6.4 The Father Of Jewels
One of the reasons I watch this show is that just when you think they’ve shown you the borders of their realm, they discover an entirely new domain to the art of grifting.
This story starts out in a somewhat predictable fashion, with an art dealer about to be light of £50,000 through the magic of matching briefcases. It all goes swimmingly until the case exchange, at which point Sean goes off-mission when he recognises someone in the hotel they’re operating in. It turns out that he’s spotted the man who walked out of his and Emma’s lives when they were children, and Sean is determined to get even with Rex Kennedy.
The trouble with this is that it entirely goes against the whole mantra of the conman, where emotion is the old enemy and the con is sanctified ground that should never be entered without an entirely clear head.
My first reaction to this is that I’d be hard pressed to recognise a man I knew 25 years ago, and Sean was just three years old when Rex walked out. But the quality of our childhood memories aside, it also seemed like an obvious situation where assumptions made about Rex might not stand closer analysis. Irrespective of these potential pitfalls, they decide to get their revenge by taking his money.
I had my doubts about Matt Di Angelo when he joined this show, but in this story he gets to showboat his acting chops a bit, and, unsurprisingly, he’s actually quite good at playing the angry young man. Early in this story he’s the one who is obsessed with getting even with Rex and Emma isn’t bothered, which I assumed was a primer for them to switch positions at some point. But it never quite happens, even if it looked distinctly on the cards.
I made a number of guesses early on, that, like that one, turned out to be totally wrong. Disguising the direction that things actually are going to take hasn’t been a strength of this season, but here they don’t rely on showing you only partial scenes with a reveal later. For once, they even find a much better use for barman Eddie, who, it turns out, is an avid collector of WWII memorabilia. It’s him they use to gather items to convince Rex that an aircraft loaded with valuable jewellery crashed on land he owns, and that, for a price, the exact location can be established.
But long before the con reaches fruition, it’s obvious that Rex isn’t the cold and heartless person that Sean has painted him. It all comes down to the golden rule of grifting: that you can only con someone who is already a crook. Rex isn’t, and repeatedly contradicts their expectation that he’ll try to rip them off. In the end they confront him with the truth, where he looks entirely confused, as most people might be.
This was the only bit of the story that really disappointed me, because the way it was constructed meant he was never really able to explain himself properly, and perhaps that’s the way the writers wanted it. They take him for £500,000 but give all but £80,000 back, which Sean has calculated as unpaid child allowance.
Like most real vengeance stories, the end result is triumph but degrees of loss all around. Sean and Emma now know the man who abandoned them isn’t the monster they’d imagined, but that doesn’t really make the pain they suffered any less bearable or him feel any better.
This was probably the best written episode of series six, and the excellent Danny Webb – who came in to play Rex – offered us an underplayed and believable character. It also got Matt Di Angelo doing more than his cheeky chappie routine, and let the masterful Robert Vaughn loose as a delightfully potty senior citizen.
The ‘treasure map’ con wasn’t the greatest scheme, but in this instance the mechanics of the grift were secondary to other more important elements. Even if it had a slightly bitter ending, it was highly enjoyable throughout and wasn’t nearly as predictable as some other stories in this season.
Next week I’m told that Mickey gets conned, which I thought was a typo when I first got handed that information. Whatever the truth, it sounds like the penultimate episode of this season could be something of a shocker.
Read our review of the episode 3 here.