The scene is set with a wonderful view of the old Bull Ring market complex - with the moving sign on the side of St Martin's house set to give the title of the programme. Perhaps I'd better get the local colour out of the way now, since I realise that the majority of my readers live very far away from here. It is interesting that the scenes of Birmingham used in the show are actually of the very modern, futuristic Birmingham of the 1960s, which was created by the council getting a lot of compulsory purchase order and demolishing everything in sight. It is also interesting that virtually all of the street scenes shown in this show are now gone. Fifty years later, the only thing that remains is one wall Marker walks along. My point here is that the heady futuristic dream of the sixties has largely bitten the dust.
One of the things which made me think about this episode is that I have been watching the second series of Peaky Blinders. I was wildly critical of the first series, but had heard that the second was better. Accent-wise, it is certainly better (you would think the first series was set in Liverpool), but I would have to say that coming to this from Peaky Blinders, I'm feeling bad at having even the slightest criticism of the accents. The episode begins marvellously with Marker trying to find an office to rent from Souter, an estate agent. His accent is ever so slightly overdone, but nonetheless is about as spot on as you're going to get on television, and serves to set the scene that Marker has definitely arrived in Birmingham. The best accent is actually the school teacher later on in the episode.
Local colour over, this situation is exactly the kind of outsider situation which Marker is so used to. He manages to get a run-down office and is essentially in business. Of course it only takes one phone call for him to get his first case and off he goes to see Mrs Jessup, around whom this case revolves. QUite literally revolves, because the whole point of this case it that it is something of a wild goose chase and Mrs Jessup is not quite what she seems to be. In fact she really isn't what she seems to be, because - look away if you don't want the story spoiled - it is really unexpected when she is seen with her toy boy later in the episode. The fact that Marker asks the young man is he is above the age of consent, moves Mrs Jessup into a category which is genuinely unexpected. The real nature of her search is very well hidden from the viewer until almost the end, making this episode a real surprise.
This episode shows the leg work of the private eye very well. Marker quite literally gets through shoe leather finding Mr Jessup, and many of the locations which are mentioned are real places, giving an extra sense of veracity to the viewer.
There is, however, one thing wrong with this episode, which must be ignored if you want to enjoy it. When she tells him that her husband has disappeared, this is merely stated as a statement of fact, and that is what is wrong with this one. People don't just vanish, without argument, without warning. If they do, their nearest and dearest have a habit of ringing the police. Marker's suspicions as to Mrs Jessup should have been aroused at the first interview, and he would have asked her what had happened to make him just vanish. I also have a feeling that Marker would have not hesitated to point out that usually if a man doesn't contact his wife the reason is an obvious one.
The oft-repeated situation of Marker having the wool pulled over his eyes and used, is opposed to the strong educational background to this episode, with its concurrent background of art and culture. The contrast is between the instilling of learning and the deceit of Marker. In fact the whole point of this episode is one of deceit: when Marker does track down Mr Jessup (I'll call him that for the sake of tidiness), it turns out that the wool has also been pulled over our eyes about his relationship.
A further contrast is between the go-ahead modernism of sixties Brum, which doesn't sit at all well with some of the squalor shown in the suburbs, and Jessup's landlady's old-fashioned shock at having an unmarried couple living in her house. Visually, this show is marvellous. The interior scenes are wonderful, and I love Donald Jessup's bohemian flat. Both visually and plot-wise, this Private Eye maintains interest to the very end.
I like Pauline Delaney in this one a lot. Far from the stable support character to Marker who she plays in later series, she is a far more louche character. I love the dramatic character she plays here: she overdoes it marvellously. And of course she is set up in the plot to be the person you end up disliking most. Marker winds up with his usual role of being the person who does what is right - in this case by not cashing Mrs Jessup's cheque so that he can prove what she is up to.
And that is the reason this Public Eye works so well - it is a plot calculated to work well with Marker's character. I would recommend it to any viewer.