Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Avengers: Man With Two Shadows

I can no longer put off writing about this episode, because a recent post in which I commented on Mrs gales underwear was very popular indeed, and I can only say that I must have managed to miss the shot seen in which Mrs Gale is in her underwear in this episode! This will however be an equal opportunities underwear episode.
Actually in all seriousness in wanting to write about this episode but have been putting it off because I didn't want to sound uncritical, so I've had a good heart think and will post what I suppose is the obvious criticism of this episode.
You see the trouble is that I actually think it is superb! Regular readers will know that I am not usually slow to criticise these shows, but this Avengers episodes somehow manages to be visually superb, genuinely mystifying, have great actors, and only suffer from the slight shortcoming that the plot is about as implausible as you could wish to get!
Come to think of it perhaps that isn't really a short coming in an Avengers episode, perhaps it is merely a foresight art what is coming later in the series. Nonetheless if you are watching this as a more mainstream espionage show you do genuinely have to suspend disbelief, to accept the plot of complete doubles of people. This class device is also used elsewhere in the show, but in a series 3 episode can seem somewhat futuristic.
The actors rightly play it completely straight faced, which must have required some discipline. The character of Borowski, who has been brainwashed and given several different personalities - this drawing on the source of fear of psychology which was popular at the time, and which we see later expressed in The Prisoner - particularly effective. I suppose that steed is exactly the sort of person who would have ended up in the village if he had failed to cooperate with his master's, and we see clearly in this episode that he is completely disposable to them. If there is the slightest doubt that he is not the real thing then he must be killed. The underlying fear in this episode is one which recurs in the television of this time, human life was made cheat by technology, in this case the technology which could reproduce people and give people different personalities.
Visually the episode is also excellent, and the effective scenes of Mrs gales apartment and the interrogation room are with the more pedestrian scenes in the holiday camp. The episode therefore rightly depicts the ropiness of many of the holiday camps of this time.
There are some familiar faces among the actors, but not jarringly so in my humble opinion.
A further criticism I have that this episode is perhaps the one which makes most explicit possibility that Mrs Gail and Steed are an item, at least the opposition thinks they are, which isn't an unnatural conclusion to jump to, their behaviour together also suggests this possibility. Regular readers will know that I prefer the theory that there was a sexual tension between steed and his partners, but that's nothing actually happened. To me steed is the consummate professional, and in the nature of things would have remained aware of any sexual dynamic not actually crossed over into a relationship.
Despite this, this episode is rather sexy. Mrs Gail is not ashamed to have Steed see her in her underwear, and I suspect that it would have been considered quite racy underwear at the time! We see from Steed's expression that he is clearly appreciative of this, but it is not usual between them, so either Mrs Gale is painted as the uninhibited one, or possibly Steed is a bit of a prude. This is exactly the sort of situation which has giving rise to so much discussion over the years. Incidentally the underpants we see in the opening scene a man being shot by himself, seem to be the long-defunct X-Fronts made by a company called Wolsey in Direct competition with the more familiar y-fronts (and in what looks like a very fetching leopard pattern as well)! I wonder if they considered z fronts or w fronts as possibilities...
Besides we also see indications of what Steed would later become. Despite being painted as the total professional, in this episode as in later episodes, when challenged to prove that he is who he says he is, he becomes flippant and completely fails to come up with the goods. This is a bit different from the earliest Steed, who is a rather dodgy character who just appears out of nowhere now and then, and has much more in common with the flamboyant Playboy of later years.
My personal conclusion about this one is that it's over-complicated: there is a part in the middle where you lose touch of who anybody is and everybody wants everybody else dead! It is only after writing this I have listened to the DVD commentary in which Jas Wiseman comments that this episode may have been influential on The Prisoner, and I'm very chuffed that I also thought of that!

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