Episode Four: “Kismet”
After witnessing a brutal murder, Sam discovers that Jack Turner, the criminal multi-millionaire she is spying on, is engaged in sabotage to make millions on the stock market. But the discovery comes too late for her colleague, Aidan Marsh, who rushes to stop a London office tower from exploding – only to get caught in the blast.
When last we saw Jack Turner, he’d just made one of the two top bids to buy a dam in Pakistan, but was fraudulently short some £30 million. A pittance! (Question: If he was going to have one of the two top bids anyway without tacking on an extra £30 million… and they were going to do a run-off… did he need to change his bid?) This episode, we find out where he’s going to get the cash from.
We get off to a promising start. Turner is skulking around his darkened house, dressed all in black (he looks like a rather attractive cat burglar), checking to make sure everyone’s asleep before he leaves on a mysterious errand. He’s cautious enough to have Bingham act as his decoy (dressed in Turner’s clothes and wearing his signature trilby), leaving the house ahead of him. Sam (Melissa George) is doing her usual sleeping-propped-against-the-wall thing (seriously, isn’t that painful?? how could anyone function, sleeping like that?), but she’s alerted to the fake Turner’s departure by the incredibly loud ringtone of her phone as the rest of her Byzantium teammates awaken her. Umm, not exactly sneaky, a loud phone like that.
The not-exactly-sneaky gets worse. Sam immediately heads downstairs to snoop through Turner’s office (why does he not lock that door??) and is surprised in the act by Turner himself, as he dons a very nice black leather jacket before he leaves. Her method of avoiding detection is to… stand stock-still, as Turner gazes into his office from the foyer. I’m sorry, but this scene really strained my credulity. He’s just been skulking around his darkened house. Yes, the foyer is brighter than his office, but… surely his eyes would have adjusted to lower light levels and he’d notice the Sam-like object not ten feet away! Instead, he stares for a terrifying few seconds, then is on his way. I was forced to conclude that Sam’s Sweater of Invisibility must have cloaked her from his sight.
Sam informs the rest of her team that Turner has managed to deke the lot of them and takes off in pursuit… on a stolen bicycle. Credulity strainer #2! Either she’s an incredibly fast cyclist or Turner is a very slow driver, or both, because she’s somehow able to catch up to his Range Rover despite his head start and tail him to Relston University. Maybe he’s just taking a night class?
Night Class in Economics
As it turns out, Turner is there to meet with Professor Vincent Cage (Michael Carter) along with Lewis Conroy (Richard Dormer). Conroy is desperately attempting to convince Cage, an economics professor and his former mentor, to go along with… something… Turner wants, offering a lot of money and vowing to do whatever Cage asks in return. “You have perverted everything I’ve taught you!” declares Cage in disgust, as Turner silently prowls around his office, studying Cage’s bookshelf (more on that later) and pausing by the window to pick up, and wordlessly scoff at, a bust of Karl Marx (mmm yeah, we wouldn’t have picked Turner as a Marxist).
Sudden (and Messy) Death
Meanwhile, Sam’s amazing bicycling skills have allowed her to catch up completely and sneak onto the balcony outside Cage’s office in time to spy on the proceedings. “Just tell me what you want, Vince,” begs Conroy and Cage replies, “I want both of you to stop this, now, or I’m calling the police!” Whereupon Turner, with no hesitation whatsoever, and having recognized that even busts of dead Communists can make handy blunt objects, proceeds to viciously bludgeon Cage to death with Karl Marx, splattering his own face, the window, and Cage’s desk with gore. Turner was scary before, but he’s even more scary with blood spatters all over his face and blue eyes staring as he conversationally remarks to Conroy, “You were wasting your time. He was never gonna go for it, ” as if he’s discussing a business deal over drinks at the pub rather than the brutal murder he’s just committed. His line is even punctuated by a well-timed flash of lightning and clap of thunder for extra effect.
Spying a Spy
That same convenient flash of lightning illuminates the balcony where Sam, Byzantium’s so-called “best agent”, has completely failed to hide herself adequately (she’s put her hood up as a disguise with her hair trailing out and is in plain view of the window) and is seen by Conroy. She takes off with Turner in hot pursuit on foot and he’s in pretty good shape for a gangster grandad, because he almost catches up to her. She climbs over a gate to be picked up by Fowkes (Lex Shrapnel) in the nick of time, but she tears her jacket in the process and leaves behind a shred of cloth as a clue for Turner to spot. Ever the pragmatist, Turner calls for a clean-up of the murder scene as Conroy stands around in shock. You do have to admire Turner’s style. It’s blunt, but very effective.
The Turners Pay Their Respects
When we next see the Turners (and Sam), they’re on their way to the cemetery to visit the grave of Stephen’s wife, Rebecca, who’s been dead for a year. Stephen’s in an understandably sombre, downcast mood as each of the Turner men pay their respects and lay flowers on the grave, Turner courteously doffing his trilby to do so. Unfortunately, he proves to have only a nodding acquaintance with empathy when he says, “Been a year, Stevie. We’ve all gotta move on, eh?” Stephen makes no reply.
However, Turner is rather surprised to see Lewis Conroy at the cemetery. It’s at this point that we learn that Conroy was Stephen’s roommate at Oxford, is Eddie’s godfather, and is a Turner family friend. Conroy seems not to recognize Sam; his purpose in being there is to discuss the previous night’s events with Turner, saying, “Jack, I need a word,” to which Turner replies decisively, “Don’t even think about it.” Nevertheless, Conroy is invited back to the Turner home for post-memorial drinks, and a lot of Stephen’s backstory emerges as they reminisce in front of Sam. Conroy and Stephen had something of a rivalry for Rebecca Turner’s affections in the past, and Stephen still has a lot of feelings of inadequacy over their marriage and ultimately his failure to save her, exacerbated by his guilt over living with his father and his “dirty money”. Conroy commiserates with Stephen and appears to be making a breakthrough with him until he unwittingly(?) rubs salt in the wound by asking Stephen if he can ask Sam on a date. The whole thing is well played by Stephen Campbell Moore, who gives us a sense of Stephen’s despair and frustrations as he’s overshadowed by the force and dominance of his father’s personality.
While Sam is at the cemetery with the Turners, Bingham takes the opportunity to snoop through her closet (but oddly, not through the rest of her room, which might have resulted in him discovering the Blank-Faced Man’s surveillance equipment – and speaking of surveillance, if Turner is that suspicious of Sam, why doesn’t he have her under observation?) to see if he can find a jacket matching the torn shred of cloth. Bingham reports to Turner that “the jacket’s not in the house” and seems rather skeptical of his boss’ suspicions (oh Bingham, that’s not wise…!). Turner, however, remains wary, saying she could have disposed of it outside the house – which, in fact, she did. See? Old gangsters are smart (unless the script says they’re not).
“About Last Night…”
Turner calls Conroy into his office to talk “about last night”, a loaded conversation opener if ever there was one. Conroy protests that whatever they’re about to embark on is too risky, but Turner assures him that Conroy’s “commie professor shooting his mouth off” posed the only risk, adding, “and I took care of that.” As we’ve previously seen, whenever Turner states that someone or something shouldn’t be worried about, his words usually come true. Bingham also asks Conroy for a list of all of his female acquaintances so they can be checked up on to see if one of them is their sought-after spy. Conroy asks Turner, “What’ll you do if you find her?”, which is an incredibly stupid question to ask a man he saw cold bloodedly murder another man with a bust of Karl Marx only the previous evening! Of course, Turner doesn’t answer the question, but he does add reassuringly(? not really; he smiles when he says it), “Cheer up, Lewis! This time tomorrow you’ll be richer than ever!” And Turner, presumably, will have the £30 million he so badly needs.
Advice From Dad
Sam goes out on a date with Conroy (more on this later) while Stephen proceeds to get angsty over their date (lots of yearning looks going on) and the anniversary of his wife’s death with the aid of alcohol and a photo album. Turner attempts to (sort of) empathize at first, saying he was “cut up” when Stephen’s mother, “an angel, she was”, died (he does actually seem sincere); but he goes on to bluntly tell Stephen to quit moping, “grow some balls”, and ask “that little tart, Alex Kent” out, if that’s really what he wants. For once, however, Stephen succeeds in shocking his father by saying that Sam/Alex is out on a date with Lewis – which is not at all what Turner wants to hear.
A Spy on a Date
Meanwhile, Sam obtains a sedative for Conroy from Aidan; the delivery mechanism is a needle concealed in a ring. Once they’re at his apartment, Conroy at first angrily and brutally confronts Sam about spying on him and Turner, revealing he actually did recognize her at the cemetery and grabbing her by the arms. However, he inexplicably(!) backs off when Sam denies it and tearfully protests that he’s hurting her. Apparently he’s fine with her unconvincing denial and sees no incongruity when the woman he just brutalized decides to stay for a drink and maybe some sex, and makes soothing, cooing noises about how he can tell her all about what’s bothering him! Needless to say, Sam has no problems scratching Conroy with the needle and administering the sedative – he does seem to realize he’s been drugged before he passes out – so that she can steal his RF keyfob and break into his office to search his records.
Disasters by Design
And here we come to another pair of big Credulity Strainers. Through Conroy’s records of Turner’s financial dealings, Aidan and Sam discover that Turner has been using a computerized economics algorithm named “Kismet” (“fate”, geddit?) to capitalize on stocks and properties immediately after large, disastrous events, faster than humanly possible. Cage developed the algorithm, but Conroy “perverted” its use for Turner’s gain. Aidan and Sam match the dates of Turner’s peak financial gains to catastrophic events that they determine he’s deliberately created – explosions, tainted food, mixed-up drugs, and the like – and his next one should be very soon because he needs £30 million tomorrow, literally. Supervillain territory! This also gives us a big hint as to what he has in mind for that dam. I actually have no problem with the premise of such an algorithm, but… they couldn’t have figured this out by, oh say… googling the peak dates, which they already knew, and matching them up with disasters? They had to drug a guy and break into his office? But of course, if they didn’t break into his office, we’d have no reason for an “exciting break-out” scene.
An Improbable Escape
And now for Credulity Strainer #… 4, I think; I started to lose count. Security is alerted and Aidan and Sam have to fight their way out of the building. They fight off, oh, six or eight guards, then Aidan grabs a handy-dandy rope, conveniently left by some window washers (we do actually see them in a previous scene), and he and Sam slide down several floors to safety. But come ON!! He’s:
- suspended by one hand;
- supporting the weight of two people;
- wearing only a leather glove, which would likely burn through from friction, and/or get stripped away;
- leaving him to slide down the rope bare-handed, which would burn his hand raw;
- and he’d still be trying to support two people!!
So, yeah. Big problems with this scene. I didn’t believe it for a second. This was just as bad as an economics professor who’s developed an amazing, cutting-edge computer algorithm who also has Word 97, Excel 97, iMac, DB2, Lotus 123, and other assorted, painfully out-of-date, entry-level office software manuals on his bookshelf! Do the props people not notice these things??
Turner’s Suspicions Grow
Anyway, let’s get back to Turner. He doesn’t strain my credulity. He hauls Bingham on the carpet for failing to tell him that Sam went out with Conroy and once again, Bingham’s self-preservation instincts appear to be faulty – he should be very afraid. Turner is also extremely displeased to hear from Conroy that his offices have been broken into. With sarcastic politeness, Turner asks if “Miss Kent” has been with Conroy the whole night. Conroy admits they were both passed out for a couple of hours; he’s apparently completely forgotten about being drugged and remarkably unsuspecting for someone who’s just had a break-in, and was desperately worried about risks and police only hours before. He fails to see the significance of two hours of unaccounted-for time and even accuses Jack of being paranoid. “Am I,” replies Turner flatly, before tossing the phone aside. Bingham then assures Turner that everything is in order; “Bloody well better be,” answers Turner.
As it turns out, the disaster Turner has engineered this time is a massive gas explosion at the offices of Goncourt & Co. Aidan arrives at the scene and can’t figure out what the disaster is going to be, though he does smell gas outside the building (duh!!). Meanwhile, not so far away, the Blank-Faced Man jumps Sam, flattening her to the ground while he aims a needle directly at her eye. Here we have my final Credulity Strainer: Sam, whom we’ve seen fight off attackers while suffering a serious abdominal wound, who has battled Grizzled Baddies twice her weight, and who only minutes ago helped Aidan fight off six or eight security guards, is rendered helpless by one syringe-wielding loon (he only has one hand free, even!) sitting on her! Is she supposed to be a total bad-ass fighter or not? Consistency? Why doesn’t she use her poisoned ring to scratch him? Anyway, Goncourt & Co. blows up in a massive explosion and Aidan is thrown into the air by the blast, just as Sam is about to get speared through the eyeball. I guess it’s supposed to be a cliffhanger. Do I sound jaded? I am. I’m more worried about whether Turner gets his £30 million or not!
Plot Holes… Plot Holes Everywhere…
This… was several steps backward from Episode Three. I was so pleased by that one. This one… had holes all over it, of logic, consistency, and believability. I haven’t even gone into them all. But I must say that the Turner storylines and characters were not part of those holes; rather, there were preposterous situations and other characters doing whacked-out things around the Turners. And in particular, the effort to stretch things to have Sam be the Best of the Best seems to have created the thinnest plot fabric. Did Turner really not see her in his office? Or again on Cage’s balcony? Did Conroy really not persist in questioning her if he was that sure she was the spy and his life and livelihood were on the line? And while I’m at it, cut it out with the blue filters! Conroy looked almost woad-tinged at the cemetery. It’s very hard to accept what you’re seeing as a slice of reality when you’re forcibly conscious that everything is a bizarre, unnatural hue!
However! There Are a Couple of Redeeming Factors…
However, this episode does prove my theory that letting Jack Turner out of his house is always a good thing. Patrick Malahide’s scenes were the best in this show, even when he was brutally beating a guy to death with Karl Marx, only to be perfectly composed and calm immediately afterwards. I also think he’d make an awesome cat burglar! His interactions with Stephen Campbell Moore were great too, giving us a glimpse as to how their characters have dealt with their various personal losses in their own unique fashions, and what their father-son relationship is like. And Malahide is quite delightful when he growls menacingly when things are going badly, or when a little (or a lot of) threatening is called for. More like that please, and less deus ex machina super-spying!
You can watch “Kismet” online for a limited time at BBC One’s Web site.