Coming to Terms with the Past
Episode six, Who Done It?, opens with a young Marlow on the train, only this time is mother isn’t there. He passes by the familiar scarecrow which now has a hideous face that is reminiscent of his school teacher. While in bed, the elder Marlow is haunted by visions of the scarecrow.
He explains all of this to Dr. Gibbon. We learn that his mother committed suicide by throwing herself in the river. Gibbon quickly draws the parallel between his mother’s death and the death of the woman in his novel. Anyway, it is because of his mother’s death that he took the train back to his father. When he tells Gibbon about the scarecrow’s face, the doctor wonders if it is his mother’s face. That is hardly likely as his mother was a beautiful woman.
When Marlow realizes it was the school teacher’s face he saw, he confesses about blaming young Mark Binney for the excrement on the teacher’s desk. All the other children cruelly joined in the lie, eager to see another child suffer. Marlow confides to Gibbon that he had learned, years ago, that Mark Binney wound up institutionalized.
He cries about the memory but Gibbon sees the tears as a release of built-up guilt and knows Marlow will be able to standup out of his wheelchair. Gibbon is right; Marlow stands and the tears turn to laughter. When he returns to his bed, he is in a far better mood than we have seen him before.
Teensy Bit Too Old?
Later on, Marlow imagines himself going up Binney’s (or is Finney’s?) stairs. At first it seems like Binney’s because the nude portrait is featured and Putting on the Ritz is playing. But, it is Finney. He is in a very nice silk robe and dancing up a storm with Nicola. They look like they are having fun for a couple of villains. The phone rudely interrupts their good time.
Finney, in a sort of panic, gets Nicola to shut off the music so he can answer it. It is the filmmakers and they want him to fly out to LA soon. The discussion suggests that they want to make some changes to the script. He seems pretty good at schmoozing 🙂 Nicola keeps prodding him to mention her for a top role, which he does. It is clear she is not well known and another name is mentioned to him; he is very enthusiastic about the new actress.
When he hangs up, he makes a mock “what can I do?” gesture. Nicola lashes out, saying he promised her the part. He points out that all they had was “advice and consultation” but she doesn’t care; he promised her. Finally, he asks her if she isn’t just a “teensy bit too old for the part”. Marlow, who is standing unnoticed, smirks at that. She really lashes out then but her attention is suddenly diverted to Marlow and it is clear she is attacking him and his “bile” and the way he uses his illness as an excuse. Finney fades into the background.
The next time Finney is show, he is dead, clutching the phone and has a knife in his throat. Nicola, soaked in blood, is sitting at the foot of the stairs as though she has killed him.
Binney has met the same fate as Finney. He too has a knife in his throat and his posed with the phone. Marlow is in the room but leaves because the trenchcoated duo arrives. They really do not know what to do. They panic about everything and have no clue what they are there for; they don’t even seem to know their own names. Eventually they realize they are just padding in the story; it is a very unsettling but also very funny moment.
The duo goes to the hospital to confront Marlow and demands to know why he made their roles so unclear. “No names even!” The end result is a major shootout with almost everyone in the ward being metaphysically “shot”. The fictional Marlow arrives to save the day, but instead shoots both of them and also shoots Marlow in his hospital bed.
The next day, Marlow is alive and well and leaving the hospital ward with Nicola. The old, bitter, misogynistic Marlow is gone; he is now a much happier and healthier person. The painful events of his childhood are behind him, exorcized by the “deaths” of Mark Binney and Finney.
The Singing Detective is a brilliant series. It meshes several ideas and styles together so cleverly and the way it all falls together is very satisfying even if there are still some unanswered questions. The pulp story is never resolved and we do not truly know what exactly happened to Marlow’s mother. But, we do see Marlow become a much better person by dealing with all his issues they way he does.
Patrick Malahide: Three Villains
Patrick Malahide’s performances are amazing. What is especially noteworthy is how different each character is. He is always immediately recognizable as the same man, but there are some major differences in appearance, purpose, and manner.
Raymond, the only “real” character, is very provincial and has a ruddy complexion. He also has a very unfortunate haircut, but all the men in that community seemed to have their hair shaved on sides and long on top. He isn’t a bad person but he’s not a particular good one either. Actually, I found him to be the most empty of the three but I suppose that is because he is mostly just a bad childhood memory. Young Marlow didn’t really understand him and older Marlow seemed to put more energy into imagining the fictional versions.
When creating the villainous Mark Binney, named after Raymond’s poor son, it is interesting how sophisticated Marlow made him. He is extremely pale and fine boned with pinkish lips and ears. He looks practically ethereal. He is also very evil and cruel. His elegant voice becomes cold when he’s angry or feels threatened or “small”. He is very antagonistic towards women, which seems to be some sort of cathartic release for Marlow’s own disturbing attitudes, but (unlike Marlow) is still very smooth and poised with his insults.
Finney, my favorite of the three, has a bit of a tan and a really nice cropped haircut. He has a very modern, for the 1980s :-), look and talks in a false-friendly sort of way. As mentioned before, he looks kind of snaky. He is always bending his long neck in slightly unnatural positions. Considering he is tempting Nicola into conning Marlow out of his script, the serpentine appearance works a treat.
Ultimately, all three tie together very well; even when it isn’t really clear which version is going to make an appearance 🙂