that? How about the good Uncle suspecting there is a mole or spy in his agency? Whatever. Good thing Peel holding a gun chose suicide against three unarmed unmenacing types. The super assassin must have wanted to make sure that he didn't appear in the next episode. Now why do the phones give the single American long ring, rather than the British two short rings? Maybe they cover that later.

    This is no way to mark the 125th anniversary of Agatha's birth. I'll stay for the scenery and the set dressing.

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    Replies
    1. Perhaps if they'd cut the story down to two episodes it would have worked out better (hint hint, Peter Jackson.)

      I know there are the usual plot-holes, but I enjoyed Walliams this week - mostly because, for the first time, he really seems fully awake. He's much more entertaining, and I hope that sticks around.

      And yeah - them never checking on George did not ring true.

      And Peel deciding to end it all instead of call on this supposedly powerful organization to back him up (he's seemed omnipotent up till now.)

      Unfortunately, we're still dealing with the same writer and director, so I'm not holding my breath.

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