The Avengers: The Murder Market

The Avengers DVD releaseMany years ago, I met my future wife on an online dating website. I was one of the lucky ones. The generation before mine didn’t have that option, and the romantically challenged had to instead join some kind of a dating agency. It was the same principle, but a much slower and more inefficient process, with a very limited choice of possible love matches. I can remember “lonely hearts clubs”, as they were sometimes referred to, being looked down upon somewhat, as if it was some kind of a shameful admission of social inadequacy to join one of them; a last resort for those who found themselves “on the shelf”. Mercifully all that has changed. It always made a lot of sense to date somebody who has the same goals and is a probable match for your personality, rather than a random pick-up in a bar, and it took the invention of the internet for enough people to realise that. Roughly a third of romantic relationships now begin online.

But where there is money to be made, there will always be problems. I was once contacted by an obviously fake profile, probably in reality some kind of a scam artist trying to con me. I was savvy enough to smell a rat immediately and never responded, but others are not so fortunate. There are potential dangers with online dating. The Murder Market shows us how a dating agency could also be a front for criminal activity, but The Avengers rarely concerns itself with realistic scenarios, so “Togetherness Inc.” is a way to secretly connect people together who want to bump off a rich relative. The idea is actually surprisingly clever: two people who would be the prime suspect if they killed the person whose money they stand to inherit simply swap victims, and therefore each have a cast-iron alibi for the case that the police would logically connect them with.

“Suppose you eliminated someone else’s victim.”
“And they in return, as a favour, eliminated yours.”

There’s an obvious problem with the idea, though, and it’s the one that leads Steed and Emma to investigate in the first place: a pattern emerges where all the victims had recently joined the dating agency. That’s bound to happen, and it’s starting to become a repetitive theme of this series. However clever the schemes of the criminals might seem to be, they always make the Avengers’ job easy with an obvious trail that leads back to them.

This was the first episode filmed for the fourth series, and you can see how it would have worked better if it was broadcast first as well. There is a moment where Steed has been sent to murder Emma, and pulls a gun on her. The scene cuts, and he returns to report that the job is done. Now, we are unlikely ever to really believe that he might be ruthless enough to go through with it so as not to blow his cover, but the way the scenes fit together clearly indicate that the writer and director are attempting to sew a seed of doubt in the mind of the viewers. In an episode where Emma has just been introduced, and might be a guest star for just one episode for all we know, that would have worked a little better than the eventual positioning of the episode within the season. By the seventh episode, that seed of doubt is clearly never going to take root. Having said that, it would not have been a particularly wise choice to use this episode to debut a new season, because it’s not a particularly strong one compared with The Town of No Return.

A couple of golden moments to keep an eye out for, one of which was completely insignificant at the time: firstly there’s a great scene with the world’s most annoying and creepy photographer (“Come on baby, animate, animate!”) and secondly you might recognise one of the extras. Penelope Keith, subsequently one of the most famous actresses on British television, appears as a bride. She has no lines, and was obviously chosen as a comically tall newly-wed with a comically short husband. Love conquers differences like that, but when the Avengers are around it can’t conquer justice.   RP

The view from across the pond:

The best way to think of this episode of The Avengers is to consider life as an IT person.  IT people love their acronyms more than Time Lords do.  We don’t like saying what we mean when we can use cool sounding letters instead.  For example, we often talk about SaaS, or Software as a Service.  CaaS is Cloud as a Service, DaaS: desktop, IaaS: infrastructure.  The list is actually quite long and, like AV, there could be multiple meanings for some.  (I thought I was talking to someone about Audio/Video support one day but they meant AntiVirus!  See how confusing it can be?)   Now we IT folks have one for M and that’s Monitoring as a Service, but long before this concept came into being, The Avengers aired on television and The Murder Market was shown to audiences.  Patrick Cargill stars as Lovejoy, a man with his own MaaS model: Murder as a Service.

Here’s the deal: you want someone dead but know that if you kill the person, it can be traced back to you.  Bad news!  But if you sign up with Lovejoy, you can kill someone you don’t even know.  There’s no reason for it to track back to you.  Meanwhile, since you’re performing a service for someone else, they can do you a solid by offing that special someone in your life.  And how best to hide this scheme?  Another MaaS model: Matrimony as a Service!  This is both a clever idea and a typical product of The Avengers, always coming up with some damned convoluted plot.  Why are all the baddies in this series obsessed with twisted plans, I ask you?!

One of the best things about this is Patrick Cargill.  I loved his portrayal of #2 in The Prisoner episode Hammer into Anvil.  It’s one of my favorite episodes and Cargill just plays such a great villain.  So even where this episode felt regurgitated, it was still fun because of Cargill.  He’s basically still playing #2, but the Managing Director is exposed without having to sit through 17 episodes to find who the #1 was.  In some ways, the concept (lacking the murder bit) was stunningly close to what goes on with dating apps now.  But that’s where my praise ends.  After a few really strong episodes to mark season 4 as something better than what we’ve seen all series long, this episode goes back to its origins and that was a real letdown.

Let’s work our way up.  Steed is an idiot.  I dislike him more and more.  “I was recommended to you by a friend” he tells the photographer.  What he means is “you were recommended to me by a friend” but ok, let’s accept that as me being trifling.  There’s also that photographer with his “baby, baby” that had me hoping Steed would use his bowler hat and knock the guy out.  Ok, Peel: lovely, brilliant and … unable to feel a spider on her nose?  Was that really a trick she fell for?  And why is she always willing to turn her back on an enemy and then put her gun down.  Is she trained or not?  Then I have to question the writers: Steed asks Peel if it’s about time she’s thinking of marrying again.  Is she just a replacement Cathy Gale?  Are the audience members supposed to think her husband died on safari in Africa?  Where is her husband?  And when she goes looking for a husband at Lovejoy’s establishment, does no one find it weird that “Mrs. Peel” is looking for a husband?   This highly trained spy didn’t think to give an alias… hell, not even her name had to change, just the “Mrs.” that goes in front of it!  Am I the only one who is bothered by that?  She couldn’t say “I’m Miss. Emma Peel”???

Like all the episodes in season 3, this one also ends with a lovely fight scene where you want to leave the room.  If it weren’t for Steed lobbing a cake at a guy’s face with such force that it knocks him loopy, I would have utterly hated the ending.  The music was horrible too; so much so that I stuck my head out of my room to ensure I wasn’t driving the household insane.  Sure, kudos to the producers who kept the maniac out of the drum factory but someone was let loose on a tuba or some such noisemaking monstrosity.  Seriously, where’s Murray Gold when you need him?  (Probably not born yet, sadly!)   Well, on the plus side this season has been strong so far so I won’t let one episode have me filing for divorce, but I do need a trial separation before I go back to watch more!   ML

Read next in the Junkyard… The Avengers: A Surfeit of H2O

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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