This review contains spoilers.
1.14 Hitler On The Half Shell
Sometimes writing a TV or film review you can go directly to the source of a problem and identify exactly what’s wrong. But with Hitler On The Half Shell I’m sure that something was amiss, but damned if I can actually point out what is was precisely. For want of a better expression, it just didn’t flow. All the character moments seemed awkwardly forced, and all the reveals seemed painfully obvious.
I’m not sure why, but this wasn’t the best Forever episode we’ve had recently, and it left this reviewer distinctly underwhelmed.
The inspiration for the story is that of Cornelius Gurlitt, a man who hoarded more than 1,500 works of art, many stolen from Jewish people during WWII, and hidden until almost seventy years later. Except in that case Gurlitt made no effort to return the painting that his father, Hildebrand, acquired under the worst possible circumstances.
Forever alters the events and characters to make the art dealer a more sympathetic figure, one murdered by being struck by a priceless statue. What slightly ruined that whole setup was that while I accept the Nazis loved putting their brand on things, I didn’t really buy that given the size of the base that it would be likely that where it was placed would be likely to leave a mark on someone it struck. That seemed clumsy, and so did the very obvious ‘tell’ when they interviewed the victim’s son just shortly afterwards.
And then, the writers went off on some curious adventure when they flashed-back to Henry meeting other English gentlemen in the Diogenes Club prior to his first fatality. (The snag, and it’s likely more of an in-joke, is that this location is an entirely fictional one created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his Sherlock Holmes stories.) Here, he’s told of his family connections with the slave trade, setting up a confrontation with his father and a small moral tale around the ‘sins of the father’ epithet.
At this point in the episode it had all rather fallen flat, and then a couple of things happened that made it much more interesting.
Firstly, they managed to squeeze the wonderful Harris Yulin who has a stage, TV and film resume going back to the early sixties, as a watch expert. He was great, and created some real pathos to the whole survivors’ story. This neatly links into to Abe’s past, and his search for the identity of his parents, which is where things went in a very odd direction indeed.
The appearance of Adam in the antiques shop and the sequence of events that this set in motion made the murder investigation rather secondary. The later explanation, that Adam was experimented on by the Nazis, seemed designed to paint this sociopathic character in a warmer light. Or it would if we can take it at face value, and that wouldn’t be prudent. He doesn’t produce his own number tattoo to provide evidence, an omission that that might prove rather telling at some point.
That Adam provides the clues Abe needed while brutally torturing and killing yet another person does hint at the extremes of light and shade in this persona. Personally, I wish they’d rested Adam’s appearance for longer, but in bringing him back at this point they’ve attempted to at least provide him with some extra dimensions.
I think what was lacking here was any hint of the growing relationship between Jo and Henry, as this was put on hold for these events. Instead they replaced it with that between Abe and Henry, as they go to collect the small box of information relating to Abe’s parents from the Museum of Jewish Heritage. This left me very curious about who the real people were in the photo Abe has, and if they were really holocaust victims.
In the end it was more about what we learned about some of the characters than what actually happened in the investigation, so there is value in that.
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