Flashback time again – but this time we’re into Purdey’s past and an intense and all-consuming relationship with Larry (no, not the Larry she had a thing for in Three Handed Game, this is the Larry she’s going to marry). 1970 (with a caption to prove it). Purdey is still a ballet dancer, and only interested in drawing rooms and ‘wooffly dogs’. It’s completely another life, and Larry is very controlling, and I’m generally reminded rather a lot of the similarly over-intense Pandora.
We’ve never really had anything like a past for any of our main characters, beyond passing references to Cathy’s time in Africa, or Steed’s many international jaunts (we discover he went over the wall twice in Berlin – and was shot – would this be in 1963, as mentioned in Split!?) Actually seeing it, in flashback, is somewhat disconcerting. Not very Avengers. But not necessarily bad.
What is bad is the nauseating sexism in Steed’s response, as Gambit’s brain struggles process Purdey’s rejection of a patronising offer of a cushy security detail.
“She must be crazy”
“She’s Purdey. She’s a woman.”
OH **** OFF!
Unbelievably, these excruciating lines are repeated at the climax of the episode, provoking, from me, another bout of shouting at the screen.
It’s not just Steed and Gambit. Larry’s entirely unfamiliar with female emancipation.
“She’s mine. She belongs to me”
The actual story is divertingly done, though it’s hard to believe that they left the title frames in the stock footage they used (the words The Engineer in the RAF are visible on screen in large purple lettering). Satellite technology is cutting edge here, in 1977, with detailed aerial pictures being an unheard of innovation from the military’s “Eye in the Sky”. Hello, Google Maps.
But the emotionally charged performance from Joanna Lumley? She’s excellent, but it’s worlds away from the cool Avengers style. Perhaps it was inspired by that overwrought moment in the phone box in Faces, when she thought Steed and Gambit dead. But that worked because it was unusual, and because it was about something we as an audience were invested in (Steed and Gambit) rather than a no-good ex.
Still, the ending is rather good – especially Steed’s clever and unexpected way of incapacitating the rocket. I’ll confess I did expect Purdey to finish off Larry herself. His “you can’t kill me” reminded me of Electra in The World Is Not Enough with her “you’d miss me”. Having Gambit do it is a cop-out, though her reaction to his “you’d do the same” is genuinely thoughtful.
Before all that, Larry’s co-conspirator suggested to him “Maybe we should work together again sometime?”
He’s played by Lewis Collins, and Larry is Martin Shaw. Can’t really imagine them working together again – can you?