Monday, 29 June 2015

Finale Fantastical and Macabre - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell


The Finale of the story of the Eponymous Messrs Norrell and Strange was every bit the visual extravaganza we have come to expect from this Lavish BBC production. If it does not get nominated for a BAFTA I will swallow a rat. Yes that's right, swallow a Rat!

Was it a fairytale ending in the accepted sense of the word? Most assuredly not. I suspect left quite a few viewers with a real feeling of melancholy, But it was truly the most magical and entralling ending.The fates of  many Characters were left in flux, but in the most gloriously inventive  and brilliant ways that I  suspect that if the book follows to the same conclusions, that I will be joing the myriad other readerss clamouring for another volume, however I cannot comment on that until I have finished the book myself!

The quality of  this production has been utterly outstanding and the show stands head and shoulders above recent work by the Beeb on a Sunday Night. Everything from script to costuming was just a delight.

The two leads were magnificent and if we do not see Bertie Carvell in a million other BBC productions in the near future I will be writing to Points of View. His descent into madness and illness was all the more shocking because of his jolly devil may care attitude had been played so deftly before, the light and shade of this performance was one of the best I have seen for a very long time and from an actor that to be fair to him had not had masses of exposure before Strange. His utterly heartbreaking final two scenes were of a award winning quality alone. His chemistry with poor Arabella and Gilbert Norrell was so sweet and endearing that I actually did shed a few tears and they  left me hoping awfully that even if we did not get to see it, that things might be made right, the flights of my fancy went into the stratosphere!



The work of Eddie Marsan in this is  equally undisputable, his portrayal of the somewhat surly and capricious Norrell was  so brilliantly nuanced, is he really as principled as he attested about respectable  Magic? Was his shame the reason he left Jonathan to be exposed to such peril or is it a need to control all that he had been sole purveyor of  that led ultimately to the prophesised fates of himself and Strange? It was hard to say because I  so grew to love him  again in the final episode that I almost forgave him everything, but only almost..



Special mention must go to the Norrell wig, which to be honest was a character in itself and its utterly dishevelled appearance in the closing half hour was some (perhaps unintentional) light relief as things got very very dark!!



Marc Warren's Gentleman, was just brilliantly malevolent and insidious right up until his ultimate demise and the fact that he was just so foist by his own petard was delicious despite the fact that he was one of my very favourite characters and whilst the actual result of the prophesy had been signposted quite heavily, when it came, it was still shocking to see it enfold in such a manner. 


was also gratified  to see that Paul Kaye was able to make another zany appearance  and  the great viewing public given the privilege  to see his less than honed torso once more after the rather final ( or so it had seemed) scenes of the penultimate episode. 




The beauty of the show was you really cared about the characters, even the utterly repellant ones such as Mr Lascelles, whose comeuppance had us cheering in our Front rooms across the nation, our reaction to the conclusion of Mr Drawlight's story was much more muted and in fact made that of Lascelles even more satisfying. 



We were also rewarded in our  hopes that the taciturn, but very lovable  John Childermass  played by Enzo Cilenti with such conviction,would prove integral to the resolution of the piece and that the ever present and sweetly innocent Mr Honeyfoot and Mr  Segundus would still be standing after the cataclysmic events that unfolded. I had personally enjoyed their  orbits around the central action so immensely and the Walnut Blunderbuss  was just so brilliantly used again that I laughed aloud like a loon.






I did feel so awfully sorry for poor Arabella and although I do think poor Sir Robert rather too strongly blamed for the actions set in motion by Norrell and the Gentlemen,perhaps because I am such a huge fan of Samuel West, being as I have actually met him, I was actually very  glad that Lady Emma  Pole was given the chance to escape the confines of her society marriage in order to go aid her loyal friend both in and outside the fairy realms.

Her suffering and that of  Stephen Black was so much that their ultimate escapes were welcome even if  that of the Nameless Slave  meant that the ending of Jonathan and Mr Norrell left us literally  gasping for more and feeling just a little sad that it is highly likely that there won't be!





Long Live The Raven King!


Saturday, 27 June 2015

My Jihad - A Bus and a Burkha.



Oh I love it when God just gives me a little tidbit of fun to chew on!

This tiny Short was just such a lovely little examination of  judgement, stereotypes and relationships. Whilst it is focused on a Muslim Couple, it could equally have been a Christian couple or a bi racial couple. Prejudice is rife in every community and this pleasant little story illustrated it in a humorous and intelligent way!



Hapless young Muslim Man Nazir is not faring well at the Speed dating event, all the girls seem interested in is his financial status and then he really starts to bump heads with Fahimda who is chaperoning her friend.



"I am a chaperone!"

"Is that French for Frigid?"

"It's Latin for Loser Repellant"



After a random act of kindness results in him losing his bus ticket, his evening is made more embarrassing when he has to ask Fahimda  for his fare. Later, after she is forced to move seats an interesting conversation ensues.


"Provision is decreed by Allah, so no one knows what my financial situation will be in the future." He says when challenged about his lack of funds.


His prejudice is also present, happy to marry a Widow or Divorcee but not single mother,he manages to insult her again before the penny finally drops as to why she was not at the dating event as a participant when she storms off the bus ages before her stop. 

He tries to make amends by walking her home, but this act of chivalry too is fraught with problems as a man walking her home at night who is not her brother would be reported back to parents and she would be branded a whore.  The solution Nazir comes to is so sweet and humorous!   


He wants an Islamic home with no distractions, no pictures, no posters and only selected music, with a concession for Michael Jackson, he is a Legend after all! She lives with parents and her six year old Son.

They seem so different but yet they connect more naturally in their short conversation that  he asks her to take a risk that what passed between them warrants more investigation, his joyful smile when she tentative agrees is heartwarming.



Catch it on BBC I player. At 17 minutes long, it is a great way to boost your mood and make you think in a manageable timeframe!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Met - Policing London. How to combat Gangland London?

The third instalment of the show about London's MPS  remained riveting viewing and again left me feeling secure that the Service, whilst stretched thinly and under attack is actually one to be proud of. Focusing this week on gangs, the action was divided between following a everyday response team in Lambeth, a trident operation in Streatham and a team combating moped gangs in Wealthy Camden.

Camden


Here the borough is under siege from gangs of youths stealing Mopeds and using them to speed onto pavements to snatch bags, jewellery and phones and making a quick getaway. It is an affluent borough, home to the famous Camden  Market and abutting the West End, so the concern that the rise Smash and Grab raids on jewellery and tech stores is affecting community relations as these offenders get more and more audacious.





The story of the Camden Surgeon who lives and works in the area was chilling. Returning home with his wife, helmeted youths threatened him with a hammer. They hit him with it on the head and absconded with his phone and wallet. His fear for himself and his family was palpable and it is obviously still affecting him months later.

Similarly, a little old lady had her handbag snatched by her own front door, she was angry as it was her assertion that the neighbourhood were good citizens, engaging with Police in neighbourhood watch schemes and the like and nothing was being done.

A public meeting was held and borough Commander was taken to task. It was very interesting to see the difference in the atmosphere of this meeting and that of the one shown in the first episode of the series  Hackney. No shouting, no swearing, hushed even. Each participant expressing their ire in resigned and restrained anger. The difficulty was that the police were hamstrung by the fact that thieves were blatantly aware that police cannot chase suspects who are not wearing helmets so when high speed pursuits were happening, suspects were getting their pal to lob off their helmet and turning down narrow alleyways. If these young men were to die in a a pursuit without helmet, the Met are criminally culpable.

How to address the problem then? Simply put, decoy bikes were used to lure in potential suspects, intelligence gathered on their movements and then arrests made in relation to the drug dealing they were doing whilst on stolen Mopeds. Arresting them at home or in the act of tampering with stationary bikes is safer than high speed chases. Drugs are being kept off the streets and gangs  were being disrupted.

The really worrying thing about this trend is the average age of the culprits which was 18, youngsters as young as eleven involved in the theft of mopeds.

Streatham


Originally designated as a unit to investigate Black on Black violence, the Trident group now focus on any violent crime Pan London and in this episode we saw two officers targeting a group of twenty offenders wanted for violence and drugs supply in a Set of coordinated dawn  raids supported by the TSG using enforcer equipment to gain entry to addresses, they caught 16 in one foul swoop and drugs and weapons were seized.

The rest of the episode focused on the efforts to capture those who remained at large and who were inevitably taking up positions  vacated by those imprisoned as a result of the initial operation.  Intelligence had identified a number of likely youths who ere coming  up the ranks.

 The dramatisation of The Wire came to mind as DS McNaughton explained that young boys as young as eleven were being used as  drugs runners and being groomed for the role by being given gifts of clothes and trainers until they find themselves ten years later being rudely awoken by police who arrest them with thousands of pounds in their bedrooms and a car boot filled with rocks of crack cocaine totalling £40,000 in street value .  He was imprisoned for five years




The final raid and the last of the original suspects was caught in possession of a cleaver/machete weapon behind the front door to use against police wanting to detain him, luckily the numbers  of officers storming the house overpowered him with not a single injury on either side. He was imprisoned for  three years and the crime rate in the area dropped by 50% as a direct result of the operation as as suppliers of drugs were no longer in the area, the addicts who would come into the neighbourhood to do robberies, burglaries or snatches to pay to buy the drugs had also been displaced.

Lambeth

The featured response police, your Bobby on the beat, were a thoroughly likeable pair whose in car banter revealed a great camaraderie so their dismay at being first responders to a crowd of two hundred following a stabbing at a community Barbecue event was founded, both victim and perpetrator had already left the scene, but is seemed to be as a result of rival gangs clashing. I was most interested by the reaction of the teenage crowd who on being asked  quietly to step outside the police tape began a diatribe about the corruption of the MPS and heavy handed tactics, the female PC correctly pointing out that it was they and not her who were throwing around stereotypes  and that the " Them and Us " culture was always hard to fight because of prejudices held by the residents and that in fact that police and a large majority of the ordinary people there were all looking for the same outcome, to avoid further violence and safely disperse the crowd.


The arrest of a youth of 16 who had already been victim of a shooting and a stabbing himself and yet was toting around a 9 inch kitchen knife,  which he hurriedly discarded into bushes  on police pursuit, seemed inconsistent but  carrying weapons are all part and parcel of life in that area of South  London. He came quietly and police were left trying to find a sheet of paper large enough to scale the blade for evidential purposes.



Perhaps the most upsetting call was  to another 16 year old  multiple stabbing victim, who despite the honourable attempts of the featured officers as first on the scene to help him with CPR  and life breaths later died in hospital, the wailing cries of his friend as he realised his pal was fading  and his tears when reliving events, will stay with me a long while. The officers scarred by the event, the parents irreparably affected and his younger sister so scared that she has stopped going to school and for what?

A friend dispute whereby the victim asked for his £90 back after the boy failed to give him the bike he had paid for so under the guise of bringing payment, the boy lured the victim and stabbed him multiple times resulting in his death , the culprit was caught and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.



Hear from the stars of this episode below


Name: Tim Dawes
Job title: Police Constable
Years with the Met: 11
Career to date: Tim has spent all his career on the response team at Lambeth.
I enjoyed the show and I thought it gave a good snapshot of response work, but you can’t really capture the breadth of incidents we’re called to, such as domestic violence and mental health-related incidents.
The murder at the end of the programme actually took place on the first day of filming and I think from there they had their idea of what they wanted to focus on. I’ve been first-on-scene at three or four murders in my career; thankfully they’re not that common. It was sad because he wasn’t linked to any gang activity, he just wanted his money back.
Attending scenes like the one at the start of the episode when there’s so many people can be a bit scary. People usually overestimate numbers of people, so it was a bit surprising to find there were actually more than 200 people. It’s understandable why people don’t come forward in front of everyone else, but once it died down a few people did talk to us.
Will the show change public perceptions? Maybe in the short term. After the 2011 riots and Olympics we got a lot of praise. Sadly those good feelings only tend to last until the next scandal; the public judge us on our last mistake.
Since the show aired, I’ve had the mick taken a bit. My brother sent me a mock up of a picture from Jaws; instead of “We’re going to need a bigger boat”, it was “We’re going to need the A3 paper!”.




Name: Bob Dolce
Job title: Detective Sergeant
Years with the Met: 18
Career to date: Bob began his career in uniform at Streatham before moving to plain clothes in Brixton. He spent three years at the Directorate of Professional Standards before getting promoted and moving to Kingston. After a spell in Croydon in the Intelligence Unit, he joined the Crime Squad and was then seconded to the West Area Crime Squad. He’s spent the last four years with the Trident Central Gangs Unit.
The programme shows a good cross-section of what policing is all about, in particular around the uniformed guys: one minute they’re dealing with a burglary, the next they’re trying to save someone’s life.
With regards to what we do at Trident, I hope the public got a sense of the lengths we go to, to target violent gang members. Everyone at Trident is highly motivated and, at times, we work very long hours to gain evidence and make a solid arrest so they don’t get bailed. I thought we came across as very professional – apart from a few swear words from me!
Although what the BBC showed of our work was great, they could only really capture a small amount of what we do. You didn’t really see the huge amount of surveillance and background work that goes into an operation. Each operation can last anywhere from a couple of months to over a year.
The Met giving the BBC editorial rights was a brave move, but I believe it’s turned out well. There were only a couple of times we said they couldn’t show something that would have compromised current operations or given away tactics.



Name: Richard Tucker
Job title: Detective Chief Superintendent, Camden Borough Commander
Years with Met: 30
Career to date: After two years as a PC, Richard went on to spend much of his career in the CID. He was a detective constable for 16 years in homicide and at Stoke Newington and Newham, before moving to Tower Hamlets, first as detective sergeant and then detective inspector. Richard moved back to Newham as detective chief inspector and then joined Camden as detective superintendent. He was made detective chief superintendent earlier this year.

The public meeting you see me at was pretty uncomfortable. But residents are absolutely entitled to ask questions of us and they had some very genuine grievances. One thing the programme didn’t show was the joint work we and SCO did together to identify and arrest the group who had been carrying out the house raids on mopeds. Since then we’ve had a big decrease in those types of incidents, although moped-enabled crime is something we’re still working on and we have several operations ongoing.
I spoke to everyone personally after that meeting and apologised in particular to the man who said he’d never had any contact from the officer who had been assigned to him. Most of our staff are brilliant but one or two had let us down.
I’m very open with people and the public know they can contact me directly if they have any concerns. We have to remember that it’s all very well saying burglaries are at their lowest for 40 years, but the bloke who’s just had his house burgled doesn’t want to hear that. Regardless of their wealth they want to know what the police are doing about it. The challenge I have is resourcing; we have to get the right balance between being more visible in the day and having more officers out late at night and at other more appropriate times.
One thing that struck me watching the show – and I’m sure must have struck the public – is the stark contrast between Hampstead and Lambeth just a couple of miles away. I’m very supportive of the programme because it shows the good work of the Met that doesn’t normally come out in the media. People’s expectations of us are very high and the challenge is to meet that standard all the time. It sometimes feels that everyone outside the Met thinks they’re an expert on policing, but the show demonstrates that it’s not as easy as people think.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Humans - red blood and blue blood, even synths can bleed!

This show is rapidly becoming a favourite, it is just so disturbing on many levels.
Firstly there is the way that Anita/Mia has developed a propensity for lying, twisting the truth and withholding information, which is against all protocols and makes the piece scarier as we imagine all of our gadgets going "off Piste" .  Imagine if one's Facebook suddenly broadcast all those original drafts of posts 😱😱😱

Miserable Mother Laura's fears  about the wily little minx are all  founded, but the totally dysfunctional nature of her home  means she is being dismissed as over sensitive and paranoid. Even sullen teenage daughter Mattie is no help. Her own resentment against Synths in general seems valid too given that there seems to be no role which Synths have not under taken. As a clever girl who in any other circumstances would be guaranteed a great career, she feels totally redundant and literally may become so in the job market after school. Husband Joe is just happy that the house is being managed and one wonders if Anita may well use that to her advantage in coming episodes as she is already using the younger more vulnerable members of the family to ingratiate herself the scene where hormone ridden teenage son attempts to grope her was both uncomfortable and chilling as she know has leverage to turn him against his mother should the need arise.





Of course, there could be a less nefarious reason for Anita's reactions, the memories that all the renegade bots seem to be exhibiting are of some sort of idyllic existence  where their "father created rounded personalities with emotional capacity . See in that light the neediness of Mia who has been forced into servitude only really  to be a mother , is  rather more sad than frightening.

The reflection of a disharmonious addition of synth into an otherwise happy home of policeman Pete  and his injured wife is well played. He resents the handsome home help being the rock he wishes he could be, but  " Simon synth"  is genuinely sweet! Kind of a metrosexual ! I would not mind if he made me a sandwich to take to work!





One wonders whether Leo was the blueprint for synth anatomy as he bleeds red blood, unlike the blue bled by Niska but can be charged, is he just a very large vessel for human cyborg tech that taken to the next level  became Syths,.  Max his "brother" is literally a lifesaver acting as crash-mat for the seriously wounded Leo after an ill advised run in with yet another nut job Paul Kaye Character ( see all recent blogs  for reference) can he play any other kind of part really with a face like that? Max is brilliantly realised, so still and at time so alien that you forget a real human being is playing robot and not the other way around so when the chinks of humanity that Leo is trying  to get Max  to hide from the world seep out, they become glaring, it's a wonderful complex performance!





Niska the blonde bombshell sold into the sex -bot industry finally literally blows a gasket when  asked to play the victim by a pervert who  then becomes the first Synths initiated  homicide of the piece.  Niska has a temper!! Here again the renegades going right against the primary rule that a synth cannot touch without permission.






Not that this seems to be stopping Vera,   the NHS  sanctioned nurse from hell that George has been saddled with, she is perhaps the most frightening of all as her treatment of poor George sends shivers down the spine of anyone with elderly or infirm relatives. To say that this is 1984 kind of a deal is an understatement, she threatens to tell on him for every minor infringement and any kind of reticence or revolt is shut down before it has begun.. If this woman were human we would be reporting her to the health authority, but here she is the authority. Thankfully poor Odie has as yet avoided being found in his hiding place in the shed, but how long can this last?







Things grow ever more dark and complicated as we approach episode three.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Guns and Violence (warning graphic photos included) in the weekly roundup

The Interceptor




It is all about the guns in this week's episode. Ash and the UNIT team get caught up in a shoot out in  Camden Market and an innocent youth gets caught in the crossfire. The resulting plot follows a familiar path. The culprit is not adequately identified by secondary witness and walks free, leaving the dead boy's friend vulnerable to retribution as they seek to scare him into silence by terrorising the family.

Charity  case recruit Tommy proves himself to be every bit as much of a Maverick as best friend Ash, as he uses a Unit intercept to  call the victim who has obtained a "shooter" to seek retribution of his own on those who also set his little brother alight in a arson attempt. Talking the lad down and getting him to retreat without harm to himself or others, the real villain is unmasked as another supposed friend who is making  commission money on every gun sold as a courier. He obtains the gun and in a twist of fate, manages to shoot himself in the face and loses some fingers in the process when the poorly altered replica backfires .




This rather timely plot proves an illustrative cautionary tale for those impressionable youths thinking of picking up criminally altered replicas and hopefully scared a few people enough not to try. The prime demographic of the show, young men after all.

Elsewhere the continuing saga of the Kingpin, played with malice and humour by the ever Brilliant Trevor Eve continues with his two goons Docker and Xavier getting into deeper hock  as he lends them more in a doomed attempt to speculate to accumulate . His slow round at the Golf course proving a wonderful illustration of just what a vindictive person he can be.



We also start to see just why Unit are a law to themselves, they are not much liked by the Police whose hierarchy are sending in surveillance of their own in the form of the motorcycling new beau of female agent Kim,  but this evil plan is thwarted by the inept flirting of obviously infatuated colleague... Whose charm wins her over and she stands the wannabe mole up! I am certain  however  that we will be seeing more of him and his commander handler in the near future.




Again enough to keep me entertained to want me to come back for more.


It is a real shame that

Stonemouth

did not maintain its's promise. I was very disappointed with the second and as it turns out final instalment of the story of Star-crossed lovers Stuart and Ellie. The plot just did not seem to go anywhere particularly, skimming the surface of what  was a great book. Whilst the violent Peril that Stuart found himself in  was thrilling, substance was lacking.


Resolution was too easy and the true architect of the death that brought Stuart "Home" was so strongly hinted at in the early part of the episode, that there was little to really enjoy apart from the tremendous performance of Peter Mullan,Which was one of the few redeeming parts. The other being the sympathetic treatment of the rather sexually ambiguous Ferg, whose part humanised what was really a number of violence tinged set pieces and lifted this episode just into the region of mediocre.