Themed Blog Series

05

The Exclusivity Arc

Introduction and Overview

The first extended blog series that I attempted when I started writing about The Avengers had to do with my perceptions of the arc of Steed and Mrs Peel’s relationship over the course of the entirety of Season 4. I’m republishing it here, since bits of it connect with new stuff I’m doing, and other bits of it might do so in future. As with the Medieval Maunderings series, I’m reposting here with some light edits that will remain unacknowledged.

There originally were nine parts to this (all of which have titles and subtitles taken from fencing terminology, in honor of the way Mrs Peel is introduced to the audience), to which I tacked on some addenda, and you can get to all of those by following the links below, by scrolling through the posts on my homepage, or by clicking on “Exclusivity Arc” under “Themed Blog Series” in the “Categories” menu.

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The Exclusivity Arc


  Table of Contents 
Introduction and Overview
Part I  ♦  Part II  ♦  Part III 
 Addenda 

Small Hints of Bigger Problems?
Bonus Feature: Structures Across Season 4

PART I

En garde, prêts, allez!

»  The command sequence that begins a fencing match: on guard, ready, go!

exclusivity.01.townofnoreturn.01Steed and Mrs Peel face off with foil and umbrella

When we first meet Mrs Emma Peel (“Town of No Return”), she is in her apartment, practicing her fencing moves. She invites Steed in, and they begin a conversation that is a mixture of an invitation to take coffee, a challenge to a duel, and double entendre. We learn a lot about Mrs. Peel as an individual in her opening scene with Steed. She’s athletic and a skilled fencer who can give Steed a run for his money; she’s intelligent, has scientific training, and is sufficiently active and respected in her field to have publications in journals; she stands up for herself when challenged; and she has a sharp, wry sense of humor.

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The Exclusivity Arc


Table of Contents
Introduction and Overview
Part IPart IIPart III
Addenda

Small Hints of Bigger Problems?
Bonus Feature: Structures Across Season 4

 

PART II

Pas de touche, touché

»  ”No touch” and “touch” respectively. The first means that no point has been scored; the second indicates a scoring attack.

“Too Many Christmas Trees” is is the first episode to deal directly with the question of infidelity vs exclusivity in the relationship between Emma and Steed. It contains several scenes that hint towards Steed’s relationships with other women, and Emma’s first direct expressions of jealousy and mate guarding. As fellow tumblr celluloidbroomcloset has stated elsewhere, “Trees” is a watershed episode in the arc of the relationship between these two characters.

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The Exclusivity Arc


NOTE: As with Part II, this section has also received some substantial revision based on the change in my understanding of what actually happens with the blonde and why in TMCT. If you want to read the original version, please start here and follow the links to the end.

Table of Contents
Introduction and Overview
Part IPart IIPart III
Addenda

Small Hints of Bigger Problems?
Bonus Feature: Structures Across Season 4

 

PART III

Changement d’engagement

»  Eng. change of engagement: often a kind of jockeying for position in which one fencer will attempt to place their blade on the side of the opponent’s that they think will give them the most advantage.

If the first half of Season 4 is the arc that brings Steed and Mrs. Peel from what might be an initially non-exclusive relationship to one with an expectation of mutual fidelity, then the second half of the season shows the growth in that relationship as well as sparring back and forth over fidelity—or at least what seems on the surface to be expressions of jealousy. In the first eight episodes of that part of the season, Steed’s apparent interest in other women will get Emma’s dander up, and Emma will wave her apparent interest in other men at Steed to get back at him for what happened at Storey’s house. Therefore, throughout the second half of Season 4, we have a metaphorical fencing match over sexual matters that is a varied reprise of the literal one in “Town of No Return,” except that the stakes now are whether Steed and Emma will be able to trust one other, not the outcome of friendly swordplay and a cup of coffee with cream.

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Small Hints of Bigger Problems?


Table of Contents
Introduction and Overview
Part IPart IIPart III
Addenda

Small Hints of Bigger Problems?
Bonus Feature: Structures Across Season 4

 

I hadn’t really dealt with “Small Game for Big Hunters” in the original arc, but at fellow tumblr celluloidbroomcloset’s request I took another look at it. Herewith the results of those ruminations.

Part the First

exclusivity.smallgame.01The opening scenes of the episode suggest a certain amount of distance between Steed and Emma. They don’t arrive on the case together. We know Steed is already there, since his Bentley is parked outside. Emma arrives later, presumably after having been summoned by Steed. Her expression is neutral as she parks the car. She seems neither particularly pleased nor particularly displeased to be there.

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The Exclusivity Arc: Bonus Feature


Table of Contents
Introduction and Overview
Part IPart IIPart III
Addenda

Small Hints of Bigger Problems?
Bonus Feature: Structures Across Season 4

Structures Across Season 4

One of the most intriguing things about Season 4 is the set of reciprocal structures in salient events, turning points, and position within the season with respect to the arc of Emma and Steed’s relationship. We find that events in the first half of the season often have their mirror opposites in the second half, and that structural points such as beginnings, middles, and ends across the season often correspond to important structural points within the arc.

I’m not sure whether this was something intentional on the part of the writers and producers, but even if it’s entirely coincidental it still makes for some interesting patterns across the season.

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Cunning Old Foxes IV: Hiding in Plain Sight

But famed Odysseus’ men already crouched in hiding —
in the heart of Troy’s assembly — dark in that horse
the Trojans dragged themselves to the city heights.
Now it stood there, looming …
— Homer, The Odyssey, trans. Robert Fagles

Another in an occasional series about Steed as trickster.


Going under cover is one of the most important things that Steed does in his quest to capture the bad guys. Sometimes he goes under relatively deep cover, assuming an entire identity complete with back story and profession, sometimes even with an assumed name. He does this kind of cover most frequently during the Cathy Gale era, for example in “Death a la Carte,” where he poses as chef Sebastian Stonemarten in order to prevent the assassination of a Middle Eastern Emir, or in “Mission to Montreal,” where he pretends to be a steward called “Jim” on a cruise line while trying to stop the transfer of top secret material to the opposition. Most of the time, however, he goes under his own name, even if he is pretending to be something other than an agent of the Ministry, as he does in “Surfeit of H2O,” where he assumes the persona of a loopy, extravagantly gallant wine merchant in order to gain access to the baddies’ lair.

In cases like “Death a la Carte,” Steed doesn’t want to give away anything about his own true identity. Protecting the Emir depends on Steed staying well under cover, so he uses an assumed name and behaves entirely as though he were a normal chef. In other instances, as in “Surfeit of H2O,” it’s unclear the degree to which he wants to misdirect the baddies: his behavior in that particular instance is odd enough to make the secretary a bit suspicious, but it’s hard to tell whether or not Steed wants her to wonder what he’s really up to.

And then there are the episodes where he is working in a grey area between being under cover and tipping off the bad guys that he’s on to them, places where he hides in plain sight. Steed seems to have more than one reason for doing this: partly it’s just fun to tweak the villains’ noses and watch them flail as they try to figure out what he’s really after; but also he’s dropping hints along the way that he’s on to them, that their schemes are about to be exposed, thus giving them an opportunity to stop their bad activities and turn themselves in before he has to actively fight with them. Of course they never do stop, they never do turn themselves in, and I doubt very much that Steed expects them to even if on some level he hopes that they will.

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