There are three separate strands to the mystery in this episode, and the tricky bit is figuring out how those strands are connected: (1) weapons from a British gun maker are turning up illegally in Africa; (2) the company’s shareholders are being murdered, one by one; (3) a rich investor is buying up all the shares, in an aggressive takeover bid.
Cathy is back this week (yay!) and she is sent by Steed to infiltrate the company, as a major shareholder. In no time at all she is a powerful figure in the company, getting right to the heart of the problem, and soon finds a way to pay the rich investor, Cade, a visit, despite his resistance to seeing anybody.
“I can give you six minutes.”
Note how specific that timescale is. This is a man for whom time is money, and every minute of his life is potentially worth a fortune. Their first meeting crackles like lightning, with Cathy breaking down his barriers, sparking his interest and winning his respect. He doesn’t manage to stick to his abrupt one-word answers for long.
Cathy is fabulous in this episode, and this is her episode, with Steed barely featuring at all. He has a few important things to do, but they all happen off screen and he pops up once or twice to compare notes. As great as Cathy is, it would have been fun to see Steed posing as a window cleaner, rather than just hearing about it afterwards, but I can’t complain too much because Honor Blackman carries the episode brilliantly. She comes across as an actress who was delighted with the role she was playing and was determined to make every moment count. Let’s face it, how many opportunities were there in the 1960s to play such a strong female character, both intellectually and physically? Once again, she wins in a physical fight, and the look of surprise on Karl’s face when she immediately gets the better of him is priceless.
Along the way, Cathy meets a great cast of characters, who get bumped off one by one by the mystery killer. There’s more than a hint of And Then There Were None about this, with few possible suspects left alive at the end. I particularly liked Charles Carson’s larger-than-life performance as the Brigadier, and I was sad to see him meet his maker, although his death is a key moment in the episode as it rules out one key suspect, who has clearly just brokered a deal with him and therefore no longer had a motive.
There is a little nest of vipers in this story as well, who are also great characters, but for different reasons. Young is being cuckolded by Karl, quite openly, which he ironically describes as “sordid”, considering he was trying to assault the secretary a few minutes before. It’s a tough scene to watch, and only a bite stops him from basically going ahead and raping her. The fact that she goes back to work instead of immediately calling the police is a depressing reflection of the workplace in the 60s.
But the best character this week (apart from the magnificent Cathy, of course) is Cade, who is a great representation of a man who is so rich and successful that he has no need to impress anyone by being anything other than himself, and is brutally honest and direct at all times. The best moment of the episode must surely be his response to Cathy’s question about how he would describe his taste in décor: “vulgar”. That’s not quite the best line of the episode though. It has to be this:
“As far as I know she’s down in the butts.”
Maybe I should take a leaf out of Cade’s book of honesty. What’s my taste in humour?
The view from across the pond…
It’s hard to believe that just one episode ago, I was considering this to be too outdated a show to stick with, so put off was I by that dreadful Decapod episode. Amazing what a single episode can do for a series. A big difference is that this episode, Bullseye, features the supremely confident and adept Mrs. Cathy Gale. Gale was absent in the previous episode and it’s felt! I wonder how that was received back when the series was first aired! Having her back was a boon, indeed.
Right from the word “go”, she comes off as a force to be reckoned with. She knows the job, possesses 20% of a company’s shares and becomes a member of the board, ultimately all to investigate some unlawful gunrunning activities. Interestingly, Steed supplied the money for her to procure that 20%, which is interesting considering he clearly has more money than one might expect as a public servant. (Apparently, he used £50,000 of his own money to help Cathy’s case!)
This is an episode chock full of confident and intelligent people too. The Brigadier, besides running a company, suspects Cathy of being a spy, though the idea is basically dismissed. (She’s also an expert marksman, Brigadier!) Cade is a man ready to do business and plays hardball to achieve his aims. A major contrast to the character he played in The Prisoner; he played The Rook in Checkmate. Bernard Kay plays Karl who is determined to move the illicit guns and he’s a smooth customer as well. (Unsurprising; he was one of the most likeable characters in Doctor Who’s Colony in Space!) That might be one of the most appealing things about this episode; everyone is skilled at what they do. The only one I didn’t like was the man who was cheating on his wife with his secretary and forcing her to cheat on her boyfriend, but that was the nature of the character. Not to mention, I loved that she fought back against him. Again, all of these people seem to be 3-dimensional and that was refreshing. I think the biggest fail was that of Cathy herself as she sneaks around wearing her coat over her shoulders. Why not just put it on so you’re more mobile, or drop it altogether to remove the added burden? But that’s a mild, almost playful, criticism. When she breaks into the boat and gets attacked by Karl, she bests him easily. He even looks a bit shocked by the whole ordeal. I can hardly mock Gale! In fact, I’ll go a step further with the positive comments about the characters in this story: when Gale is being questioned by the police, that dialogue bears the trademark of equals conversing, even though Cathy is a potential suspect in a murder. It’s a dynamite portrayal of competent people doing what they are good at. (I did consider that if Gale had been found guilty, surely the agency for which she and Steed work would have released her!)
I also credit the writing in this episode for another, perhaps more subtle reason. Cade is very unaffected by the death of other people and when called out on it, tells Cathy that he would not mourn the death of people who make their money selling weapons. It’s a fairly innocuous comment but it really made me think and considering this is a product of over 50 years ago, I’m highly impressed. These are people making a living off the weapons that kill other people; why mourn the passing of them? That might sound very anti-gun, but it’s not; I’m just taking the equally pragmatic approach of not mourning for people doing bad things.
The episode has a fantastic ending with Cathy confronting the person who has been committing the murders. While I knew what she was doing – with less than 10 minutes to wrap the episode, I had little doubt that we were getting our resolution – Cathy’s act is perfectly executed. She lets the would-be assassin think she’s in harm’s way, only to surprise both viewer and assassin with a rifle loaded with blanks. I admit I laughed at the fact that the assassin takes 4 shots before acknowledging that Cathy was failing to show injury. Cathy confidently pulls a gun on her assailant and the case is solved.
I know the series, like most any, will have ups and downs, but I’m amazed at the variation from one episode to the next. For a moment, I had lost interest in pressing on, now I can’t wait to dive into the next one. Let’s hope this momentum continues. For this one, they scored a Bullseye! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… The Avengers: Mission to Montreal