The opening is a silly but satisfying mix of humour and espionage – and the rest of this one’s not bad either. The plot is a little underdeveloped (how and why this network of sleeper agents has been put in place is never quite clear) but Peter Jeffrey sells the scheme with a much stronger performance than he turned in for Game.
Once again, it’s clear vulnerability is what’s new about The New Avengers. While the Steed of the original series may have had his leg in cast, or got caught in a man-trap, for example, did we ever actually see blood? And when Steed is betrayed by his girlfriend, he looks incredibly lonely and sad. Before we only ever saw the suave and charming agent and never the sacrifices he’d made to become that man. Now he’s got a big house and it feels empty. But he is allowed to express emotion.
“I feel deeply ashamed at hitting a woman. Bit you were unlucky. You came along when I needed to hit something.”
Given how stratospherically silly the original show became, this is an effective way to re-inject some drama. Our heroes can have friends, but they can be betrayed, as Gambit is too – and they register hurt (albeit briefly) just as in comparison to the stylish and and effortless fights of the original, there’s a slight edge of crunchy brutality to those of the new show.
Once again, Gambit behaves like a schoolboy, watching Purdy undress from a dark corner of her flat. Meanwhile we discover a little about Purdey’s background: her (step)father was a bishop! (Let us never speak of this again, etc.) Her father was also shot as a spy… She also demonstrates that she has a hell of a punch.
There’s some good car chase action (and it’s great not to have back projection) and nice scenic locations but I spent rather too much of it wondering why Steed was unable to hear the helicopter that was (covertly) pursuing his car…
Although the new Avengers aren’t as suave and unassailable as their 60s counterparts, the charm of the show comes from their affection from one another which is evident here. As Gambit and Purdey discover how Steed has both put himself in the line of fire, yet outwitted his would-be assassin, Purdey tells him:
Oh, and there’s an overt reference to the original show – Steed’s girlfriend picks up photos of Cathy, Emma and Tara, while Steed’s fixing some drinks. “Just some fillies I’ve toyed with” says Steed, to her astonishment. He then claims he thought she was looking at another trio of photos, of horses…