villains

Noon in the Garden of Good and Evil

A meditation on good vs evil in Avengers, focused on a comparison of Steed and Beresford from “Return of the Cybernauts.” This originally appeared on my tumblr blog.


First let’s make a list of characteristics Steed and Beresford have in common. They are:

  • urbane
  • well spoken
  • educated
  • well dressed
  • charismatic
  • masculine
  • financially well off
  • attractive to women
  • intelligent
  • creative
  • masterful
  • calculating
  • loyal
  • willing to kill to protect the people they love (yes, I know Beresford’s brother is already dead, but if Beresford had been there in “Cybernauts” he doubtless would have cheerfully killed both Emma and Steed to protect Anderson.)

So we have these two men who have an awful lot of basically positive characteristics in common, to the point where Emma feels attracted to Beresford even as she is already in a relationship with Steed. But Beresford is evil, and Steed is not. How come?

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Swords! (Or Umbrellas. Or Teapots. Or Fists….)

In “The Thirteenth Hole,” the bad guys are out on the links, pretending that they’re interested in their golf game. When they get to the thirteenth hole, they find an agent snooping around. Reed tells his caddy that he wants his “303” golf club. This turns out to be a rifle, with which Reed shoots and kills the agent.

swordsetc-thirteenthhole-01
Later, when Steed and Mrs Peel are heading out for their final showdown with the villains, Mrs Peel pulls a walking stick out of Steed’s golf bag. Steed says that it’s actually a sword stick, but later when they’re fighting in the villains’ hideout Steed discovers that he brought the wrong stick from home: this one is a plain walking stick, no shiny sharp objects included.

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Very Dangerous: Do Not Handle at All

From her very first introduction in “Town of No Return,” Emma Peel is presented as being both extraordinarily intelligent and a skilled fighter. She draws on these abilities in episode after episode, helping Steed put the bad guys out of business, but it takes a while for them to catch on that she is more than just an adjunct to Steed. This is a shift that can be tracked in two episodes in particular: “Girl from AUNTIE” in Season 4 and “Correct Way to Kill” in Season 5.

When Emma tangles with the baddies, it’s usually under one of the following three rubrics, all of which eventually find their way back to Steed:

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Professional Respect

Steed has many emotional responses to the villains he has to catch. Some of them, like Cartney in “Touch of Brimstone” and the Major in “Danger Makers” he loathes with all his being. Others, like Henry in “How to Succeed at Murder,” he finds pitiable. But for some he has a kind of collegial respect.

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