S02E06, A Gift for the King
Thankfully we saw considerably more of the Viceroy this week than we have for a couple of weeks now, and he is in fine form. This was an extremely intense and eventful episode with the Banerjee storyline culminating in tragedy.
Preparations are underway for King George’s Silver Jubilee. The Viceroy, posing picturesquely, has clearly had his fill of festivities. I can’t blame him. They seem to have some sort of a to-do every week in Simla. It must be exhausting having regular Mad Tea Parties with the likes of Charlie Havistock and the Maharaja.
“Good grief! Another damned party,” he growls as the crowds descend upon the Viceregal lodge once more. Ralph gamely reminds him that this is the King’s Silver Jubilee. “I’m well aware of that, Whelan, but one does feel rather invaded.” Invaded? I believe that is what they call irony.
They go look at the nice deco microphone where the Viceroy will deliver his speech over the wireless. Ralph helpfully tells the Viceroy that he should just speak into the microphone. That’s a bit cheeky! Don’t let his old-fashioned duds fool you, the Viceroy knows all about modern technology and snaps back at Ralph, “Yes, yes, yes. Thank you, I’ve had my fill of advice from Her Excellency,” then he storms out giving the microphone a very hard stare indeed.
Her Excellency I would presume is the Vicereine. The Vicereine figures more prominently this week, so she finally gets an IMDB billing (Annette Maria White). RFodchuk and I were pleased about that because we have been wanting to know since series one who plays her. The real Vicereine Willingdon (link goes to a very interesting article in The Hindu, “Madras pushy first lady”) was a fascinating and formidable lady, so it is nice that she now has a casting credit.
Another to-do and another no-show from the Maharaja. However this time he at least sends a present for the King. They, the Viceroy and Ralph, are still trying to curry the Maharaja’s favor so his no-show is a disappointment, but more on that in a bit.
Whelan meets up again with the Viceroy who is going over his speech with one of his guards. He hands it over to Ralph, “Here it is, my tribute to the King…that blasted thingmie.” Ralph informs him it is called a “wireless.” “The broadcast, yes, I am familiar with the terms.” The Viceroy is being very prickly today.
He wants to know what Ralph *really* thinks of the speech, so he welcomes helpful criticism as opposed to that speak into the microphone guff. Ralph suggests they tackle the nationalist issue head on. They decide to reinforce the idea of the King being a constant presence, standing above them all, and how without his presence they would all be poorer. The Viceroy likes all that and swipes the paper back and zooms off for some last minute revisions. Just then “Munshi” (Aafrin) walks in to have a word with Ralph.
Banerjee and Chota Matthew
And, yes, that word is all about Naresh Banerjee’s explosives. Earlier, Aafrin got Banerjee to tell him the location of the explosives. So now Aafrin tells Ralph he knows of someone who has a bomb buried at Ian’s tea plantation. The authorities go out to ransack Ian’s place, only to be spied upon by Banerjee who now knows without doubt that Aafrin has been talking.
The explosives are actually at Dougie’s mission school (they were placed there in S02E03, the excellent cricketing episode). There Banerjee finds a lone little boy named Chota Matthew playing with his wagon. Dougie, who is at the Jubilee, left the little boy on his own.
Yes, it is a very, very bad idea to leave a child unprotected like that. Banerjee manipulates the boy with tales of Ravana a ten-headed demon and tricks him into thinking the bomb is a “gift for the King”. He sends him off to the Jubilee celebration with the bomb in his little wagon.
A Speech Over the Thingmie
As mentioned earlier, the Maharaja sent a present for the King….a bust of himself. Lovely. The Viceroy is utterly unimpressed. “What on earth?” Madeleine jokes that it is something for the bathroom which makes the Viceroy laugh. He’s got a sense of humour that Viceroy.
Ralph tells them that it is actually a gift for the King. “Really?” The Viceroy is so unimpressed. And he’s also a bit worried that maybe they’d offended the Maharaja or something. “He’s not avoiding us, do you suppose?” Ralph bluffs that they have his full support. The Viceroy doesn’t seem fully convinced, but he goes along with it anyway.
Next up, the speech!
On behalf of the Princes and people of India, I beg to send to His Majesty the King Emperor our respectful and joyful greetings on this auspicious day. And to express the profound hope… that he may be spared many years to continue to rule over this great country. Loyalty to the King Emperor is and always has been the abiding faith of the Indian people. And while it is impossible in these days of change and development to expect the many millions of India to be free from all the stress and strain which comes with the desire for political advance, His Majesty the King Emperor can rest assured that he is held to be above and apart from such movements, and that we are all devotedly loyal to the King Emperor’s throne and person. We gratefully thank him for the constant and abiding interest he has always taken in the welfare, prosperity and progress of all his subjects in India.
He is wearing a charming pair of spectacles as he skillfully (Ralph!) talks into his microphone. He looks lovely, I must say. The Vicereine agrees with me because she immediately makes a beeline to congratulate him. As we saw last week, the Viceroy is really good at speech making.
Ian Saves the Day…Or at Least Part of It
Banerjee is finally apprehended. He is looking for Aafrin but finds Sooni instead. He attacks her with a knife. Fortunately, at that moment Scottish radical 😉 Ian is leading an anti-Empire protest and catches Banerjee. Sooni is unharmed, and Ian is a hero. There are a lot of Ian’n’Sooni fans for whom that gives hope. 🙂
However, the authorities are unable to get any information from Banerjee because he had been surreptitiously handed a cyanide capsule by the same Sikh guard who had been blackmailing Aafrin in series one, and who gave the little boy a grenade in S02E01. I hope someone catches on to him!
The Jubilee celebration continues and the Viceroy, resplendent in a gorgeous grey suit and topper, is looking forward to the toast. The Vicereine, incidentally, is looking perfect in purple which corresponds with her apparent love of mauve. He spies Aafrin and calls to him, “There he is. Munshie, Whelan’s been asking for you.”
Aafrin joins Ralph and finally confesses everything about his involvement with Banerjee. It must be a terrible weight off his shoulders. During his confession, he reminds Ralph of Ramu Sood, the man that was unjustly hanged for Jaya’s (Ralph’s former lover and the mother of his secret son Adam) murder. But, Aafrin still thinks very highly of Ralph and considers him a friend. He begs Ralph to help him.
A Toast to the King Emperor
Meanwhile, at the toast, the Viceroy has absolutely no idea what danger they are all in. Aafrin and Ralph come in for the toast and the Viceroy raises his hands in confusion over Ralph’s late entrance. The Viceroy is clearly disconcerted by Ralph’s erratic behavior.
Outside we see Chota Matthew lighting the fuse as instructed by Banerjee. The poor little fellow really thinks it is a gift. The guards stop him as he trundles by with his wagon, but he says (very cutely) “it is a gift for the King,” so the they let him by. He’s genuinely adorable, but those guards are totally slacking 😮
Unaware, the Viceroy commences with the toast. “Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, on this most auspicious day, I give you the King Emperor.” They sing “God Save the King”. Dougie who is amoung the revelers realizes that something is going on outside and sees his own little charge Chota Matthew dragging the wagon. He demands to know what is inside the cart. “It is a gift for the King.” Dougie opens the crate and the bomb goes off just as the Viceroy and guests are finishing “God Save the King”.
The aftermath of the explosion reveals that Dougie did not survive. He died protecting Chota Matthew from the blast. At least two guards also died in the explosion. It is really heart rending when poor little Chota Matthew stands up as his Uncle (how all the mission school children referred to Dougie) is dead on the ground.
This was an incredibly intense episode ending with an incredible tragic moment. It will be especially interesting to see how Ralph and Aafrin move on after this, especially as Aafrin will be needing Ralph’s protection.
Patrick Malahide was brilliant as the vexed Viceroy. It was a lot of fun watching him zip about the place as he bristled with annoyance at all the trouble being caused by the Jubilee. He seemed blissfully unaware of all the intrigue going on right up until that last moment when the celebration was cut ruthlessly short by the explosion. His final year in Simla is turning out to be a disaster. And he really seems to be wondering just what the heck is going on with Ralph. His confused and distressed expressions convey just that even though he hasn’t tackled Ralph on his recent ambiguous behavior yet.
I am hopeful that he and Ralph part on friendly terms. It would be upsetting if Willingdon leaves the Viceroy post feeling betrayed and let down by Ralph.