Stan Lee’s Lucky Man S01E02 “Win Some, Lose Some” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky 1, Fridays, 9pm
Writer: Ben Schiffer
Director: Andy De Emmony
Essential Plot Points:
- As luck would have it, Harry survives having his arm cut off while drowning (it was a bad day at the office) through a wonderfully spurious chain of events.
- He also rescues colleague Ben from the (suspiciously un…) murky depths of the Thames.
- But Grey has escaped. They discover thousands of pounds in notes hidden on the private jet he was booked to leave on.
- Harry and his sidekick Suri eventually catch Grey when he secretly attends the funeral of the girl he’s suspected of murdering. He tries to escape capture by running but Harry intercepts him by taking a short cut – across six lanes of motorway traffic.
- Grey confesses to the murder of stripper Kayleigh and casino boss Freddy but Harry thinks there was more to these murders than a crime of passion and revenge. He believes Grey is acting under orders.
- Harry’s probably right considering there’s a pair of dodgy-looking Asian guys murdering the contacts that lead him to Grey.
- Harry’s wife, Anna – a lawyer, remember – turns up to represent Grey, despite Grey not having asked for representation. She does not reveal who has employed her.
- The guy who tried to chop Harry’s arm off with a machete turns up as Harry’s wife’s house looking for him. She thinks he’s a bailiff.
- Harry’s new boss, Detective Superintendent Winter, seems desperate to the point of neurotic to get Harry sacked for being reckless. DI Orwell vows to act as his eyes and ears.
- Harry tries his luck at the dog track and wins big. Mysterious woman Eve turns up and speaks in riddles but the overall impression is she pissed that he’s using his powers for frivolous exploits and reminds him that luck comes with a price.
- Then bald machete guy turns up and mysterious woman kicks his ass. Both she and bald machete guy vanish (along with the rest of the crowd at the dog track).
- Harry donates his winnings to a fellow member of his gambling addiction support group so she can afford an operation for her son. Next week expect to hear she blew it all on Lottery tickets.
- Ben and Suri become an item but when they spend the night together Ben falls seriously ill and dies in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Harry is certain this is payback for all the luck he’s been having.
When Harry rubs his magic amulet and steps out onto a motorway to play dodge-the-traffic you know this series has found its groove. Maybe you should also wonder why he doesn’t cause a pile-up (surely drivers would still swerve to avoid him?) but the fact you don’t at the time means the show has successfully enticed your disbelief into a vacation on Costa Del Suspension.
While the pilot for Lucky Man seemed to toy with its central concept a little unenthusiastically, episode two is a lot more fun. Still not the Marvel comic book affair that the “Stan Lee” connection and opening title sequence might suggest, but maybe an Image or Vertigo comic at least. Sky might have done better to show the first two episodes as a two-hour premiere because “Win Some, Lose Some” feels like a far better blueprint for the series; you get a stronger idea of the tone, where the plot arc’s going and how the characters interact.
It also has that classic turning point from a Stan Lee origin story when theme moves from “power corrupts” to “with great power comes great responsibility”; that moment when the newly-empowered protagonist goes from hedonist to hero having learnt some great life lesson. Admittedly in Marvel comics that life lesson rarely involves going to the dogs (well, not literally at least) but that’s kind of prosaic take on superheroics is already becoming part of the fun of the series.
From the playful street con artist opening to the tragic events at the end of the episode this feels more like a show at ease with its comic roots, and more comfortable combining them into a more UK-friendly cop format. It’s still creaky in places – and leaves Nesbitt with far too much work to do flesh out Harry (both writers so far seem for more interested in Suri) – but there’s much to enjoy here, and an awful lot going on.
There appear to be three parallel plots but who knows, maybe they’re interconnected but something other than just Harry. There’s the murders, which seem to be spilling out into some kind of international money laundering/gangster affair; there’s the guys after the magical amulet; there’s Winter and Orwell who want Harry off the force (with not-so-subtle hints that there may be more to them than overzealous coppers… they’re downright creepy). Any or all of them might dovetail. It’ll be interesting to find out how. Certainly it’s making the show look more complex and layered than it did after the pilot.
One main problem remains – mystery woman Eve. She turns up, mumbles some random nonsense and gets all annoyed at Harry while giving him pretty much zero incentive to do whatever it is she wants him to do. In all other regards, Harry is presented at the kind of tough, no-nonsense cop who’d handcuff her to the neatest railing and interrogate her with charm and sarcasm until she produced some answers. Instead, he turns into a rabbit caught in headlights when she turns up, apparently incapable of using the word, “Why?” It’s too much of a genre cliché and Lucky Man doesn’t even seem to be interested in inverting or subverting it in any way.
But overall, a very confident and promising evolution from the pilot. We’re definitely in this for the long haul now.
- The show has much more fun with the concept of luck this week. The motorway scene is exactly the kind of thing the show needs.
- Stroppy Josie is brilliant: “Boss there’s a sudden smell of bacon in the shop.”
- A few unexpected developments; not twists so much as things plot beats that make the show more intriguing. Such as the fact that Harry’s brother is a dodgy dealer; Winter apparently seeing himself as some kind of avenging angel; the Asian assassins; Anna being employed by someone unknown to represent Grey.
- Nesbitt remains a solid centre for the show, but Sienna Guillory is turning out to be the real break-out star. Her method of stepping up her relationship with Ben was just adorable (“I’ve decided that we’re going out now, officially, because I might love you a bit, and I think you love me a bit back, mainly because you’re not stupid… Okay? So can I come in and get naked with you please?”). You also have to love the way she reels in Harry’s brother, engaging him on an intellectual level then impishly reveals that actually, she’s just found the perfect leverage she needs to blackmail some info out of him.
- The whole funeral scene iss a understated masterpiece of black comedy – from the the two girls taking a selfie by the coffin to the tribute poem containing such gems as, “G is for gorgeous… you even looked good in the bath.” Also, was it just us or did the letters in the poem spell “Kalig” not Kayleigh?
- Subtle, clever final image; broken mirrors traditionally mean seven years bad luck.
- The police procedural elements too often revert to huge swathes “but what if…?” speculation that come across like aural wallpaper.
- The way Harry turned up at Anna’s house for breakfast was slightly creepy.
- Mystery woman Eve is supposed to be enigmatic but is actually just irritating.
- Nobody would mistake bald machete guy for a bailiff, least of all a coppers wife. Surely her first thought would be, “Oh god, who wants to kill my husband now?”
- The flashback to Harry’s childhood trauma worked well enough on its own; it didn’t need Harry to spell it out in dialogue afterwards.
And The Random:
- No wonder Ben falls ill. The ambulance guys send him home wearing the same clothes that he was wearing when he fell in the Thames twice in one night.
- The “follow the lady” opening sequence was a fun and surprising way to open the episode but it might have worked more effectively if it had fed straight into the main story rather than being interrupted by the title sequence.
- Isn’t the point of street shysters who invite you to “Follow The Lady” that they cheat and pocket/palm the “Lady” so you’ll never be able to select it? No wonder the guy is bamboozled by Harry’s success.
- You may recognise Stephen Thompson from BBC Three zombie series In The Flesh where he played Philip in both seasons.
Review by Dave Golder