Lucky Man S02E02 “Playing With Fire” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Harry, Suri and (grumping away in the background about being undervalued) Orwell investigate a murder outside a gay club; the victim is the fiancée of one of their colleagues in the force, and it looks like a hate crime.
- The murder brings a local fundamentalist preacher, Reverend Huxley, to Harry’s attention. A real old testament fanboy, Huxley’s flock follow his vehemently anti-gay teachings.
- Oddly, the victim has a tattoo that links him to Huxley’s church, and Harry becomes obsessed with proving the odious reverend is guilty.
- He even uses his lucky bracelet to unearth some historical evidence on Huxley that’s been buried in the system – that he was once deemed to have a pathological hatred of homosexual and was a threat to young gays and lesbians.
- But a second murder involves a woman, Mealnie Spencer, who’s one of the reverend’s greatest supporters… and straight.
- Then Huxley reveals that he was once gay and but saw the light, and the conversions that his church undertakes aren’t religious but sexual – they “cure” gays.
- Turns out that the first victim, Kevin, used to belong to the church and was Huxley’s greatest triumph, who went to convert people himself. But ultimately he went back to accepting his gay lifestyle.
- One of the men he “converted” was Rob Spencer, victim Melanie’s husband, who was actually never really converted; he only pretended that he was – and married Melanie – because he had a crush on Kevin and wanted to please him.
- Harry realises that Rob, pissed off he had to live a lie, killed both Kevin and Melanie, and uses Huxley as bait to lure out the killer. It’s a risky move – and certainly not within accepted police procedures – but Harry’s lucky bracelet means he gets away with it and keeps his job…
- In her attempt to get Harry to cut loose and have some fun with his luck powers, Isabella throws herself from a skyscraper’s rooftop bar and survives.
- She also has a confrontation with Eve, revealing that her lucky bracelet was given to her by Eve as well. She archly asks Eve why she hasn’t told Harry this fact.
- Isabella later uses her lucky bracelet to kill Huxley, distracting him with the lycra-clad arse of a good looking lad so that he steps out in front of a lorry.
- Meanwhile, Orwell is beating himself up for making a bad mistake during the investigation but Suri seems surprisingly supportive.
- Anna mace sprays some guys following her but they turn out to be cops whom Harry has asked to keep an eye on her because there’s been a suspected sighting of Golding.
Looks like Isabella is getting to Harry. At the end of the episode he stands in front of the odious Reverend Huxley, a knife in his covered hand that has another man’s fingerprints all over it, and the thought clearly crosses his mind: can I get away with murder?
It’s an intriguing moment. Huxley, it turns out, is not the murderer of the week, but he is the villain of the week. Utterly vile, his reactionary views are bad enough but he’s also been goading Harry mercilessly all episode. For a moment, it looks all too likely that Harry will do the deed and rely on his luck bracelet to get him out of trouble. Because, thanks to Isabella’s charm-war of attrition, he’s beginning to think there is no yin and yang cosmic balance; his good luck won’t immediately translate as bad luck for someone else.
But he resists.
Then a few short scenes later Isabella arranges the reverend’s death instead. The inference is clear. There but for the grace of God goes Harry. He could become as cold blooded and calculating as Isabella if he carries on being influenced by her. And while she claims there is no cosmic balance, the very fact she’s so interested in getting Harry to cut loose with his powers suggests she’s not being completely on the level.
It’s an interesting moment in an episode that takes another step in a promisingly fantasy-embracing direction for the series, but which is still hampered by a crime plot that – for all its current hate-crime theme – feels like it’s been crafted for some ’70s UK cop show. It’s like Stan Lee trying to make Spider-Man fit into The Professionals.
Having said that, the show is becoming ever more willing to indulge its central conceit rather than looking vaguely embarrassed by it as it did so often in season one. So we get Isabella jumping off rooftops and getting Harry’s car break down right next to her. We get Harry brazenly walking into high security offices and nicking files. And we get an in-denial priest walking in front of a lorry when distracted by a pretty young boy. This is the kind of thing that makes the show worth watching, not bland investigative interviews, by-the-numbers interrogation and the odd (cheap) car explosion.
There’s a probably whole debate, too, to be had about the episode’s two villains being in-denial homosexuals. Live and let live for fear that repressed sexuality will result in madness and murderous psychoses? Wonder what the “Royal Society For Psychiatry” would have to say about that?
Are we starting to see the rehabilitation of Orwell, though? It looked last week like his demotion was set to send him on an increasingly-disgruntled-chip-on-shoulder storyline, but here he seems genuinely contrite about his mistake in the investigation. Even more surprisingly, Suri doesn’t shout him down because of it. Could Orwell actually be turning into one of the real good guys? Now our money’s on him saving Harry’s life at some point before the season’s over.
- Isabella’s best moment oddly isn’t the one that was used in trailers when she leaps off a building to prove her powers, but when she makes Harry’s car run out of fuel so that it stops right next to where she’s drinking. That show’s a level of wit the show needs more often.
- Similarly, it’s good to see Harry using his powers with an almost arrogant confidence when he sneaks into the Royal Society Of Psychiatry offices; what a great, pacy, fun-to-watch little sequence.
- “We need Winter’s approval for that.” “Nyaaah…!” Also we liked that weird noise Harry made when Suri asked him what he was planning.
- The look on the forensic pathologist’s assistance face had, “I’m getting a transfer asap!” written all over it.
- Conleth Hill is great as Huxley; obnoxious and vile without being too over-the-top. It’s great the way he winds Harry up by “reading” him, like some holy avenging Derren Brown.
- The pay-off with Isabella arranging Huxley’s death is a chilling end to the episode.
- We’re liking the fact that Orwell is having to prove himself all over again, and hating being put in that situation. Suri unexpectedly being sympathetic to him after his balls-up is a nice touch too.
- Who doesn’t love a bit of grand guignol horror?
- There were some very pretty shots of London too…
- The crime plot was a more than a tad convoluted; especially the fact that Huxley didn’t think to mention anything about the murder victim being his one-time protégé until really late in the plot. And Rob murdering his wife at a moment really convenient for the story. And Kevin’s fiancée not having ever asked him what he was trying to hide by getting a clearly religious tattoo removed.
- This is the second week in a row that the murderer didn’t mind being identified because escaping from justice wasn’t their aim.
- Is Anna’s function in season two going to be “whinge-of-the-week”?
- Isabella’s hedonistic use of her bracelet is kinda amusing, but still not as crazy fun as it could be. The early casino scene, for example, is a case of, “Yeah this is all very familiar,” as Harry points out.
- If there was an exterior lift on the side of a building that you could leap onto from a rooftop bar you can bet that pissed-up louts would be daring each other to leap onto it all the blimmin’ time. HEALTH AND SAFETY ALERT!
- There was something really strange about the scene with Harry trapped in the burning car. He looked oddly serene when he was unconscious; the flashback wasn’t particularly intriguing; when he did wake up you were expecting some big lucky break to get him out of the situation but instead he just clambered out of the back door like in any common-or-garden crime show; and James Nesbitt actually seems to react to the explosion before it goes off.
- If Isabella has enough money to but a car like that how come she’s recycling her skirts from old deckchairs?
- We did wonder for a moment if Melanie was killed for ignoring a double yellow line and brazenly parking on a pavement! There’s a special place in Hell for people who park on pavements.
- This is the second episode in a row in which a fit young man in lycra leggings has played a part in one of the luck-driven set pieces (last week it was a cyclist). Is this going to be a running gag?
- Just in case you didn’t recognise him with hair, Reverend Huxley was played by Conleth Hill, better known as Varys in Game Of Thrones.
- Rob Spencer was played by Matthew McNulty, who you may remember as Seth, the guy who swap other characters’ superpowers, in Misfits. More recently he was Lucien Grimaud in series three of The Musketeers.
Review by Dave Golder