‘I have,’ he says, ‘pale blue eyes. You try looking soppy with pale blue eyes.’ Malahide characters specialise in the suggestion of tension, the sketch of depth, usually dark.
he will agree that his acting does have edge, that he has specialised in ‘beady parts’ (as in ‘beady-eyed villain’).
We thought it would be fun to explore some of Mr. Malahide’s more “soppy” moments, though actually they aren’t “soppy” (which sounds wet and overly sentimental) but rather “emotional”. Emotional is a much better descriptor since we’re talking about scenes that are poignant and touching.
The Viceroy’s Heart is Broken
In “Indian Summers” S02E09 (recap here), The Viceroy Lord Willingdon finally learns the truth that Ralph (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) knowingly allowed Ramu Sood (Alyy Khan) to be convicted and sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit.
What Makes It So Emotional?
The truth is forced upon the Viceroy in a brutally punishing way, though it is difficult to say if Ralph is trying to punish the Viceroy out of malice or is trying to punish himself by turning a man who loves him like a son against him. I suppose Ralph’s motive scarcely matters because the result is the same: The Viceroy is completely and utterly shattered. As he is in a public setting, Lord Willingdon forcefully keeps his emotions under check and maintains a stiff upper lip, but the pain in his eyes is incredibly intense and shows the confusion and sense of betrayal he is feeling. Those “pale blue eyes” definitely come into use in this powerful scene.
RF: Yeah, it was left rather ambiguous what Ralph’s motive was. Perhaps since he wasn’t going to get to be the next Viceroy (not that he ever realistically had a chance, but whatever), he decided to burn all his bridges. It certainly seemed especially heartless to turn on Lord W. that way, who’d regarded him as a son and tried to help him as much as he could. Mr. Malahide did an amazing bit of acting with that scene, maintaining a superficially composed exterior while allowing flickers of emotion to cross his face in rapid succession: betrayal, anger, and above all, hurt.
Admin: That succession of emotions flickering across his face as he fights to maintain a stoic stance is brilliant. Very well done!
Admin: Later we see Willingdon looking emotionally depleted and exhausted as his valet attends to him. The valet notices his distress and asks if all is well. The Viceroy responds in Hindi, obviously grateful for and genuinely touched by the man’s concern, “Never better, my friend. Never better.” It is so refreshing to see the Viceroy interact with someone without Ralph buzzing around. It is equally refreshing to see him acknowledge one of his servants as something more than a walking coat rack. We get a glimpse into what he might actually be like when Ralph isn’t there influencing things and see a man who has feelings and compassion. These brief scenes are full of silent acting which just adds to their deep emotional qualities.
RF: It was lovely to see the Viceroy interact with someone besides Ralph for a change, and also wonderful to see that he had some regard for his servants. I especially liked the fact that he could converse in Hindi with them, and that his valet evidently knew him so well that he was comfortable asking what was wrong. I would’ve liked to have seen more of the Viceroy’s personal life if those were the sort of glimpses we could have gotten.
Colin Brings Comfort & JoyIn “Comfort & Joy” (recap here), Patrick Malahide plays Colin, a warmhearted Scottish doctor and family man. In this scene, he is speaking with his good friend Alan “Dickie” Bird (Bill Paterson), a popular local radio DJ. Alan is going through something of a mid-life crisis and is feeling rather envious of Colin’s life of domestic bliss. Colin is most certainly a man who has got it all together. As a surgeon he has an extremely respectable career and is shown to be very caring towards his patients. In addition to that he has a lovely family and a lovely home. Alan can’t help but notice.
What Makes it So Emotional?
In this scene, Colin’s caring nature comes through as he gives aid to a heart sore Alan, trying to boost his ego by saying how envious he was of Alan who was a popular ladies man back in their uni days. He even praises Alan for having the “guts” to fail exams, something Colin apparently never did, or at least that is what he claims. Alan sees right through his good friend though, “You’re just trying to make me feel better.” Colin responds, “Well, that’s my job.” Colin is forever the doctor seeing to his patients. 🙂
RF: Colin is sort of the ultimate reassuring friend. He’s unfailingly loyal, nearly unshockable, and extremely practical. Nice bit of psychology for him to make what would normally be vices into virtues. 😉
Admin: But what really makes the scene special is seeing Colin as a family man in a scene of domestic bliss. He looks 100% the part in his cozy sweater sitting by an equally cozy fire enjoying a well earned drink. He loves his little girls and there is a cute moment where he is very unceremoniously handed a broken doll to mend.
RF: It is excruciatingly cute when the girls dump the broken doll bits into Colin’s lap. 😀
Admin: Colin’s sly sense of humor comes through, “This is a real mess, Lily. Now, I’ve told you about amputations. You just watch them closely and only chop if you have to, okay?” Colin is a gentle soul and an absolute sweetheart, but we get a good idea there of how he and Alan must have got up to some hijinx in their uni days.
RF: I like the way Colin talks to Lily so matter-of-factly about amputations and what to do about them. 😀 Even better that she’s not horrified by the idea at all. You also get the sense that this is only one of many, many dolls that Colin has fixed.
Admin: Yeah, Lily seems pretty blasé about the whole thing which just makes it all the cuter. She’s probably starting to realize her dad has a weird sense of humour. 🙂
Admin: The scene ends with Colin’s adorable little girl Lily (Robin Black) deciding that Alan will have the honor of getting her ready for bed. “A great honor.” I think Colin is hoping that Alan will learn something from these moments of domestic bliss and work on sorting his own life out. But whether he does or doesn’t, we definitely get the feeling that Colin will always be there for Alan to share a comfy drink with. That’s what friends are for, and Colin knows that.
RF: Yeah, I think Alan is a bit jealous of Colin’s domestic bliss, although he doesn’t seem quite ready to commit to what it would take to have something similar for himself. But you’re right that Colin is the sort of dependable friend who’ll always be there for him.
Mr. Pickwick Meets Up with Alfred Jingle Again in Fleet Prison
Fearless Admin could’ve probably guessed I’d pick this one. 😉 In “The Pickwick Papers” S01E10, through a somewhat convoluted set of circumstances (fully recapped here), Samuel Pickwick (Nigel Stock) ends up in the Fleet, the notorious debtors’ prison, because he refuses to pay damages to his former landlady, Mrs. Bardell, and her grasping lawyers, Dodson and Fogg, after losing a lawsuit for breach of contract – basically, they make it out that Pickwick had agreed to marry the landlady when he’d done no such thing. Now locked up in the Fleet, Mr. Pickwick decides to employ a free man from “the poor side” as an errand runner, who turns out to be Job Trotter (Pip Donaghy), faithful (if filthy) manservant to none other than Pickwick’s nemesis, con man Alfred Jingle (Mr. Malahide), who has also ended up in the Fleet under greatly reduced circumstances.
Admin: I had my suspicions 😉
What Makes It So Emotional?
RF: Jingle, who was formerly in control of every situation he ever found himself in and usually had not one, but several escape plans already mapped out in his head, has been caught and is in the bad part of a very bad place. He’s been there so long that he’s dirty and scruffy, wearing tattered clothes, and so unaware of (or willfully ignoring) his surroundings that he doesn’t even realize at first that Pickwick has come into the room. Once he does realize it, his first instinct is to accept blame for everything that’s happened to him, saying that it “serves me right… very.”.
Admin: The room has a terrifying air of madness, largely courtesy of a fellow inmate who repeatedly cries “hip, hip, hip”, so it seems that Jingle has retreated into his own mind. Once a place of joyful plotting and chicanery, his mind is now a refuge of reflection and self-punishment. He certainly appears lost in thought and introspection. I like the way Job gently draws Jingle’s attention to Pickwick. He is very tender with him.
RF: Ooohhh, the “Hip, hip, hip!!” guy is so weird! Agreed that the entire room has an air of madness to it; along with the “Hip, hip, hip!” guy, the other inmates are clustered along the walls in little groups, fearfully eyeing Pickwick as he comes in. There’s a constant undercurrent of barely audible whispering that adds to the sense of unreality. Like Jingle, they’re all in rags and appear to be the worst off in the Fleet.
Admin: Indeed, the way the whole scene is laid out is very unsettling. The production team did stellar work.
RF: Pickwick is shocked by the change, but asks to speak with Jingle in private. Jingle attempts some graveyard humour, calling his surroundings “Spike Park” and praising the “housekeeper” for being “desperately careful”, but there’s no question his situation is dire; he needs Job’s help even to get up from his seat and he moves slowly and carefully, like a desperately ill man. As it turns out, he is desperately ill. He and Job have pawned every last bit of their clothing and possessions in exchange for food, but they’re still starving. Not only that, but Jingle is well aware he’s seriously ill and that he’s likely to die right where he is, receiving a workhouse funeral. He sketches out his fate for Pickwick in his usual epigrammatic style, but he becomes more emotional as he goes along: “Serve him right. All over. Drop the curtain.”
Admin: Poor Jingle. But you have to love seeing him try to maintain some sense of good cheer even though he really is completely broken and near death. And I don’t think any of this is coming from an attempt at wooing Pickwick to his side. Jingle really thinks it is all over, and we see that he respects Mr. Pickwick. I think he shows a tiny smidge of pride when he tells Pickwick about how long he and Job were able to last on his wardrobe though. Those were some pretty fine clothes, after all.
RF: A smidge of pride, and also some wistfulness at what they no longer have. But you’re right that Jingle’s not attempting to woo Pickwick, he’s just describing the way things are.
RF: Then we get a lot of personal self-revelation. Surprisingly, Jingle tries to comfort Pickwick, patting him on the shoulder and calling him a “good fellow” while describing himself as an “ungrateful dog” who “suffered much” but “deserved it all”. He begins to well up, but is even embarrassed about that, admitting that it’s “boyish to cry” but he “can’t help it”; he’s got a fever and is weak and ill. Despite the explanation, we know that Jingle has been stripped of everything to the point of complete vulnerability, and he knows he has no hope left. He keeps accepting the blame for what’s happened to him (“Deserved it all”), but despite his helplessness, he’s not quite resigned to his fate. He’s receiving a massive comeuppance, but he seems to be trying to get the digs in on himself before Pickwick can gloat over him – all while acknowledging that he deserves to be gloated over.
Admin: He always liked Pickwick, even when they were enemies. Their cartoonish rivalry was fun, and Jingle enjoyed every moment of it. He really wants Pickwick to know that he truly does think highly of him, as I’m sure he always did. It is the “boyish to cry” line that utterly gets to me. It reminds us that Jingle probably always had a tough life and had to grow-up fast. I’m sure Pickwick realizes that too.
RF: The “boyish to cry” line is a heart-breaker. As you say, Jingle has probably always had a tough life and had to become self-sufficient (and extremely cunning) very early. For him to be so helpless is a major blow.
RF: But contrary to Jingle’s expectations, Pickwick isn’t interested in gloating. He calls a suspicious Job over and gives him a coin; we don’t know how much it is, but it’s likely more money than Jingle and Job have seen in months, and more than enough to feed both of them. Pickwick leaves, vowing to see “what can be done” and Job shows Jingle the coin. Jingle makes no reply but turns his face to the wall, weeping soundlessly.
RF: It’s an amazing scene, both because Mr. Malahide’s transformation was so drastic, and because Jingle, while still being himself in some ways, has changed so drastically, too. He’s entirely contrite and suffering and completely alone except for Job, who’s willingly gone into the Fleet and hocked his own clothes just to help his friend live a little bit longer. It becomes especially heart-rending when Jingle describes how terrible his situation is and how much he’s suffered, yet he keeps emphasizing that he “deserved” it for his misdeeds (which, as I’ve noted many times elsewhere, aren’t really that bad, but whatever). We’re seeing a formerly energetic and charismatic character reduced to his last extremity, and we feel for him. I just wanted to get him out of the Fleet and give him a bath and a hot meal!
Admin: The way he reacts at receiving the coin is perfect. He is feeling some incredibly powerful emotions at seeing Pickwick’s strong sense of compassion. As you say, Jingle’s misdeeds weren’t that bad, not by Dickensian standards at any rate, but what he is feeling is more than mere shame at his previous tricks. Jingle is seeing what genuine goodness is all about, and it has a profound impact which is intensely portrayed by Mr. Malahide.
Tanya Visits John Poole
Okay, this one is a real heart-breaker. 🙁 In “Five Days” S01E05, John Poole’s (Mr. Malahide) daughter Leanne goes missing, leaving two of her children abandoned in her car. Various leads and suspects are chased down by the police. After an excruciatingly long search, she’s found dead, her body badly decomposed after being underwater for some time. Despite being warned that he would find Leanne’s condition disturbing, Poole insists on viewing her as his final duty as her father. The experience proves too much for him, and we find out in this episode that he has had to go into a mental health facility. Poole’s granddaughter, Tanya (Lucinda Dryzek), Leanne’s eldest daughter, is the only member of his family to visit him regularly, even though she has to skip school to do so.
What Makes It So Emotional?
RF: Everything! John Poole is drastically changed from the last time we saw him; he’s visibly trembling and distraught, yet he still has some of his protective instincts; he’s more worried about Tanya visiting him “in a place like this” than anything else. He’s unshaven, wearing a bathrobe, and has obviously been in the facility for some time. He isn’t the solid, supportive grandfather we saw in the first episode any longer; now it’s Tanya who’s taken on the role of caregiver and comforter. She even helps him blow his nose when his tears become too much for him.
Admin: I can’t help but notice a slight similarity to Jingle’s and Poole’s positions as we enter the scene. Poole sits with his face covered by his hand, lost in himself. A massive difference however is that Poole is *far* more tightly coiled and locked away inside himself than the more introspective Jingle indicating a greater mental trauma which is still clearly ongoing. It comes across even more as he automatically springs away from Tanya as she approaches. Her dedication to John and her ability to just push through and focus on his needs shows the complete role reversal from the first episodes.
RF: I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but you’re right, there is some similarity. They are both experiencing a complete lack of control and trying to hide from reality, in a way. But I think Jingle is almost resigned to his fate (although he does express some resistance when he tells Pickwick it’s “boyish to cry”), whereas John is, as you say, still in the midst of ongoing trauma and can’t deal with anything but what’s happening now.
RF: It’s from Tanya that we learn that John’s wife, Barbara (Penelope Wilton), hasn’t been in to see him since he was admitted (or admitted himself, it’s not clear). Barbara has been telling people that what John did was “an accident” (that is, a suicide attempt), which basically sounds like she’s willfully deluding herself as well as everyone else. Nonetheless, John excuses Barbara to Tanya, saying that Tanya should be angry with him, not Barbara. He says Barbara has been “so strong” in looking after the grandchildren, while castigating himself as “useless”. Tanya takes a surprisingly adult approach, pragmatically acknowledging John’s distress while remaining supportive, as if he’s the same grandad he’s always been.
Admin: His eyes are brimming with tears, and they are all red-rimmed and sore. It must be very hard for Tanya to see this, but she is being very strong keeping her focus on him.
RF: It’s a lot for her to handle at her age (or anyone to handle at any age), but she takes a very adult approach. I have the feeling she might get through to John better than his doctors do.
RF: John tells Tanya that Barbara was “the best thing to ever happen to [him]” until Leanne came along, adding “And then you, of course” as an afterthought, an unwitting hurt I don’t think he’d have inflicted under normal circumstances. It’s double-edged, because Tanya’s father Daf has left her with her grandparents since her mother’s death, with no interest in wanting to bring her into his life. But Tanya still acknowledges the strong bond between John and Leanne, seemingly without feeling too jealous about it. She’s being remarkably gentle with him, but I think she knows that John is her last, best family connection.
RF: Despite that, Tanya says she thinks “the world would be a better place without all this love going on. Because all it does is make people hurt each other,” which is a remarkably harsh point of view – though understandable given what’s happened in her life. But John still has the presence of mind to reply, “But otherwise life would be so lonely.” I think Tanya and John are reaching out to each other in their loneliness, knowing that they’re the only ones they have. Even though John is currently “broken”, I think he’ll get some of the support he needs from Tanya, who’s having to grow up way before her time.
Admin: Tanya is able to connect with him unlike anyone else, so yes, I also think he will start to mend and put his life back together with Tanya’s help. It seems like he can get all caught up in feelings of guilt and inadequacy only for Tanya pull him back to reality. Even though the roles are reversed she is letting him know that she needs him which at least gives him a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose is one of the best things you can give someone who is feeling so utterly inadequate.
RF: That’s true. I think they give each other a sense of purpose, which is probably why their bond is so strong.
RF: So, the entire scene is heart-wringingly poignant, with both Mr. Malahide and Ms. Dryzek inhabiting their characters so believably that you can’t help but feel a lump in your throat as you watch them. The scene is shocking in how much John has changed, yet still has an element of hope in that these are two people who still manage to love each other despite everything they’ve been through. Wonderfully acted and intensely engrossing.
Admin: Their chemistry is excellent. And, yes, it ends on a very hopeful note with their shared hug.