Patrick Malahide as D.S. Chisholm in “Poetic Justice, Innit?”, Minder S03E11

Change is bad. Very, very bad.

Change is bad. Very, very bad.

I’m dipping my toes into what’s usually Fearless Admin’s pool here, with her kind permission.  😉  “Poetic Justice, Innit?” finds our D.S. Chisholm far out of his usual comfort zone and increasingly anxious (one might even say… paranoid…) about his job situation when he’s called away to testify in a court case as the arresting officer.  While he’s away, his duties – and custody of his beloved D.C., “Taff” Jones (okay, maybe not really “beloved”) – are given over to D.S. Larry Soames (whose name makes me laugh – it seems Soameses are inevitably destined to be mean bastards), a rival officer Chisholm describes as a “zealot” who’d “nick one of us, given half a chance.”  Little does Chisholm realize that his day’s about to get far, far worse when he actually shows up at the courthouse…  But I should begin at the beginning.

The story opens with one of Terry’s (Dennis Waterman) ubiquitous girlfriends, former stripper Debbie (Diana Malin), taking him to lunch because she’s celebrating the start-up  of her home beautician business.  Debbie actually appears in fiveMinder” episodes, which makes her a very long-standing girlfriend indeed by Terry’s usual standards.  However, because the course of these things never runs smooth, Debbie happens to be present when one of her businessman clients is tied up and robbed, getting a good look at the perpetrators in the process.  Now under Soames and Jones’ suspicion as a potential accessory, she, of course, runs to Terry for help because… reasons.   Well, if she didn’t, there’d be no “B” plot.  While all this is going on, Arthur Daley (George Cole) announces to Terry that he’s been called up to “do [his] bit for the cause of justice”, ie. jury duty, so he’s leaving Terry in charge of his lock-up for the duration.  What could possibly go wrong?

Chisholm Meets His Nemesis

Instantly ingratiating and on a first-name basis with his nemesis

Instantly ingratiating and on a first-name basis
with his nemesis

When we see Chisholm, he seems much more tense than usual (a bit of a feat).  He’s going to be busy in court for a few days, so he exhorts Jones (Michael Povey) to keep an eye on what a certain someone “gets up to” in his absence.  The guileless Jones doesn’t quite get what Chisholm’s hinting at until Chisholm impatiently spells out that his replacement’s (his temporary replacement, he hopes) “reputation has preceded him”.  D.S. Soames (Michael Culver), it seems, is a ruthless type known for being out for fellow coppers’ blood, and Chisholm desperately wants Jones to keep tabs on him, sensing that his job – or to be generous, both their jobs – might be in serious jeopardy.

Soames himself looks quite menacing as it is, with a looming presence, the most enormously heavy-looking Coke bottle glasses I’ve seen since the 1970s, and a cold fish – make that dead fish – manner that makes Chisholm seem absolutely cuddly-warm and outgoing by comparison (more on that later).  Chisholm is instantly ingratiating with his nemesis  (unfortunately, he’s not very good at convincingly faking sincerity), putting them on a first-name basis right away by addressing Soames as “Larry!” while generously offering Jones’ services.  For his part, Soames calls Chisholm “Alfred” – I suppose at least he should be grateful it wasn’t “Charlie” – and pretty much instantly dismisses him from his mind.  Chisholm sends Jones on his way with his new (temporary!) partner with a furrowed brow and worried look that perfectly express his insecurity, abandonment, and anxiety.  Poor Chisholm!  Yet as I said, his day is about to get worse.

Arthur Reports for Jury Duty and Chisholm’s Day Gets Worse

The picture of misery and utter dejection. Aaaawww...

The picture of misery and utter dejection.
Aaaawww…

In the meantime, Arthur’s been sworn in as a juror and runs into Chisholm outside the courthouse.  Chisholm’s at first delighted with the possibility that Arthur’s finally “up on one”, but soon crestfallen and dismayed to discover that not only is Arthur just there for jury service (“They must be more desperate for bodies than I thought to let you through,” he sneers in disgust), he’s on his jury for his court case.  In a matter of seconds, Chisholm’s expression transforms from glee (perhaps this day wasn’t going to be so bad after all!) to shock, complete misery, and utter dejection in a delightful (to watch, that is) mini-implosion.  He abruptly shrugs Arthur’s solicitous hand off his shoulder (for Arthur to attempt any kind of physical contact with Chisholm is always, always a big mistake) in a nanosecond and rapidly stalks into the court building.  But as if that’s not bad enough, things can get worse still!

Chisholm on the Stand

The Glare of Death

The Glare of Death

While giving testimony about what seems to be a fairly open-and-shut stolen goods case in which he was the arresting officer, Chisholm is placed in the somewhat unusual position of having a juror – Arthur, naturally – question his witness statement.  For some odd reason (not really), Arthur empathizes with the accused and he draws attention to the accused’s description of his arrest as a “fit-up”.  Arthur claims he heard the term recently on a “television documentary concerned with police malpractice” and asks the judge – in a purely information-seeking, non-prejudicial sort of way, of course – if it means “corruptly falsifying evidence against the innocent”.  Chisholm silently seethes at the question (but WHAT a seething!), leaning forward on the edge of the witness box to direct an impressive laser-eyed Glare of Death at Arthur that surely should engulf him in flames (and quite contradicting those who say Chisholm couldn’t do such a thing, so nyah).  The judge, who sounds eerily like Severus Snape, admonishes Arthur; as a juror he should shut up, listen, and not interrupt testimony.  Arthur subsides, though not without shooting a smug little look of triumph Chisholm’s way at scoring a point.

Jones’ New Partner

This is just so wrong.

This is just so wrong.

Meanwhile in the “B” plot, Debbie manages to escape while the robbery of her client is in progress and report the crime to Soames and Jones.  Soames flatly refuses to believe Debbie’s innocent bystander story and immediately suspects Terry is somehow involved as Debbie’s partner in crime, so he hauls him in for a chilly interrogation.  It would certainly be a feather in Soames’ cap to nail Arthur and/or Terry where Chisholm couldn’t, and he knows it.  The surprising side effect of this is to make both Terry and Debbie (and Jones too, we suspect) begin to long to have Chisholm back; he’s a vastly more personable, friendly, and reasonable(!) copper by comparison.  It just looks so wrong to see Jones with Soames.  Even Terry later says that Soames makes Chisholm “look like a welfare worker”.  If only Chisholm knew how well beloved he was in his absence!  😉

Back at the courthouse, Chisholm’s being grilled by the attorney for the defence.  He’s forced to admit that he was unable to locate the accused while “making inquiries” and that it was only when the accused turned himself in (with his lawyer present) that he was able to make an arrest.  He attempts to make a little funny about the accused’s statement:  “You might call it a statement, sir. I would say it was a story more suitable as a Walt Disney fantasy”, but he’s immediately slapped down for his quip by Snape the humourless judge, much to Arthur’s smirking amusement.

The System’s Out to Get Him!

it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you Chisholm memeA worried Jones comes to visit Chisholm during a break, having experienced Soames in action.  Jones complains that Soames’ way of conducting of the investigation “isn’t right” and Chisholm replies, “Of course it’s not bloody right!  It’s the system.  A system I am now convinced is conspiring against me personally!”  Apparently having Arthur around and being grilled all day weren’t very good for his morale and he’s now suspecting greater malevolent forces are at work.  He adds, “What’ve I done?  Why me?  Why me??” in put-upon desperation.  Jones replies that it’s “no good getting paranoid about it”, causing Chisholm to demand with growing anxiety, “Who’s been saying I’m getting paranoid? C’mon, who??”

Having a wee little meltdown: "I don't care. I like it! I like it!"

Having a wee little meltdown:
“I don’t care. I like it! I like it!”

Clearly he needs a stiff drink after all that, so he and Jones (who manfully resisted the wide-open opportunities afforded by his boss’ “paranoid” straight line) head to a pub conveniently near the courthouse.  He asks Jones if he thinks it’s “possible to be haunted by someone while they’re still alive”.  Jones replies that if it’s Arthur he’s talking about, he has news for him, and fills Chisholm in on all the Soames doings.  Chisholm keeps steering the conversation back to the universe’s personal grudge against him, but he does come around enough to smirk in amused satisfaction at Soames’ (mis)handling of the Debbie/robbery case, and grin at the thought of Arthur’s lock-up being searched for the stolen jewelry.   Jones warns Chisholm that it won’t look very good to “the super” if Soames manages to nab Arthur and Terry where Chisholm couldn’t, but Chisholm’s having a little meltdown again and is a wee bit distracted:  “I don’t care.  I like it!  I like it!”  Apparently he’s ready to surrender to the universe’s nefarious plans.  Arthur also comes into the pub for a cold one, but he seems to feel haunted too, only needing to catch a glimpse of Chisholm before beating a hasty retreat.

Unsurprisingly, Arthur’s far more worried about the contents of his lock-up than he is about Terry and Debbie’s situation (she’s being pursued by the robbers, who know who she is and want to shut her up about who they are).  He likewise seems to feel the universe is out to get him, telling Dave (Glynn Edwards) that he’s sure Chisholm’s behind it all somehow and it’s Terry’s fault too, “for getting involved with a bird of that sort” and neglecting his rightful business, ie. the lock-up.  Dave listens patiently and attempts to get Arthur to think about others besides himself, to no avail.  However, upon arrival at the lock-up to check on things, Arthur discovers that the worst has happened and it’s been completely emptied.  Soames has nicked the lot!

Looking for Help in the Wrong Places

"I shouldn't even be seen sneering at you from across the street."

“I shouldn’t even be seen sneering at you
from across the street.”

Arthur’s now so desperate to get his stuff back that he’s even willing to plead with the devil Chisholm for help, accosting him before court the next day to ask him to intercede.  For his part, Chisholm’s in no mood to do Arthur any favours under any circumstances (is he ever?).  While shiftily glancing from side to side and practically vibrating with repressed nervous energy, he tells Arthur, “I shouldn’t even be seen sneering at you from across the street.”  (He might be freaking out from paranoia and insecurity, but he still gets all the best lines.)  It’s highly improper for the prosecuting officer to be seen talking to a jury member during a trial; it could damage the case or get it thrown out, and he knows it.  He finally manages to scrape Arthur off (temporarily) by saying he’ll have him “done for contempt” and speed-walking away.

The Verdict

Satisfaction, at last!

Satisfaction, at last!

If Chisholm knew what Arthur was getting up to in the jury deliberation room, he’d be even less inclined to help, if that was possible.  Arthur’s sympathies are all for the accused (go figure), so upon being chosen foreman, he immediately sets about re-arguing the case, supporting the accused’s alibi and explaining away each of the prosecution’s points indicating guilt in an attempt to convince his fellow jurors of the accused’s innocence.  His tactics drag the deliberations out for an incredibly long time; some jurors even end up changing their votes to acquittal out of sheer frustration.  They’re deadlocked until one old knitting biddy finally speaks up and declares that of course the accused is guilty; he lives one street over from hers and tried to “flog her Albert” (not Chisholm, we trust!) one of the stolen jackets.  We’ll overlook the little plot hole about having a juror who actually knows the accused, for the moment.

The deadlock is broken at last and Chisholm as prosecuting officer gets a “guilty” verdict to his credit, so that’s one load off his poor, overstrained mind.  😉  He does look quite happy about it!  However, he’s less happy about Arthur’s last-ditch attempt to persuade him of his (Arthur’s) indispensability in swaying the jury’s vote to “guilty”, and could Mr. Chisholm – not that he’s asking for any favours, understand – possibly help him get his “bit o’ gear” back…?  There’s another attempted chummy shoulder touch, another instant repelling of physical contact, and a rapid flight.

Oh, and as far as the “B” plot goes (remember the “B” plot?), Terry tracks down the bad guys through their car registration with Dave’s help and finds them at their workplace (a junkyard, natch).  An Action Man™ fight scene ensues, yadda yadda.  Sorry, I found this part quite predictable; Terry always has an Action Man™ fight, and he always wins. Debbie manages to persuade Soames and Jones to show up to help Terry, and they arrive just in time to wrap up the two robbers, who’ve (of course) already been thoroughly beaten up.  Later, Terry is distinctly unsympathetic about Arthur’s empty lock-up and rude words are exchanged.

Lots of Implosions and Existential Angst

This was a very fun episode, not least because of all the little Chisholm mini-implosions we got to see.   It might be somewhat mean of me to say, but it was quite enjoyable to watch Patrick Malahide go from smug, satisfied glee, to incredulity, to dismay, to utter misery all in the space of a few seconds.  I could really feel poor Chisholm’s pain.  😉  It was also interesting to see him portray Chisholm’s escalating insecurity and paranoia (who says he’s paranoid??) in the face of Soames possibly showing him up and threatening his job, Arthur’s appearance on jury duty, and being grilled in front of the courtroom – though for all of that, I thought he acquitted himself remarkably well under the circumstances.

This was Chisholm driven to extremes;  I loved his slightly maddened mini-implosion in the pub with Jones:  “I like it!!  I like it!!”  Truly the words of a man nearing the end of his tether!  😉  I just wanted to hug him and buy him a pint.  I also loved his practically-vibrating-with-anxious-energy at being seen talking to Arthur before court; no one can do shifty nervousness quite like Mr. Malahide.  And of course, we also get to see Chisholm’s incredible distaste for any kind of familiar touch, especially from Arthur.  Too bad there wasn’t a final showdown with Soames, but no one liked him anyway.  The question is, did anyone tell Chisholm that?

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2 Responses to Patrick Malahide as D.S. Chisholm in “Poetic Justice, Innit?”, Minder S03E11

  1. Pingback: Analysis of a Scene XXI: Chisholm and Daley Outside the CourthousePatrick Malahide, An Appreciation

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