The Night Manager: Episode 5

Looking back on last night’s episode I got the feeling that the success of the team is not just about a race against time, but also avoiding being trapped between a rock and a hard place.

We begin with a trip to the Haven,  a camp of soldiers set close to a refugee camp.  In order to avoid too many questions, Roper hands out some aid boxes on the way.  On arrival, Roper is greeted like royalty by his men.

Personally I found this difficult to watch, not least because they are essentially mercenaries.  While ‘mercenary’ is a dirty word, PMCs or Private Military Companies are numerous.  They have been taking over the less onerous tasks from the military for some years (the industry is now worth billions of dollars).  Certainly the group surrounding Roper did not have a professional feel about them.  Perhaps it is because of their diverse nature, I’m not sure.

Pine’s task was to supervise a firepower demonstration for a potential client.  While it went well, I’m not sure it gave the impression it was looking for.  By that I mean, some of the performances felt a little off.  For example, Hugh Laurie’s line about napalm was a little too close to the famous Apocalypse Now quote, for comfort.

In the meantime, Rex Maberley, Angela Burr’s boss, gets the push from his boss.  The ‘good’ side are losing friends fast, even the Americans are pulling out, too.  To top it all, a senior member of MI6 warns Angela Burr off, personally.  These deals which Roper is overseeing, are valuable to the country.

With time and friends vanishing at a rapid rate of knots, Angela Burr soon finds herself on her own.  Pine, with the arrival of Corcoran, is feeling the pressure too.  A night time excursion to deliver a message is spotted by Corky, leaving Pine no choice but to take him out.  Roper, desperate to find out who has been selling his secrets casts suspicion over everyone.  With Corky’s death, a convenient scapegoat is found.

Lastly we come to the convoy fiasco.  Angela Burr’s team, via Pine, hears about a convoy of weapons disguised as humanitarian aid heading to the border.  On interception, it is found to contain grain and agricultural equipment.

While it was a good episode, there were some scenes that did not feel right for me.  I was looking for either a gleeful, happy evil from Roper or a darker, colder one.  Instead it felt flat, neither cold nor anything else for that matter.

The performances from the rest of the cast was very convincing.  Elizabeth Debicki’s confession scene felt real.  Her lines were excellently thought out and well delivered.  Just one more episode to go for this intriguing story.

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Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Okay let’s get this out of the way right now shall we?  I love Jeremy Brett’s version of the famous detective and have steered clear of Benedict’s rendition for a few reasons which I shall name later.

When I saw the trailer for this one-off special, I was delighted to see it was to be set in the Victorian era (despite the Suffragette movement being founded in 1903), oh joy.

Imagine my surprise therefore when I found it wasn’t.  But was it?  No, it wasn’t.  But maybe…Okay guys, I think you over did the flash-back/mind palace plot device here, I got it quite quickly as I’m sure most of us did.  It’s a shame as I was getting into the story and the idea of linking it with the Suffragettes was an interesting one.  The concept of using Mary to basically drag our intrepid duo onto the right track felt poorly thought out though.

It left me thinking that Sherlock was a blusterer prone to jumping at the wrong conclusion just to show how good he is.  And now I come to the reason why I don’t watch most versions of Sherlock Holmes.  Those who adapt Conan Doyle’s stories centre on Holme’s abruptness.

When you read the stories however, you come to understand that he is a more rounded character than his acidic side seems to suggest.  He is quite capable of compassion, calming overwrought witnesses and winning over people to get the next piece of data.

To me, Holmes is prone to moments of theatre, incredibly vain (which certainly goes against his purely logical, non-emotional brain we are led to believe), sometimes vulnerable, observant like no other man before or since, harsh of himself and others and briefly joyous.

Jeremy Brett’s version shows Holmes’ patient side, his brotherly love with Watson as well as his confidence that goes beyond arrogance.  This is more to do with the writers than the actors.

Getting back to the show, Benedict’s performance is exceedingly good and I can see why people watch him.  He is ably assisted by Martin Freeman but I’m not going to watch a show entirely based on the actor’s performances.  The writing on the other hand, while full of brilliant touches, left me feeling confused.

Overall then, I liked the Victorian setting and the suffragette movement plot twist.  The ‘mind palace’ and the addition of Moriarty were unnecessary.  Looking back at this review, it feels like it is vitriolic in nature.  It’s not like I hated the special, I just think they could have done a better job.

Additional:  Avid followers of the series, please can you answer this question for me; is Holmes solely based on his sharp manner or is there more to him than what appeared last night?

And Then There Were None: A Review of the BBC Drama Mini Series

Last night saw the premiere of the first episode of the mini series based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name.  I need to point out right now that I have not read the book so this review will not be a comparison between the two.

The story is this-Ten strangers are invited to an island under false pretenses on the eve of world war two, what for? Nobody knows.  They all have one thing in common, each has a secret that has been discovered by their mysterious host, Ulfric Norman Owen.  Within the space of an evening they find they have a killer in their midst.  They must find the killer before it is too late.

First and foremost I’d like to say this, if the other two episodes are as good as the first, then the BBC is onto a winner.  Last night’s episode wasn’t just engaging, it was absorbing.  While they started from a strong position by picking this story, it could easily have been let down by bad acting.  With the likes of Sam Neill, Charles Dance and Miranda Richardson though, you know you are going to be watching something wonderful.  For me though, it was Anna Maxwell Martin’s performance of Mrs. Rogers that stole every scene she was in.

Her relationship with Mr. Rogers, the butler, had driven her close to edge, even before they arrive on the island.  As such she displayed heartbreaking obsequiousness that was tough to watch.  I didn’t just feel sorry for her, I wanted to remove her from the band of vultures to a place where she could get better.  As for the others, Agatha Christie has imbued almost all of them with such loathsome characteristics, that I for one would feel afraid to be in a room with them.

Only Miss Vera Claythorne and Philip Lombard are worthy of anything other than contempt.  For one thing, we focus on Miss Claythorne (ably played by Maeve Dermody) before we get to the island.  Therefore we get to empathise with her.  A scene set on the coast gives us a hint that an incident had occurred, affecting her deeply.  Her interactions with Philip Lombard showed that she could look after herself, however.

By the end of the hour, the guests’ secrets had been revealed and two had been murdered.  All that matters now, is to watch and wait.