Analysis of a Scene XXXI: Chisholm Gets Heavy On a Grass

A very scary Chisholm.

DS Chisholm is generally a dour, albeit witty, copper with an unhealthy Quixotic obsession with nabbing Arthur Daley.  But, sometimes, he bucks that trend and displays a more confident outlook.  In this beautifully shot scene from Minder S04E10 “Get Daley!”  (recap here) he menaces an informant named Dermott, or DerMOTT as Chisholm says it.  Dermott may have information concerning a possible manslaughter case, and it is up to Chisholm to find out.

RF:  It’s a lot of fun (and a bit scary) to see a much more confident Chisholm in action.  This version of Chisholm would nail Arthur Daley within a week and be onto his next promotion in a month.

“Out back, now.”

Admin:  It is the alt-verse Chisholm 😀

Dermott is enjoying a drink at the bar when Chisholm approaches.
Chisholm: [grabbing Dermott’s arm] Out back, now!
Dermott: Please, Mr. Chisholm, not here.
Chisholm: Be a good boy, Dermott.
Dermott: [sighs]
[back alley door flings open and Dermott is shoved unceremoniously outside]
Dermott: Bleedin’ hell, Mr. Chisholm, this is me local.
Chisholm: Oh, in which case let me congratulate you on your exquisite taste.
Dermott: Ahhh, do me a favor, will ya’.

Chisholm: “Oh, in which case let me congratulate you on your exquisite taste.”

Admin:  Chisholm’s initial appearance as he calmly slides silently up to Dermott is pretty much quintessential Chisholm, but everything after that is more intense.  He is far more intimidating than what we are used to. The way the door flings open as Dermott is shoved through is exactly what you’d expect to see in far grittier, hyper violent crime dramas.   The whole set-up has its own unique feel that seems out of the ordinary for Minder.

RF:  I like how Chisholm sidles up to Dermott soundlessly and Dermott isn’t aware of his presence until it’s far too late.  Obviously Chisholm has perfected the technique of buttonholing people who otherwise wouldn’t want to talk or even be seen with him.  He has a very predatory air to him as he stalks in, which continues as he talks to Dermott out in the alley.

A door suddenly crashes open into a back alley.

RF:  Agreed that the door being flung open and Dermott being shoved through it is very unlike what we’d normally expect from Chisholm.  Are we suddenly in “The Sweeney“??  😀 I like Chisholm’s line congratulating Dermott on his “exquisite taste”, especially since we know he’s had to prowl around some very unsavoury places (like the Winchester) in the course of his job, and he has definite opinions on their usual inhabitants.

Admin:  Yeah, I love the predatory stalking quality.  Of course, the stoat-like sneaking is very typical of Chisholm.   You’re right about it suddenly turning into “The Sweeney” when Dermott goes tumbling into the alley.

“Now look here, DerMOTT, my hairy friend, this is very important.”

Chisholm:  Now look here, DerMOTT, my hairy friend this is very important. In fact, if I suspect you are withholding information, I’m going to take you around to the saloon bar and introduce you as my best snout, [Dermott gasps with fear] and we’ll poodle over to your drum and find out what you’re smoking these days.
Dermott: Yeah, alright. But I’m not promising anything, right?

Admin:  Dermott’s little moment of bravado with “do me a favor” quickly fades as Chisholm instantly starts walking towards him, pushing him further and further into the alley.  The lights and shadows flicker and fade across Chisholm’s face and would fit in with a film noir.  Chisholm is his usual wry self with the sarcasm and Cockney slang  but this time with added aggression.  He literally threatens to expose Dermott as an informant which would end very badly for Dermott.  Would Chisholm actually do that?  I hope not even though Dermott is a low-life.  Dermott is spooked though.  I like Chisholm referring to Dermott as his “hairy little friend” because it reinforces the notion that Chisholm is well and truly stuck in the ’50s.

“In fact, if I suspect you are withholding information, I’m going to take you around to the saloon bar and introduce you as my best snout…”

RF:  Yes, the lighting in this scene is absolutely marvelous, giving Mr. Malahide a distinct (and highly unusual, for Chisholm) air of menace as he backs Dermott down the alley.  The dark shadows playing over his face make it a little hard to read his expression, which just adds to his air of unpredictability and intimidation.  I don’t think Jones would recognize his guv.  I’m pretty sure his threat to expose Dermott is a bluff, since he’d no longer have Dermott’s services as a grass if he did that, but it’s certainly an effective one.  Dermott seems to absolutely believe that Chisholm would do it.

Admin:   Dermott is practically squeaking with fear.  You’re right, Chisholm never seems to act this way around Jones.  I adore Jones with his calming presence, but I really would have liked to have seen a wee bit more of this sort of solo Chisholm.

“Joe Harrison.”

Chisholm: Joe Harrison. [Dermott becomes more alert] Oh, you’ve heard about him, have you?
Dermott: Yes, funny that. I heard a whisper about him today.
Chisholm: What, Dermott?
Dermott: I don’t know.  Something about some bother he had. Somebody let off a gun.
Chisholm: Let off a gun?
Dermott: Yeah.

“Oh? You’ve heard about him, have you?”

Admin:  Chisholm calms briefly before asking about Joe Harrison, but when Dermott’s face registers recognition Chisholm immediately lunges forward, “Oh, you’ve heard about him,” thrusting Dermott back once again.  Honestly, you can practically feel the sensation of Chisholm’s breath on Dermott’s face.   Fortunately for Dermott, I’m sure Chisholm has far fresher breath than most Minder cast members. 😉

RF:  Chisholm raises his voice and adds to the intensity when Harrison’s name is mentioned, and Dermott seems genuinely afraid of him.  Mind you, being trapped with an angry Chisholm in a deserted alley should be enough to terrify almost anyone.  😉

Admin:  Yeah, when he says “Joe Harrison” you know that Chisholm just wants to get to get to business right away.  He doesn’t actually enjoy hanging around a manky alley with an equally manky Dermott.

Chisholm: Guess what.  He dropped dead. Heart attack.
Dermott: Wow.
Chisholm: What a way with words you have, Dermott. [Dermott gives a nervous chuckle/gasp]

Dermott: “Wow.” Chisholm: “What a way with words you have, Dermott.”

Admin:  Chisholm is aggressive and scary as he forces Dermott further and further into the back of the alley, but it is tempered with his sarcastic sense of humour.  I’ve got to say, Dermott isn’t exactly the most articulate guy on the patch, so Chisholm’s wry observation is spot on.  Arthur Daley may have his malapropisms, but he still has a keen knack with words.  Dermott comes across as pathetic, and Chisholm lets him know it.

RF:  Chisholm is indeed being very sarcastic, but you also get the impression that he really doesn’t like murders (or deaths, since Harrison had a heart attack) on his beat.  That he knows all the people involved also shows (as we’ve noted before, in the case of Incapable in “Dead Men Do Tell Tales“) that Chisholm actually does a lot of “community policing” and is pretty effective at it.

Admin:  Also, we learned in both “Minder on the Orient Express” and “Waiting for Goddard” that Chisholm takes guns in general very seriously and profoundly disapproves of their  misuse (which adds to his already considerable charm, by the way), so he’ll be doubly determined to nail whoever frightened Mr. Harrison to death.

RF:  That’s right, Chisholm seems to rather disapprove of guns.  He’s armed with the sheer force of his own personality.  😉

Chisholm prowls back and forth, “Alright. What was Harrison into?”

Chisholm: Alright.  What was Harrison into?
Dermott: I don’t know. He was straight. He had this firm with Tony Apsey, see, selling clothes dummies.
Chisholm: Yeah. Tony Apsey. I never could understand why he let that tearaway into his firm.
Dermott: Look.  Apsey’s straight now.  Everyone know that.
Chisholm: Oh? Do they, Dermott? I don’t know that. As far as I’m concerned, Tony Apsey is a right blot on my limited horizons.  Alright, alright, let’s imagine just for one second that it wasn’t Tony Apsey who frightened Harrison to death. Alright then.  Who the bleedin’ hell was it?

Dermott looks very cornered.

Admin:  Chisholm has now backed Dermott all the way to the end of the alley, so he can’t push him any further.  He is still full of pent-up energy and begins striding back and forth and is no less intimidating.  His reaction upon hearing Tony Apsey’s name is very much like his typical reaction at hearing Terry McCann’s name.   Chisholm instantly tenses up and thinks the worst of poor old Tony Apsey.  As with McCann, he’d far rather Tony Apsey move on to a different patch.

“Yeah. Tony Apsey. I never could understand why he let that tearaway into his firm.”

RF:  I like the way Chisholm paces back and forth, like a caged tiger.  He does indeed seem to have  a lot of leashed energy, and I think he might be doing it to unnerve Dermott with his growing impatience.  I also like his description of Tony Apsey as a “blot on [his] limited horizons”.  Poor Chisholm, stuck chasing the low-life crims when he’d rather be doing something else! Or at least getting a promotion.

Admin:  I think he really does hate hanging out in skeezy pub alleys with the likes of Dermott.  Chisholm prefers tea shops and nice diners, right? 😀   Yeah, you have to feel sorry for him with the “limited horizons” line.

RF:  Most of those skeezy pubs don’t serve tea and pie, or biccies.  😉

Dermott says a bloke called Daley, Arthur or something, was there. Ruh-roh!

Dermott: I don’t know.  Look, all I know is there was someone else there at the time.  A face called Daley.  Arthur or something, alright.
Chisholm: Arthur Daley.
Dermott: Yeah.
Chisholm: Arthur Daley?!?
Dermott: Yeah, that’s who I heard. Why? Who is he?
Chisholm: [grabs Dermott’s jacket] You geeing me up or somethin’ you hairy animal!!
Dermott: [panics and his speech becomes garbled] Why don’t you ask Mr Apsey, he was here. He’ll tell you what occurred.
Chisholm: Oh, I will.  [releases Dermott’s jacket] You bank on that.  [Chisholm starts to leave]

“You gee’in me up or something, you hairy animal!”

Admin:  When I first saw this, I was NOT expecting Chisholm to freak out and grab Dermott’s jacket like that.  He is furious.  Does he think that Dermott knows about his Arthur Daley obsession and is just winding him up?  Daley, more than anyone, is  the ultimate blot on his “limited horizons” and to find out he might be involved in a manslaughter case rocks Chisholm.  Usually he is darkly pleased to hear Daley’s name mentioned in an investigation because it means he gets to rummage through the lock-up, but this time he is purely vexed.  Probably because it is a more serious case than most.  But, whatever the reason, his reaction is stunning and genuine.  Patrick Malahide is in perfect form as this dark and scary Chisholm.

“Oh, I will. You bank on that.”

RF:  Yeah, Chisholm goes from rock calm to furious in about a nanosecond, but it’s so well done!  I think you’re right that his anger might be because he’d be really incensed if Arthur was somehow involved in Harrison’s death, rather than his usual small-time stuff. Chisholm actually remains pretty calm after he grabs Dermott, while Dermott, now truly terrified, begins to gabble everything he knows.  Then Chisholm releases Dermott’s jacket with a twitch of contempt, which just fits in perfectly.  I also love his angry emphasis on “You bank on that,” as he turns to leave.

Admin:  It is such a fantastic moment.  It is great to see a more physical Chisholm in action.  It is so smooth despite being lightening quick and ends as abruptly as it began.  It is brilliant.

Dermott: Oy! [Chisholm turns around] How’s about a drink then?
[Chisholm drops some money on the ground and leaves.]
Dermott: Fwoah.  Heavy.

Dermott, nervously: “How about a drink then?”

Admin:  At the end of the day, Dermott is a snout and doesn’t give information for free, and he angrily shouts “oy” to remind Chisholm of that.  Chisholm turns around with an effortless look of derision.  Dermott immediately realizes he’s blundered and instantly becomes a lot more friendly/groveling asking for drink money.   Chisholm couldn’t possibly be more disgusted with Dermott and derisively drops a few quid onto the ground.  Yes, Dermott, he’s pretty heavy there indeed.

Dermott: “Fwoah! Heavy!”

RF:  I got the impression Dermott only felt safe shouting “OY!!” because he wasn’t within arms’ reach any more.  😉  And yeah, Chisholm gives him a look of utter disdain when he turns around.  I also thought Dermott was pushing it a bit by asking “How’s about a drink, then?”, but as you say, he was using a far less confrontational tone – probably not wanting to be shoved against the wall again!  I also thought it looked like Chisholm didn’t give him that much money, and his air of complete contempt as he dropped it on the ground (not even bothering to hand it over) perfectly summed up his feelings on the whole thing.

Admin:  I’d like to know how much it was he dropped.  Probably just enough for a drink or two.  🙂

Wrap-Up

A gritty scene with evocative lighting.

Admin:  This is such a fantastic scene.  Beautifully shot and skillfully scripted, it must have been fun for Mr. Malahide to film.  It is so cool seeing Chisholm’s darker, edgier side.  You can easily imagine him joining Special Branch and getting his hands dirty going after much larger prey than the mostly harmless Arthur Daley.  But, while this Chisholm is decidedly different from what we are used to, he never actually deviates from “canon“.  He holds low-life petty criminals in contempt and is outraged that a death has taken place on his patch.  So while he is now suddenly far more physical and intense than what we are used to, his principles and motivations seem to be firmly intact making this an unusual scene but at no point an unbelievable one.

RF:  Yeah, this scene was a bit of a departure for “Minder”, especially in how they portrayed Chisholm – but a very welcome and fascinating departure.  I loved the film noir quality of the lighting and even the writing, which went perfectly with a much more confident, competent Chisholm.  It showed us that long-suffering remarks about “community policing” aside, Chisholm takes his job very seriously.  Totally agreed that it wasn’t out of canon, but it  nevertheless presented Chisholm in a new way.  I also would’ve loved to have seen more of that Chisholm.  🙂

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