[“Dead Men are Dangerous”]
A few days back I talked about a bad episode I secretly like (“Gnaws”). This is a good episode I secretly don’t like.
Oh, it’s well put together, and we get a lot of Steed, and we get some good interplay between our Intrepid Heroes, et cetera, et cetera … but it’s so depressing. This is probably one of the grimmest Avengers episodes ever. You can like and respect something a great deal and still not want to rewatch it because you know it’s going to be such a downer.
While we get a lot of insight into Steed in this one, it could not be said that he comes off well for it, at least not in my eyes. He begins the episode by twitting Gambit over class (again!), and he demonstrates several times that he’s not actually the least bit remorseful about being better at Mark than everything, not to mention stealing his date! We hear a lot about how competitive Mark is, but what goes unsaid is the demonstration of how competitive Steed is. He hates to lose even more than Mark does. The revelation that Steed let Mark get away with cheating in order to make him feel better doesn’t help much. It feels more like noblesse oblige than compassion.
That said, we do also see Steed’s better side, which tends to surface in adversity, such as his line to Purdey when his house is vandalized (above).
I also have a problem with Clive Revill’s delivery and pacing, which often brings the whole thing to a stop while we have to listen to him rant endlessly through clenched teeth about how put-upon he is. Yes, yes, we get it.
Gabrielle “Angora” Drake tested to play both Emma Peel and Tara King. It is nice to see her again. Based on her banter with Gambit here she might have made an interesting, somewhat Gale-ish Tara.
Predictably, I have a long response to this. First, damn Steed looks sexy in these caps!
I very much agree that this is a grim episode and it’s one that I don’t come back to very often for just that reason - though my issues are more because I get tired of TNA’s persistent obsession with how to make Steed suffer this week.
I agree that we see how competitive Steed was and is, but I’m not certain why he should feel badly about that. It’s quite obvious that he didn’t do it just to show up Mark or make him feel like a failure, that he’s never tried to be a bad friend or torture Mark for the sake of torturing him - he’s simply good at what he does and that drives Mark crazy, to the degree that Mark betrays his country and tries to destroy everything that Steed loves. Maybe Steed was a bit of a jerk as a boy/young man, but it hardly justifies Mark’s persistent inferiority complex and violent hatred of him - it never seems that Steed bullied him or treated him badly. His crime was being good at something. The destruction of Steed’s trophies shows both Mark’s childish hatred and the fact that Steed does care about those things (even though he tries not to), because they were memories of a happy past for him. The fact that Steed isn’t a perfect person only makes him more sympathetic, though I’ve never been bothered by the little ribbing that Gambit has to take. He’s a grown boy.
What I like in this episode is Steed’s evident dedication to his friends, especially Purdey, and even to Mark, a man who by all rights he should hate. It’s a chance for Macnee to play things very seriously, and he does it well. He’s no longer playing second fiddle to the young ‘uns, he doesn’t have to sit around making phone calls while Gambit kicks down doors, he actually does something and he does it, once more, for the people that he cares about. If anything, it showcases Steed’s understanding of himself as a man who has become isolated, who has lived a life where he has lost friends and even been forced to knock off a few, who has learned not to attach too much importance to things but who still feels a sentimental connection to his past. Mark can only attach true importance to symbols, not to real people or to real experiences - his only victories are because he beat someone. Steed’s victory ultimately lies in his relationships, and it drives Mark crazy that he can’t destroy that or even understand it.