The action begins in the hospital ward with Nicola asking Marlow about his screenplay. He daydreams a scene set at Finney’s place where Nicola and Mark Finney are discussing their nefarious plans to steal The Singing Detective.
Nicola: (typing “The End” into Finney’s computer) That’s it. All done.
Finney: ‘Bout time, too. (removes floppy disc) The Singing Detective, an original screenplay by Mark..
Nicola: Mark Finney! (cut to Marlow in the hospital bed humming a tune) (Finney nuzzles her) Ages since I did any typing and this gadget of yours, my God, you think it could pour you a drink while I sit back.
Finney: Ahhh, that’s my job. Would you like a drink?
Nicola: Why not.
Admin: About time too? Is that a comment on the speed of her typing? 😉 Finney’s nuzzling is surprisingly gentle and, dare I say, cute. Pity it is slightly ruined by Marlow’s interruption. Finney keeps up his charming routine by offering to get her a drink while she relaxes. Awwww. I bet things don’t stay so sweet.
RF: Maybe she was typing slowly so as not to ruin her nails. Ooohhh, I got such an Eighties flashback just from the sound of that keyboard, and also from that monochrome monitor and huge 5.25″ floppy disc. Why, you can store a whole 360KB on those! I suppose it’s symbolic that The Singing Detective is going from a stained, hard-copy manuscript in a ratty shoebox to a super high-tech (for the time!) computer file, and being “corrupted” in the process. It’s the purity of art versus cold, impersonal, money-making technology. I think Marlow’s primary concern is not necessarily Nicola’s fidelity or loyalty (he seems to fully expect that she’d gleefully betray him for enough cash), but the integrity and loss of his magnum opus. It’s the last thing he has that’s totally his.
Admin: The computer scenes have become somewhat vintage now. That is a good point on art being corrupted by technology. Everything about Finney and his place place is cold and impersonal.
RF: I also noticed that again, Nicola’s the only flash of colour in the room, although this time it’s her earrings and nails (red, again – she seems to like red) rather than her whole outfit. I could be reading too much into it, but I wonder if her black-and-white wardrobe is meant to show her increasing alliance with Finney – or perhaps she just likes black and white clothes. At any rate, Finney seems especially smugly satisfied with their act of plagiarism.
Admin: And apples are sometimes red which keeps with the theme of temptation. I have no idea if it was intentional or not since she is looking very typical of the time (like a Dynasty star, actually), but it works symbolically.
Finney: (making drinks) Now we’ve got it safely on disc, shred that old shoebox, print off as many copies as we need. Ice?
Nicola: Ice. (humming Marlow’s tune)
Finney: (handing the drink over) Now we deliver…
Nicola: …and collect.
Admin: Like all good villains, they painstakingly reveal their plans at every available opportunity.
RF: Just to remind us of how evil they are. Nicola looks like she might be mulling over what they’ve done, although she still doesn’t seem to have any regrets.
Finney: But you must, must get Marlow to sign the option with my company. Absolute essential – first things first – One: He signs with me. Two: I send it on to Metro films. Three: Net profit half a million plus all the points. Cheers. (clinks glasses) Not bad, hey?
Finney: He’s got to sign though.
Nicola: I know; I know.
Admin: This is more like the Finney we know. The second he reminds her about signing the option he goes into full snake mode if snakes could waggle their fingers. In episode 4, it was Nicola who was taking the lead, this time it is Finney pushing the agenda forward. Maybe that is because Marlow is starting to warm up to his estranged wife.
RF: That’s a good point. Finney’s back to the almost sibilant tones he was using when we first saw him at the hospital, pushing the scheme while Nicola seems more bemused and even a tad reluctant to follow through, almost ignoring him as he speaks. The serpent tempting Eve? Perhaps Marlow can’t quite imagine her betraying him so thoroughly without being influenced by Finney.
Admin: A monochromatic serpent offering a whiskey sour. 😉
Finney: Nicola…..(goes over to her) can’t you be nicer to him, mmm? You know? Sweeter…promise more, all that stuff, mmm?
Nicola: Hitch up my skirt, you mean.
Finney: Aww, Nicola… (kisses her)
Nicola: All right…all right, but you’ve no idea how difficult he can be.
Finney: See him this evening, hmmm? Be nice, hmmm? (kisses)
Admin: Now he is being both patronizing and flirtatious at the same time. It is an eerie combination and Nicola doesn’t initially seem to be enjoying his affections as much as she would have in episode 4.
RF: In a bit of a turnabout, now it’s Finney using physical affection, draping himself all over Nicola to persuade her to win over Marlow by any means necessary (including sexual means, ironically enough), whereas Nicola attempted to do the same to Finney in the previous episode. You’re right, Nicola seems reluctant at first, but she ends up less indifferent to Finney’s charms than he was to hers. It’s all rather oogy when you consider this is how Marlow imagines Nicola can be won over, and the tactics she’d use. He’s back to tormenting himself with scenes of ultimate betrayal again.
Nicola’s off-camera voice: Look what are you talking about, please. What screenplay was this?
Finney hears the voices and seems perplexed. We then go back to the hotel ward where Marlow answers Nicola’s question, “The Singing Detective.”
Admin: But, right at the second Nicola does start to loosen up, Marlow’s reality intrudes on the fantasy. The spooked look on Finney’s face is very unsettling and I really find myself feeling sorry for him.
RF: Finney’s spooked look is very effective. 🙂 Once again his metafictional nature intrudes; he’s aware of Marlow’s creative process while Nicola isn’t, probably because he’s entirely Marlow’s creation. But he isn’t aware enough to be omniscient, so he doesn’t know what the heck is going on – yet. He just has the sense of being controlled by outside forces. I also think Marlow unconsciously (or consciously) interrupted the scene before it got too hot and heavy, saving himself from imagining where things were headed.
Admin: That is likely true. Marlow tortures himself with his imagination, but only up to a point which is completely understandable. It is just a pity poor Finney always has to spooked as a result.
Admin: I love how Marlow always seems to be shifting the blame from one character to another and altering their grasps of reality. Patrick Malahide effortlessly slides from serpentine villain to an innocent victim of Marlow’s subconscious. It is really scary when you think about it. Every scene with Mr. Malahide is fantastic, but I really am particularly fond of the Finney ones. He and Ms. Suzman play off each other brilliantly and have an amazing chemistry together. They are so fun to watch, especially when they reveling in their chicanery. It is almost a pity they aren’t allowed to rip old Dumbledore off. 😉
RF: But while Marlow is shifting blame, he can never bring himself to consider that he might be responsible for any of it. Ultimately it represents how little Marlow trusts Nicola, that he can’t seem to resist placing her in scenes of betrayal with his best work, The Singing Detective, at stake. Mr. Malahide does an excellent job of portraying both a nearly irresistible tempter and a confused, bewildered, yet self-aware character who doesn’t understand what’s happening when he realizes he’s unwillingly and unwittingly part of something larger. He’s the same character, but Mr. Malahide conveys his changes of mood and attitude seamlessly. I also agree that he has great chemistry with Ms. Suzman; Marlow couldn’t have done much better in imagining a dangerous rival. 😉