A clever piece of plotting trickery leaves the audience in suspense within minutes as we open on a murder scene; it is soon revealed that we’re just part of the audience watching Adam Le Ray (Ruth Elms’ fiancee) acting in a play. Bel is keen to point out that Le Ray doesn’t appear to be readily in mourning, though he does seem to be taken with drink – the textbook behaviour of a tragic and emotionally repressed figure in television drama. This one ain’t gonna be a picnic.
Tension is gathering between pretty much any pair of characters at the moment, with Le Ray and McCain hiding a secret, Mrs. Madden making bitchy remarks to Bel, and Freddie furious at the lack of screen time for his Lord Elms exclusive, which he insists is ‘censorship’ that Bel has unleashed by covering it up. All of this comes to the fore as we head to the countryside for a weekend hosted by the Maddens in a country pile. Fortunately for Freddie, the isolation is good for allowing plenty of code-breaking thinking time, though before long he is rushed back to London when a family emergency occurs, deliberately designed to invoke his rage…
What I loved: When the office assistant Sissy taught Freddie that symmetrical faces equate to beauty. He then spots such symmetry in Bel’s face (aaah…).
What I hated: The predictability of Hector and Bel’s romance.
Quote of the episode: “We just obey these ridiculous rules, cos Christ help us if we don’t,” (Hector on the formal dressing of his class).
Dealing with the aftermath of Episode 3’s explosive ending (which I won’t spoil), there is a feeling of unease in the BBC offices of The Hour. Sissy is convinced that the phone lines have been bugged, Clarence (the big boss, who is remarkably not very memorable in appearance) is frustrated with the pressure on his team by the government, and Freddie is still consumed by his conspiracy theories – to the point where he forgets his own birthday.
The Hector-Bel affair is in full swing and the duo are playing with fire when they’re not producing top class footage for their news program. Freddie is sobered by the news of their dalliance, though he does share a great scene with Bel where they joke about their imaginary marriage and children. After spotting lipstick on her husband’s neck last week, Mrs. Madden is increasingly aware of the threat that Bel presents to her stability and family life, though she is also worried about the scandal of Adam Le Ray’s arrest for indecent public acts in a toilet (you can work that one out for yourself). With blinding ignorance, she panics aloud about the potentially contagious nature of homosexuality – “Thank goodness our children hadn’t sat down with him!”. In fairness to her, anything other than straight orientation was fairly taboo at the time, but there is still a chasm between her overblown reaction and that of her husband. Meanwhile her parents entirely ignore the topic when it is brought up in conversation. I’m guessing they’re not liberally-minded, then.
As Freddie inches closer to working out Mr. Kish’s place in the wider spy network, he also has to question the allegiance of others. Clarence tells him that someone in the BBC is a Soviet Agent, though this episode does not reveal their identity; we can possibly rule out Lix, as she lets her hair down and seems to have much more hedonistic concerns in mind, dragging Freddie along with her.
What I loved: Jessica Hynes as Mrs. Kish and Juliet Stevenson as Lady Elms. Girls with great roles.
What I hated: The awkwardness of Freddie settling for second best in the romance stakes, especially when his heart and head are clearly not in it. You just know it’s going to get messy.
Quote of the episode: “Thinking never helped anyone, Frederick,” (Lady Elms).