Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Professionals - Heroes s1e5

Heroes tells the story of the £150,000 assassination of a US politician, John Jerry Patterson, better known to us as Mr Waldorf Salad from Fawlty Towers. My comparison, Georgi from Greece in the previous episode is cheap as chips.

Cowley gets Patterson deported, but on the way out of the hotel our incredibly expensive professional assassins miss him with a long range rifle. Inexplicably, rather than racing to the airport and getting him the hell out of there, The Cow takes him to his office for a chat. Cowley hatches a terrible plan to smuggle Patterson in uniform in a bullion van to the airport.

A snitch at the US embassy tells the assassins and they carry out a shotgun slaying in the middle of the day in standstill traffic on a dual carriageway. This is witnessed by a motley collection of the public who all become have-a-go heroes to chase off the killers.

The press are spun the line that it was a robbery-gone-wrong, but that somewhat overlooks the dead American politician and the inevitable questions being asked by the US government. For which one might think Cowley might drop in some hot water.

But no, instead Cowley focuses on catching the killers and lays some bait by announcing that one has been identified, causing them to break cover in order to track down and eliminate all the witnesses. As one of them puts it, "Evidence on film doesn't stand up in court. Some judges won't even allow it." The ring leader, Georgie, with a patchy Scouse accent adds, "Unless backed up by eye-witnesses."

The Scouse stereotype existed in the 70s too... can you spot him?
Evidence on film not standing up in court in 1977 and within fifteen years the UK becomes one of the most CCTV-heavy nations in the world. It's everywhere. I find it creepy that it's now in schools and especially the classroom, conditioning our youth to accept it without question from an early age. Insert comment about everything being carefree and wonderful <back then>, whenever that was. Apart from the chronic disease. And synthetic clothing. A lot of synthetic clothing.

The race is on to protect the witnesses and we're introduced to Tommy Mackie (John Castle), CI5's resident loose cannon. He wears a Guiness t-shirt and hair voluptuous enough to give Doyle's a run for its money. He likes killing people, which Bodie doesn't like and expresses his disapproval repeatedly throughout. But, like any named CI5 agent other than Bodie and Doyle, you can probably guess what's going to happen to him.

Grenade launcher, shotgun and unconvincing reassurance
Cowley does a bit of emoting as various witnesses get picked off, he descends into a depression and sits, motionless, watching his high-tech Sony Betamax video recording of the cine footage and news interviews with the witnesses. We see a more sensitive side to Bodie as he does his best to cheer up The Cow and a slightly more racist side of Doyle as he finds it necessary to beat up a black doorman the minute he opens the door to him. But all is forgiven when they realise he's on their side. And only one snooker-cue induced concussion.

Today much would be made of the "botched police operation"; the principal target was killed, one witness shot at, two dead and another injured. Cowley takes responsibility but there are no consequences, no knee-jerk changes, which perhaps would have made for a more interesting episode, seeing Cowley playing the politics. But all this is glossed over and CI5 live another day. Not much has changed - the police promoted the officer in charge of the de Menezes shooting in 2005 and the shoot-to-kill policy changed its name.

It's a shame Tommy doesn't make it through; I think that having a gallery of CI5 semi-regulars, especially a nut-job like him, would have been interesting, if a little Mission: Impossible in nature. Plus, John Castle has great hair and a great voice.

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