Episode Three: “Hourglass”
The synopsis from BBC One’s Web site:
Travelling undercover with the criminal multimillionaire she is spying on, Sam comes face-to-face with Bernard Faroux, the Frenchman she seduced and betrayed in Tangier. He offers to tell her who tried to assassinate her, but only if she gives vital information to him instead of Byzantium.
Oh, no, no, no. So much more happened than that. That was just the background for the best stuff! We finally got to see Jack Turner in his natural element – or one of his natural elements – wheeling, dealing, and cheating in the very high-stakes business deal to buy the Khyber hydroelectric dam, and generally being bad-ass and terrifying to nearly everyone he came into contact with.
Sam (Melissa George) provides the exposition for this week’s episode in a “staff meeting” at the annoyingly blue-lit Byzantium: Turner, Stephen, and Mr. Darcy Bingham have been slaving over Turner’s Khyber dam bid for weeks, with the document itself stored on a thumb drive that Turner always keeps in his vest pocket, in preparation for a meeting of all bidders and announcement of the winning bid. Stannis Keel (Stephen Dillane) assigns Sam to obtain the drive and turn it over for forwarding to Byzantium’s anonymous client, so that Turner’s bid will lose. Byzantium is apparently already aware of the other competing bids.
Arrival at a Swank Hotel
Cue the Turners’ (and Sam’s, because of course they have to bring the nanny) arrival at a swank four-star hotel somewhere outside of London, and one of the best scenes in the series to date. They’re greeted in the lobby by a sign advertising fireworks for Guy Fawkes Day, which Turner says he’s arranged especially for grandson Eddie: “Grandad had a word with the manager, didn’t he, Stevie?” Seemingly innocuous words paired with one of the more sinister smirks I’ve ever seen tend to suggest something rather different may have happened; this is further enforced when Turner follows up with, “People always do what Grandad tells ’em,” (very prophetic for this episode, by the way) and an incredibly fiendish chuckle. He then blithely launches into a story about how he never got fireworks when he was a boy; he had to make do with a huge paint factory fire down the road with “flames tall as trees”, which one of his little friends set and got caught in… whereupon Stephen cuts Turner off before he can go into more graphic detail, and Turner gives a “What??” shrug of bewilderment. The scene somehow manages to be menacing and hilarious at the same time. Turner has to be one of the most psycho grandfathers in existence, and I bet his stories would beat any other grandads’ stories, possibly to death! What are his bedtime stories like??
Sam stages a rather awkward “accidental” bump into Turner and successfully picks his vest pocket. How she accomplishes this past the overcoat, suit jacket, and scarf he’s wearing I’m not sure, but I went with it. Turner gives her a rather frosty look of disdain after the bump but says nothing; he’s never deigned to address any comment to Sam directly so far, after an “American, eh?” in the pilot. However, a man who spent his formative years as a poor dockworker living a very hardscrabble life is no fool. I suspect that he expected his pocket would be picked and had already prepared for it.
Awaiting His Prey
When we next see Turner, he’s parked himself in the exact middle of a huge couch in the hotel lobby, physically dominating the scene without even trying and looking for all the world like a shark awaiting its next prey, which, in fact, he is. He requires signatures from two representatives of KPEC, the Swiss management company that will run the dam for him, to complete his bid and has been baulked by both so far. One, Lars Holm (Martin Wenner), has already been disposed of; the other, Patrik Lindberg (Trevor White), is at the hotel and understandably apprehensive about meeting with Turner in his colleague’s absence. “Here’s what you’re going to do,” explains Turner, with complete equanimity. “You’re going to smile, you’re going to tell Mr. Singhram how pleased KPEC is to be in business with Jack Turner… and then you’re going to sign… on the dotted line.” He basically has Lindberg over a barrel for accepting his money. When Lindberg protests, “You want me to act like everything is fine when I know it’s not!” Turner replies, “Look at it this way…” (friendly smile – this is never good) “… what choice do you have.” (menacing growl!) Getting out of the house for some threatening and arm-twisting seems to do nothing but good for Grandad!
Stacking the Deck
Lindberg signs, but even Theon Stephen recognizes that something is off about him. Turner tells Stephen not to worry about Lindberg, which is also never a good sign; whenever Turner says that, whoever it is tends to end up dead in short order. Turner seems quite chipper and confident after obtaining Lindberg’s signature and Stephen realizes, with what looks like grudging admiration, that his dad has somehow pulled a fast one and managed to get a look at two of the other competing bids. “We’re higher. I made sure of it,” says Turner, with a pleased grin. He seems to get a huge amount of enjoyment out of cheating to win, and we get a glimpse of how his massive fortune was accumulated through the years.
Late Night Meeting by the Lake
There’s still trouble in paradise, though. One of Turner’s Red Shirt security guards has gone missing (courtesy of Aidan (Adam Rayner), who was seen sneaking around with Sam by said guard) and Turner is concerned about his bid’s safety in the hotel vault and whether he’s being messed with by his competitors. Turner summons Lindberg for a very film noir-ish late night meeting by the hotel’s lake (another great, well done scene) to see what he knows about these matters. Lindberg not only attends the meeting, he comes alone – which suggests he didn’t learn much about dealing with Turner the first few times! He says he knows nothing about the guard’s disappearance or any tampering with Turner’s bid and “just want[s] out of this whole filthy business!” Turner jovially replies, with another of his menacing smiles (danger!! danger!!), “Well, it’s too late for that, Patrik… You signed the deal!”
Byzantium Forced into Plan B
Meanwhile, the purloined thumb drive has been found to contain Holm’s personal diary (further suggesting Turner was prepared to have it stolen) rather than the bid, so Byzantium has to stage an elaborate Plan B involving cloning Turner’s hard drive when Turner and Mr. Darcy Bingham, acting on a fake tip from Lindberg, are duped into powering it up to check if it’s been copied. Now, setting aside the technical questions of why Bingham wouldn’t check the laptop processor’s real-time performance and/or activities and say, notice its entire drive being cloned… or notice the laptop’s speed slowing drastically during the cloning… or how Aidan’s smartphone could clone an entire hard drive in a matter of a few seconds through a heavy vault wall and a couple of building floors and near simultaneously send it to Byzantium (I want his wi-fi service)… it’s just barely possible (though perhaps not very probable) to achieve this. As it is, Bingham confidently pronounces to Turner that the bid couldn’t have been copied since the hard drive hasn’t been powered up since the laptop was locked away. The wily (and one suspects, less technically adept) Turner points out the obvious and, as it turns out, the incredibly pertinent: “It’s powered up now, isn’t it?”
Turner is late arriving to the bidding meeting and Stephen is sweating. The bids are read out in turn and it at first appears that a Chinese conglomerate has succeeded in outbidding Turner Holdings by a margin of £10 million. “It’s over, Dad. We’re finished,” says Stephen. “Wait…” Turner replies, and their bid is read out: one billion pounds. Stephen is gobsmacked since, as far as he knew, they’d maxed out their finances to bid £970 million; what happened to their bid?? “I changed it,” answers Turner, matter-of-factly. Stephen protests that it’s fraud to claim £30 million in assets they don’t have, but this doesn’t phase Turner either: “We’ll just have to get hold of it, won’t we?”
So Turner manages to put one over on both his competitors and Byzantium, though he’s somewhat ticked to hear that as one of the top two competitors, he’ll have to go through a run-off process. However, he seems to be absolutely spoiling for the upcoming fight and very clearly enjoying himself. This is not a man who likes to lose.
In non-Turner happenings (yes, there were a few), we discovered that Aidan has been double-crossing Byzantium by sleeping with an MI6 agent, Natalie Thorpe (Indira Varma) and passing on information about Byzantium’s dealings to her (he’s the mole! or is he??), and that a Mysterious Organization™ known as “Hourglass” is apparently responsible for arranging for Sam to be set up and killed. Natalie’s boss, George Ballard (Dermot Crowley) is also keeping an ancient file cabinet full of Mysterious Files™ (on paper – no thumb drives or scanned documents for these guys) on both Byzantium and Hourglass. Furthermore, Natalie is assigned to Byzantium as a… liaison MI6 agent…? Would a government agency dealing in clandestine matters really do a lot of liaising with (and spying on) a private security organization?? Oh well, I’m prepared to go with it for now.
Anyway, this episode was a lot of fun, and helped to banish some of the misgivings I had after episode two. In particular, we had so many well-written Turner scenes to enjoy. It was so great to see Turner in action, wheeling and dealing and terrifying anyone who’s a threat (or in Lindberg’s case, a temporary ally) for his Khyber dam bid. It was also hilarious (yet disturbing, in an Addams Family way) to see him in action as a grandad, unnerving innocent hotel managers on his grandson’s behalf and regaling him with stories about child arsonists meeting horrific ends. To Eddie’s credit, the story didn’t seem to perturb him at all; perhaps he’s already heard others and even worse?
I must say that it was a vast improvement to move the action out of Turner’s house and give Patrick Malahide the opportunity to expend some energy and stretch himself a bit. This is not a character to keep cooped up, and it was great to see Turner personally dealing with his so-called “allies” (that is, “allies” only because they’ve been strong-armed into it) and enemies alike. Turner seems to relish the prospect of a fight, and I loved how Malahide portrayed him sizing up and psyching out his enemies from across a room. He even smokes a cigar to great effect and absolutely looks every inch the mobster in the meeting by the lake. I was also pleased to see how adroitly he dealt with the pickpocketing and bid-tampering attempts. Malahide gives us the sense that very little escapes Turner’s notice and he always has a contingency plan (or planS) in place – even if ultimately that contingency is disposing of an opponent. He can dominate a scene without saying a word (see the couch bit) and is most dangerous when he’s smiling. As the Huffington Post‘s Maureen Ryan said:
Malahide is magnetic; his performance as the canny, shark-like Turner, whose smile is scarier than his grimace, is one of the best things you’ll see on television this year.
I hope this keeps up for episode four; I’m very curious to see where and how Turner obtains an extra £30 million…! Now, if we could just get rid of the blue-lit offices, green-lit basements, and other overly filtered, murky lighting, I’d be very happy indeed! But definitely keep Turner’s red and purple ties, and trilbies. 😉
You can watch “Hourglass” online for a limited time on BBC One’s Web site.