the avengers

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 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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Courage, Virtue, and Woundedness in “The Danger Makers”


Content notice for discussion and analysis of ableist themes and disabled-as-villain tropes


Here I am bouncing off celluloidbroomcloset’s idea about a blocking of Steed and the Major with a statue of Wellington, and what that shows about their relative personalities.

Harold Long, aka “Apollo,” is an evil psychiatrist who has gathered around him a group of military men who feel that peacetime is bunk and that their lives are insufficiently action-packed. Long has discovered that these men have a kind of physical and mental addiction to danger and violence, so he gets the men to perform random stunts in order to satisfy their craving and to prove their bravery to themselves and to each other. Long also plans daring crimes for them to execute. And the penalty for cowardice or failure? Death.

But after a highly decorated, well-respected general plays chicken with a moving lorry and loses, another officer drowns trying to cross the Atlantic in a canoe, and the serious injury of yet another officer who falls while trying to climb the side of St Paul’s, Steed and Mrs Peel are brought in by the War Office to find out what the heck is going on and to put a stop to it if they can.

In an earlier post, I dealt with issues of gender and combat roles for Steed and Mrs Peel, including an extended discussion of how those things play out in “The Danger Makers” in particular. Here I want to discuss a different aspect of that episode, the depiction of the contrast between the true courage and moral virtue of Steed and Mrs Peel on the one hand, and the depravity of the Danger Makers on the other.

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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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The Westminster Mews Irregulars

One of the cool things about the Season 3 episode “November Five” is Steed’s little pair of Irregulars. Evidently he has recruited these two old ladies to shuffle around the Houses of Parliament and scoop up information for him. They make perfect spies: nobody will ever suspect a pair of sweet old ladies of being up to something.

When we first see Steed, he is hanging out in the Houses of Parliament, waiting to talk to an MP, Major Swinburne, who is a suspect in the case he’s working. The two little old ladies walk up to him and start a cheerful conversation, asking Steed if he is an MP himself. They exchange some banter about this. Then the man Steed has been waiting for shows up, and the women make themselves scarce.

Once the MP is gone, the ladies come back for further instructions, the whole time gushing about how cool it is to be visiting Parliament. Then Steed goes all serious. “Follow the Major,” he tells them, and off they go to tail the guy Steed talked to earlier. So now we know that they’re more than just two voluble old women: they’re working for Steed.

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L: The little old ladies mistake Steed for an MP. They have a nice chat.
R: After Steed talks to the Major, he tells his Irregulars, “Follow him.”

Later, the women find Steed again, this time on the terrace. They have more conversation about how wonderful Parliament is. And the taller woman shakes hands with Steed before she and her friend leave. This wasn’t a benign little handshake as among friends, though. The woman has passed Steed a note with important information on it.

avengers-unsorted-caps2017-10-23-22h41m42s615  avengers-unsorted-caps2017-10-23-22h41m44s726
L: One of the women shakes hands with Steed as she and her friend are leaving.
R: Once they’re gone, Steed reads the note the woman passed him.

This is the only episode that I can recall where Steed actively employs Irregulars a la Sherlock Holmes. It’s rather sweet how he plays spymaster to these women, and how well and enthusiastically they play their role in the case.


Originally published at sparklywaistcoat.tumblr.com

“Warlock” as Steed and Cathy Gale’s First Case

In the Season 2 episode “Warlock,” Steed has to track down the person who murdered Peter Neville, an important British scientist who was working on a top-secret formula, and who also later murders Mrs Dunning, Neville’s housekeeper. With the help of Cathy Gale, Steed discovers that Neville was involved with a black magic circle, and that the members of this circle are implicated in his murder, having been hired by an enemy agent to use occult means to coerce Neville into handing over the formula to the opposition.

This episode was first broadcast in the second half of Season 2 (it’s the eighteenth episode, out of 26, and the twelfth to feature Mrs Gale), although it was originally intended to be the first of the Cathy Gale stories.* Even though it was reworked to function as a later case and appears later in the lineup, it still makes more sense if “Warlock” is construed as Steed and Cathy’s first case rather than one that comes later in their partnership, especially much later. In “Warlock,” they’re clearly still getting to know one another: Steed really has absolutely no idea what to do with Mrs Gale, who is unlike any other woman he’s ever met, and she is herself still trying to decide whether she likes working with Steed or not.

*Thanks to celluloidbroomcloset.tumblr.com for bringing this to my attention.

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