The Lion and the Unicorn
Oh, Matron! The Avengers goes farce, which is not really a good thing. Although the leads look to be having fun in the chance to do something different, it's a bit plodding, and the humour is far too overplayed. A better example of the humourous episode would probably be something like "Wish You Were Here." It's a so-so episode because it contains an equal amount of good and bad bits for me.
To start with, we have a fantastic car chase (which Purdey seems to be enjoying immensely) which gives us one of the best-looking freeze frames that we get in the series (even if it has no suspense!), but sadly also one of the worst pieces of scoring. I also can't help thinking that the Jag would have looked better, but then again it was to be used as a promotional film for the STD 1. This is then followed by a very cleverly staged and acted "assassination." From here on, things start to go a bit downhill.
Spraying the villain with champagne to take him alive could only have been done in The Avengers! However, Gambit taking seven bells from the Unicorn while Steed merely watches doesn't half make Pat look lazy, and Jo getting to knock him out, with the lines surrounding, gets to start off the whole "Gambit is made to look a bit silly (beyond the obvious)" scheme.
The Unicorn is obviously meant to be the contemporary of Steed, but why he has to labour the accent so much, given that Jean Claudio is French, is beyond me. I've never heard someone drop so many h's in a sentence, and I come from Yorkshire! The problem would persist in "K is for Kill"—Raoul Delfosse's Marco is a bit over the top for me, too, in every way!
Then there are the overplayed gags. Gambit going so fast he whips a model's clothes off (to be honest I half expect to the hear the Benny Hill theme in this chase), Steed patting him on the back thus accidentally setting the bomb off—it's just not what were used to, and it is jarring. What we do get to savour are the little bits. A very well-shot and played kidnap sequence on the train, and a very telling scene between Steed and Purdey—"That looks delicious!" "The omlette or the chef?" "Both." "Purdey, you know I have enough on my mind!"
Better than some of what had preceded and followed, but all in all a midway fare.
The Lion and the Unicorn
I was expecting the worst, and this wasn't at all bad. In fact, it is one of the very few second-season New Avengers redolent of the old, from the champagne stick-up to the cunning double-double-cross. An excellent directing effort from Ray Austin, who injects plenty of classic-era humour into our heroic trio, and for once Purdey's interactions with Gambit do not feel forced or false. Purdey also gets a great final line which preserves The Avengers' tradition of knowing kinkiness!
Such a shame about her appalling "look", then: both costume and hairstyle losing the femininity of season 1 and becoming true products of "the decade that taste forgot". This results in one unbelievable scene. Conspicuous in a Paris street, Purdey 'hides' just yards away from the ultra-cautious Unicorn whilst wearing her garish ensemble, ignored by the simple expedient of donning big sunglasses for a few seconds.
Never mind; at least it's not as daft as a peephole Emmapeeler. Anyway, Steed is elegant and Gambit is... interesting in a green corduroy flared trouser-suit. And the Cornwall car chase, which forms the bonus advertisement on the French DVDs using bizarre doubles of Purdey and Steed, is the best action sequence the series ever had.
This is a great episode for mystery fans, with an early twist, some great to-ing and fro-ing as each side outwits the other, and a final plan and pay-off from Steed's scheming brain that I didn't predict until seconds before it occurred (the final lift scene). Very adroit, and perfectly paced from beginning to end. This should have been in the New Avengers' first season, it's that flowing and frothy and fun.
Four out of five bowlers.
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