The Hour 1.03 Review

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Kelvin Green , Paul Brian McCoy
A weekend invite to a shooting party at Hector's in-laws gives Freddie an opportunity to quiz Adam Le Ray on his relationship with Ruth, whilst Hector struggles with his ailing marriage and his growing feelings for Bel. At the office, suspicion about Tom Kish is mounting and Isaac is on the case.

The Hour airs every Tuesday at 9:00 on BBC TWO and stars Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, and Dominic West.

Kelvin Green: Well, after my complaints last time, this episode brought a lot of much-needed focus to the show, I thought.

Paul Brian McCoy: It did. And I am also going to officially stop trying to predict anything.

Kelvin: Yes, I did not see the end coming at all.

Paul: There was very little about this episode that I saw coming; although I should have known what Adam LeRay (Andrew Scott) was all about. Marrying for cover and all that.

Kelvin: I'm not so sure. It's not as if we really saw much of him in the first episode. It was clear that the engagement was false, but not why it was false.

Paul: Yes, but the closeted gay actor in the Fifties was the most obvious way to go with that. Not that it doesn't work, and at the same time raise other questions about his relationship with McCain (Julian Rhind-Tutt).

Kelvin: Yes, I suppose you're right. It hadn't occurred to me though. I assumed it was a typical upper class arranged marriage.

Paul: But we're dealing with The Theatre!

Kelvin: So in this show Andrew Scott is a gay man pretending to be straight, but in Sherlock he was a straight man pretending to be gay. And in the same week, too!

Oh, SPOILERS there, obviously.

Paul: I'd forgotten all about that! I really can't wait for the return of Sherlock.

Kelvin: Me too. After the repeat of the third episode, they said it would be back "next year" but weren't any more specific than that.

Paul: I'm also giving up on trying to figure out when new seasons are going to air on the BBC.

But back to The Hour and its renewed sense of focus...

I really liked the way this whole episode was set up as a series of contrasting examples of Grown-ups Playing Games.

Kelvin: Yes, that was quite clever. I have to say that my interest wandered a bit during all the kisschase stuff at the party, but the parallels between those games and the more serious ones being played by Freddie (Ben Whishaw) were interesting.

As of this episode, Freddie has gone -- for me -- from likeable to actively fascinating.

Paul: And both the kisschase game and Freddie's codebreaking game went from toying with real seriousness to suddenly becoming life-changing. There was also a nice Sex/Death parallelism going on there.

Kelvin: Yes indeed. Even so, I enjoyed the humour in Freddie's stalking of Kish (Burn Gorman). I particularly liked how he had the whole office in on it, even the bespectacled boss, Fendley (Anton Lesser).

Paul: Yes, and once again, Lix (Anna Chancellor) was the only one to sense real danger there.

Kelvin: I'm not sure what they're doing with her, as she seems to have a lot of power and weight for a background character.

Paul: She's the only adult.

Kelvin: That is true.

Paul: Somebody needs to start listening to her when she speaks.

Kelvin: Yes, I wonder if that's going to happen in future episodes, not that we're making predictions or anything.

Paul: I was very surprised by Freddie's approach to Kish. Asking him directly if he killed Ruth and the Professor was a shock. I expected that to play out for at least another episode.

Kelvin: Yes, and not only that, you'd expect Kish to then rough him up, but it was Freddie who took the upper hand.

Paul: "I am not going to die at the office!" That was great.

Kelvin: One wonders if Freddie's "Moneypenny" talk is not just a joke. If he can beat secrets out of a professional assassin, what else can he do?

Paul: Well, he can't get the girl. There's that.

Kelvin: True, unless the last episode is a rain-soaked punch up between him and Hector (Dominic West).

Paul: Ha!

Kelvin: I would say that it isn't that type of show, but who knows anymore?

Paul: I laughed out loud as that final confrontation between Freddie and Kish began. The tense accusations, vein-popping stares, and then bolting for the door!

Kelvin: Yes, and it seemed to take Kish a long time to get down that corridor.

Paul: And the hiding in the bathroom stall was hilarious.

Kelvin: Yes!

Even if he can handle a gun and beat up spies, he's still a bit of a twit.

Paul: Again, it seemed to be Freddie really not taking the whole thing seriously and treating it as some sort of game.

Kelvin: Yes, it all seems to be a dream come true for him; he enjoys the excitement of it all. Just as when he needles people to get reactions out of them. He's a game player.

Although not so much with Bel (Romola Garai).


Paul: Did you notice who Kish's wife was, in the picture in his wallet?

Kelvin: No...

Paul: It was quick, but then they gave it away in the trailer for next week. Jessica (Stevenson) Hynes (Spaced).

Kelvin: Oh, I noticed her in the trailer, yes, but not in the photo. It's always good to see her.

Paul: It's strange casting (for me, anyway). I'm not sure I can see her in a straight dramatic role.

Kelvin: It will be difficult to put Daisy out of mind, but that's the problem with iconic roles, I suppose.

Did you see Son of Rambow? She was good in that, in quite a serious role.

Paul: Yes!

Oh, I know she can do it. It's just weird. Her Doctor Who appearances were similarly off-putting.

Kelvin: Hmm, I didn't have a problem with her in Who.

Paul: I didn't either. It was just weird.

Kelvin: I mean, whenever I see her, I think of Daisy, but it goes away when she's on-screen.

Unless I'm watching Spaced, obviously.

Paul: So do you think The Hour fared better by pretty much ignoring the in-series TV show for this week?

Kelvin: I do.

It seemed to be more interested in the conspiracy, and I enjoyed it more as a result.

There were other moments I liked that weren't related to the espionage plot, like the little ways Hector tried to befriend Freddie, but I didn't miss the behind-the-camera stuff.

Paul: I have to agree that it benefited from not splitting its focus so much, but I did miss the Backstage at the Beeb moments. Although we did get a touch of that with the production of "The Man Who Knew".

Kelvin: Yes, true.

Paul: Nice touch with that title, too.

Kelvin: Yes indeed!

I kept waiting for them to flag it up, and I'm glad they didn't. It's a nice parallel to the "He Knows" note.

Paul: And the parallels with the character in the production killing his attempted assassin.

Kelvin: Yes, it really is quite clever at times, albeit in a rather arch way.

Paul: Structurally there's a lot of really good work going on all the time. It's got good bones.

Kelvin: Yes it has, and it makes me wonder if the reason I'm not enjoying aspects of it is because I haven't perceived those bones yet.

It means I'm giving the show more benefit of the doubt.

Paul: The only structural thing about it that kind of bothers me is the way they move forward in time from week to week.

A lot more time seems to be passing than feels right.

Kelvin: Yes, it doesn't seem as if Freddie's investigations go anywhere in the intervening time, as if he just forgets about them for days.

It is a bit weird.

Who knows, maybe they're going somewhere with that too.

Paul: Right. Freddie's the only one who doesn't seem to be doing anything in between episodes, while time continues to pass for the other characters.

Kelvin: Given that he's got a personal stake in it all, it's strange.

Maybe he spends the week beating up assassins but we just don't see it.

Paul: It's like the pacing of those three narrative threads is being fudged so that political, the BBC, and Freddie's conspiracy hunt can all line up in the end.

Kelvin: Yes, all in a nice neat bow, even if it doesn't make much sense getting there.

Paul: I'm also finding it very intriguing how Hector's social circle seems to be intimately tied to the political conspiracy narrative thread. We knew he got the job through family connections, but to have Ruth's death vaguely tied to him this way raises some interesting questions.

McCain and LeRay are regulars at Marnie's (Oona Chaplin) parents estate, and Hector is very familiar with them both.

Kelvin: Yes, and why was McCain involved in arranging a marriage for an actor?

Paul: Exactly.

Kelvin: It's all very complex and, er, wormy.

What's interesting is that McCain doesn't seem to have been associated with the spy stuff yet, except indirectly. When you'd think that would be exactly what he'd be all over.

Paul: I hadn't thought of that.

Kelvin: He's a government minister, and he's forcing an actor into an arranged marriage, but he's nowhere to be seen when spies start dying. Very interesting.

Paul: And then there’s the "A girl in trouble" revelation.

Kelvin: I did like how Freddie was unaware of what that meant. Again showing that he's not the big man he tries to be.

Paul: I got the feeling he was more sounding that out, playing with other interpretations in his head.

Kelvin: Well, he does say to Bel at one point "In trouble? Doesn't that mean pregnant?" or something along those lines.

Paul: That's what makes me curious.

A girl in trouble.

An arranged marriage for cover.

“He knows.”

Two people murdered.

Kelvin: Yes, McCain could be just saving the embarrassment of a Lord's daughter at being an unmarried mother, but that seems too hands on, even for him.

And of course, if Ruth (Vanessa Kirby) was pregnant -- although wouldn't that have been mentioned? -- who's the father?

Paul: And now we throw "Revert to Brightstone” into the mix.

Kelvin: And Kish said "not 'what' but 'who' is Brightstone.

Paul: All of this around the time of the Suez crisis.

Kelvin: Yes, and a vote on hanging.

And a weak Prime Minister

Paul: Oh yeah.

Kelvin: It's quite the interesting tangle.

Paul: I must say, I'm getting more and more intrigued as each week passes. So much so that it feels like we're closer to the end than we are. At the halfway point, things are looking very good.

Kelvin: Yes, it's very juicy and complex already. So I hope they can keep it up.

Paul: Me too. I suppose that's the benefit of having one writer in charge of everything.

Kelvin: Yes indeed, although even then it seemed to lack focus. Now it has a bit more shape to it.

Paul: Ah, according to Wikipedia, Abi Morgan is a playwright first and foremost, with this being her first continuing series. And the show has already been commissioned for a second season.

Kelvin: Oh, now that's interesting.

Paul: Oh! And she's the writer of the upcoming The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep as Thatcher.

Kelvin: Yes indeed. That's going to be an interesting film.

Paul: From the director of Mamma Mia! comes The Iron Lady!!!

Kelvin: Yeeeeessss...

I'm really not sure what to make of it, as Thatcher's not a well-liked personality at all, but the film seems to be something of a celebration.

Oh well, we'll see.

Paul: Should be interesting.

So how do you score this episode?

Kelvin: I'll give it , but a proper four, not the lily-livered and non-committal four I gave it last time.

You gave last week's episode four bullets, and were more confident about it than me. How about this one?

Paul: Another solid episode, I agree.

Kelvin: It's won me over, although it took long enough, and I'm now looking forward to next week's episode.

Paul: I'm curious to see how Freddie explains the dead body in the stairwell.

Kelvin: Yes, although it may be another One Week Later thing, and we won't see the police interviews and so on.

I'm thinking it likely.

Paul: I fully expect that to be the case.

Be sure to check out our previous reviews of The Hour:

Episode 1.01!

Episode 1.02!

Kelvin Green erupted fully formed from the grey shapeless mass of Ubbo Sathla in the dark days before humans walked the earth. He grew up on Judge Dredd, Transformers, Indiana Jones #12, the Avengers and Spider-Man, and thinks comics don't get much better than FLCL, Nextwave and Rocket Raccoon. Kelvin lives among garbage and seagulls and doesn't hate Marvel nearly as much as you all think he does.

Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. He currently has little spare time, but in what there is he continues to work on his first novel, tentatively titled Damaged Incorporated. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, sci-fi television, the original Deathlok, Nick Fury, and John Constantine. He can be summed up in three words: Postmodern Anarchist Misanthropy. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.

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