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the island of conclusions

like there was a chance I wouldn't love this

the island of conclusions

bright star

like there was a chance I wouldn't love this

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Freddy Lix
So, needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed The Hour (linking you to imdb so you can see the cast list), the six-part BBC series on this summer about producing a news hour during the Suez Crisis in 1956. No surprise: set something in England with any date between 1945 and 1960 in front of it, and I’m there. Plus, it had a fabulous cast, gorgeous clothes, lovely production design, and a reasonably engaging plot.

People compare it to Mad Men and you can see why—vaguely the same era, same costumes. But it’s more like a cross between Broadcast News and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (though I think they should have studied their Le Carre novels a bit harder, tbh--that plot gets a little silly). The 50s in America were all about prosperity and the smug glories of nascent world domination, while in Britain they were about the opposite, really: deprivation and the queasy roil of an empire fading away. And while Mad Men (in the seasons I’ve watched, anyway) is pulled along by the fleshy slow burn of Don Draper/ Jon Hamm’s desperation, The Hour is powered by the electricity of Freddie Lyon/Ben Whishaw’s energy and conviction (it took me about an episode to realize he was the guy who was such an extraordinary Keats in Jane Campion's Bright Star--he's just as good in this).

The show also runs on a healthy dose of UST and pining, though imo the central triangle of Freddie/Bel/Hector only makes sense if you imagine Freddie is gay (his awesome on-screen hook-up with Lix notwithstanding). In my head, it goes like this: he and Bel are soul mates, love each other more than anything, but have realized, after a couple of spectacularly unsuccessful attempts, that they can’t have a sexual relationship. They could marry anyway, spend their lives together, as plenty of straight women and gay men did (and do), but she knows that she enjoys sex too much to spend her life like that. He knows that about her too. Hence, her affairs and his pining.

Anyway, that’s my take on it—and I think that characterization bled a little into my fic. Because otherwise it doesn’t make sense that they wouldn’t at least have an affair (though I suppose you could also imagine that she’s genuinely not sexually attracted to him). She tells Hector he needs a wife, but it doesn’t seem that Freddie would need a wife in the same way, or that he’d be capable of keeping Bel from something she wanted to do.

Anyway, I have other quibbles, but they are kind of beside the point of the pleasures of the show. Have some pictures instead.

Here’s Dominic West as Hector Madden and Ben Whishaw as Freddie Lyon (wearing a tux borrowed from Hector. No. Really.

Here's Freddie with Romola Garai as Bel Cowley

And a vid:

I absolutely recommend it, if it sounds like your cup of tea.

  • I'm definitely going to take a look at this. I love Burn Gorman also, but I hear he's not well-used here.
    • It's well worth a look, for the clothes alone! I had some quibbles about the plotting and characterization, but was totally swept along by the acting and awesome period set pieces--smoky clubs! country house weekends with shooting parties!

      I've never seen Burn Gorman in anything else--is he from Torchwood?--but no, his character isn't particularly well-served in this :(

  • I see Bel and Freddie as a very brother/sister relationship - they've known each other so long that they see each other as playmates more than adults. When Bel goes to talk to Freddie in the bath, for example, that doesn't feel sexual at all. There's also the question of the extent to which Freddie was really in love with Ruth Elms.

    I was disappointed by Bel's character generally, but I think Abi Morgan did do something more interesting with the relations between Freddie, her and Hector than I expected. It looked like it was being set up to be a 1956 version of the Broadcast News triangle, but Hector isn't just a pretty face. The bit where he explains why he got into broadcasting, for example, was very good.

    There have been a lot of complaints on discussion boards about Freddie's chip on the shoulder manner, but I thought that went quite well with it being 1956 and him being one of the Angry Young Men.
    • Yeah, that definitely seems a plausible way to think about it. Especially from her perspective--she doesn't seem to think of him sexually at all (loved the way that scene ended with them brushing their teeth together!). He seems to pine for her, though--especially in that scene at the nightclub, where he's devastated when Hector shows up.

      I was disappointed in Bel's character, too. She was lovely and smart and likable, but not convincing, somehow. I had a cousin-by-marriage who was a contemporary version of Bel--a woman who went far in the BBC when she was very young, and she was lovely and smart and sexy but much, much sharper and in charge of things...

      But yeah, I was glad they made Hector a more complex character, too--and I loved the scenes he had with Freddie--both the adventure stuff like the riot and the last scene when Freddie asks him if he thinks he's a coward.

      And goodness-people thought Freddie shouldn't have been so aggressive/pugnacious, etc.? Huh. He could have been a lot angrier and more bitter and I would have found it plausible. And it made his moment of vulnerability that much more touching, I thought. Plus, Ben Whishaw really stole the show from everyone, imo.

      Anyway--glad to have found someone else who's watched it!
      • If you're interested to see UK reactions, there's been a lot about it in the Guardian, including an episode by episode blog. A lot of people have been comparing Bel unfavourably to Lix, which seems entirely justified.

        It's hard to tell how much Freddie feels for Bel. Yes, he does seem unhappy in the nightclub. But in episode 5, when he comes round to Bel's to find Hector there, he doesn't seem envious at all, all he cares about is discussing the show. Maybe the OTP is really Freddie/Investigative Journalism (which might also explain Lix's appeal to him).
        • oh yeah, Freddie is much more in love with finding the truth than he is (or probably could be) with Bel or anybody else, absolutely. Which could be the reason Bel can't be attracted to him.

          Still some pining, tho'. See, I read him as having some cock-blocking joy in breaking in on Bel and Hector in that scene--like when he suggests he sleep on the sofa--though he's good natured about it.

          Oh, and Lix is 300 kinds of awesome! Bel can't compare with that--I will take a look at the Guardian blogs.
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