The Avengers: The Golden Fleece

The Avengers DVD releaseA few weeks ago, The Gilded Cage blurred the lines between heroes and villains. The Golden Fleece goes even further down that path. Between 1945 and the end of the decade UK armed forces personnel were reduced from nearly five million to about three quarters of a million. By the end of the 1950s that figure had dropped to around half a million and today stands at around 145,000. So what happens to those men and women when they resume their lives on Civvy Street?

Before that question is examined, we get two apparently disparate storylines that take a while to intersect. Steed takes the wrong jacket from a Chinese restaurant and finds a cheque for £5000 in the pocket. Meanwhile some retired army officers who work in a museum are involved in some shady dealings. While we wait for the two strands of the story to come together, we get some great character interaction between Steed and Cathy. A theme of the episode is Cathy’s frustration with Steed’s underhanded tactics and she has a point. It’s no wonder she throws things at him, because he goes about involving her in a seemingly unnecessarily sneaky manner.

“You can’t just tell me in plain, straightforward language that you’re after a gold smuggler. We have to go through this ridiculous rigmarole.”

Cathy is generally playful about her admonishments (“He who does not tell truth gets cushion in eye.”), but later in the episode she is rightfully aggrieved when he arranges for her to do some work at the army museum without telling her about it. Steed’s actions are odd, because Cathy’s surprise at finding herself suddenly at the heart of the case they are investigating could have easily betrayed her, and almost does when she recognises somebody’s name and reacts to it. Steed clearly thinks Cathy would be better to be unaware of the significance of the job, which shows a lack of trust in her ability to go undercover with the full knowledge of why she is there, as if she needs to be kept in the dark in order to convincingly act the part. Over the course of many adventures together, Cathy has ably demonstrated that she would be more than capable, and Steed’s lack of faith in her is starting to look like a betrayal.

When the two story strands come together, it turns out that the army chaps have embarked on a life of crime, helping to smuggle gold out of the country disguised as bullets. They are not doing that themselves, but are using the money to help “victims of the army purge, suddenly kicked out, no jobs, no training.” Warren Mitchell is absolutely superb as Captain George Jason, explaining from personal experience what it feels like to be demobbed and unable to fit into civilian life. Despite being an absolute genius with finances, he “couldn’t get a job even making a broker’s tea”. When they are found out and he realises the consequences of his actions and his inability to help anyone else in future, it looks like he is fighting back tears. What an acting performance.

There is a moral of the story here, because things get out of hand for them. One of their men stole money from the Chinese client, and he subsequently murders him, so now they have a death on their consciences. I think this adds a necessary degree of balance to the moral question, without which Steed would be definitely the villain in the eyes of the viewers. The collateral damage raises the question of whether the ends justify the means, although the murder victim was a heartless thief, so we are still going to be at least leaning towards the possibility that these men were doing the right thing morally, and Steed has negatively impacted the lives of many struggling ex-army personnel by bringing Ruse, Jason and Wright to justice. The writers don’t lose sight of that problem, though, because Cathy at least destroys the list of beneficiaries at the end of the episode, so their Robin Hood work up to that point is not undone, but her mirth at sifting through the golden bullets in the closing seconds of the episode is ill-judged. It’s hard to escape the feeling that the writers raised an important issue, and then laughed it off.   RP

The view from across the pond:

What does The Golden Fleece have in common with Sherlock Holmes?  Maybe it reminds me of the title The Golden Pince-Nez?  No.  I’ll work it out, I’m sure!

So this plot, another in a line of maddeningly twisty plots, ultimately focuses on these three military chappies who are making money by illegal sales of gold. The motive matters, but hang on.   One of those happy chappies steals his earnings and buys a garage, because why use money to live an easy life when you can become a mechanic and remain as filthy as humanly possible?  Then Mysterious Ancient Asian man hunts him down, runs him over, but then vanishes and we really get no resolution to him because “ancient Chinese secret!”  (If you grew up in the 80’s, you remember the commercial.)  Maybe he becomes the big bad of the season.  Oh, who am I kidding!  There’s no continuity!  The three men are hunted by Steed and Gale.  Like every episode lately, there’s the requisite cacophonous fight scene where Gale easily dispatches a military Captain with an few embarrassingly flailing moves and Steed shoots another in the arm but then the truth comes out…

So here’s where Sherlock Holmes was way ahead of the Avengers: I was waiting for the Holmesian resolution that never comes.  As I said, the one murderer in the episode gets away or just isn’t mentioned again like Paul McGann’s character in Alien 3.   The three military lads are actually stealing money to pay for former army members and their families.  When asked why they didn’t leave the army and become rich, they are appalled.  They love serving their country and helping others in the process.  So I was disgusted when Holmes didn’t show up and let them go!  Steed, our “hero” still arrests them, or whatever these public servants are doing when they walk the baddies off screen!  Gale has the decency to burn some evidence.  At least, I think that’s what she does but the ne’er-do-wells, who are in fact doing good for others, are now in custody and the episode ends.

I was mad.  I mean proper mad.  Don’t get me wrong, these episodes are becoming so subpar that I am pretty sure I’m doing math equations in my head and miss things, which I blame partly on bad writing and partly on horrible sound editing.  I notice how many of them speak fast mumble – I think that’s the language – that I am not sure I catch everything.  I was impressed that they do seem to be trying to paint Steed in a better light; sort of a master planner, but Cathy is upset with him for doing just that, so is that a good thing or not? 

Then there are the things that jump out at me and I sound like Scooby Doo saying “wuh??!”  Those brandy glasses for one; could they be bigger and do you really only pour a tablespoon into them then just swish them around?  What’s the point??   And what about that outstanding chalk outline of the dead man?  Did the evil driver lop his hands off because the outline comes to an open ended arm.  (An arm that looks particularly simian I’d like to point out!)  Steed gets a point in his favor when he suggests to the widow of Corporal Jones that he might have been killed out of jealousy.  While that’s probably an impolite thing to say to a widow, he’s implying that someone killed her husband because she’s beautiful.  It’s an odd way to pay a compliment to someone, but I appreciated his attempt.  By contrast, he loses some major points when he was upset that Cathy had a job.  She suggests that her apartment doesn’t pay for itself, so he suggests and “alternate arrangement” then puckers his lips in search of a kiss.  So… what?  Was he going to pay her for sex?   Can’t blame a guy for trying??  Nah, he’s supposed to be the hero and behaves deplorably.  Ah, who cares?  It’s the Steed Power Hour after all. 

Based on what our mysterious Asian man says, America is all about hot dogs.  I’ll take the criticism.  Hot dogs are tasty.  And probably a lot healthier than some of these episodes!   ML

Read next in the Junkyard… The Avengers: Don’t Look Behind You


About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Avengers: The Golden Fleece

  1. The Sandman says:

    The murderer Mr Lo doesn’t get away with the murder, he is arrested (off-screen) after leaving the country and his flight touches down Karachi. Admittedly I thought the same thing on first viewing as the majority of the dialogue focuses on the GF fund in general

    Liked by 2 people

    • DrAcrossthePond says:

      I find the show too convoluted by half and the fact that it happens offscreen is almost an afterthought. Shame the writers didn’t try to do a better job with what they were putting ON the screen! ML

      Liked by 1 person

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