Oh dear. After last week’s surprisingly gripping episode, it all took a step backwards again this time. Not that it isn’t all impeccably made drama, but it feels like the impeccably made drama from about three different shows all bolted together. There were some very weird lurches in tone this week – going from Freddie essentially interrogating Tish’s widow (Jessica Hynes – always a pleasure to see) to the ‘comedy’ secretary fussing over Freddie’s birthday cake in the next scene. Just about the only point where these strands came together in a satisfying way, for me, was when questioned about his experiences of MI6 Hector, in his nice-but-dim way, recalled the recruiter who took an interest in him at University being a ‘frightfully nice chap’.
I’m not convinced that, this late into the series, that the shady goings on will have a satisfying conclusion – I can’t think of any of the characters already introduced being an exciting candidate for ‘Brightstone’ and/or responsible for Ruth’s death. That being said, I don’t have a clue as to who it could be – everybody seems to be shifty and untrustworthy, which resulted in some odd scenes, and even odder line readings – in particular the scene where Freddie confronted Ruth’s mother. It was interesting, and Juliet Stevenson’s always reliable, but I did start having unpleasant flashbacks to Fiona Shaw’s OTT performance in The Black Dahlia – hopefully, if Stevenson’s revealed to be at the centre of this conspiracy she won’t have the opportunity to have a full-on meltdown.
The inner workings of TV (and its relationship to politics – it’s quite amazing seeing how much a thick pair of glasses and a different hair-do changes Julian Rhind-Tutt from his usual dashing self to the pig-like government minister) continues to be the more interesting strand, despite the unconvincing comedy characters. Perhaps because it’s the easiest section to link to today – this week’s oddly coincidental timing came from their discussion on how to cover uprisings in Hungary – straight afterwards you could flick over to BBC1 and see how the news currently covers such subjects (of course, that’s not to say that Britain’s recent riots had much in common with the anti-Soviet demonstrations in the mid-50s). It might also be because I’m a nerd and interested in the workings of TV broadcasting at the time, although I am surprised that Freddie still has a career as he barely seems to do any work, just occasionally wandering in to disrupt broadcasts. And I could do with them cutting down a bit on pointing out how sickeningly young the characters are – it’s making me feel a bit old and washed up. Which might explain why the only character I’ve really taken a shine to is Anna Chancellor’s, well that and her waspish sense of humour and flamboyant attitude (I particularly liked her line to Freddie, ‘come on dear boy, a glorious woman is taking you away’).
Two more episodes to go then. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all ties together, even though I’m prepared for it to being disjointed and unsatisfying (like every other episode except the last one).