This review contains spoilers.
1.5 Wanted Mans
Here’s where everything comes together, then. Amongst the plot-of-the-week developments and McGuffins, it turns out The Wrong Mans has been sowing the seeds of a much bigger plot. And in the final two episodes, it looks like we’re gonna see all of that plotting bear fruit. Sorry, that was a horrible metaphor, I think I’m a bit over-excited.
So, yes: the mystery of the music box has been solved. It was totally unremarkable, except that somewhere among its cogs and wheels it held a memory stick. And on that memory stick? A video of Scarlett having sex with a vaguely familiar-looking man. Throughout the series I’ve felt like I ought to be paying more attention to the news reports we’ve glimpsed every time Sam and Phil have passed through the Council’s reception area, and, yup, turns out they were absolutely there for a reason.
Because the man on Scarlett’s sex tape is an MP, and he’s the one who’ll ultimately be responsible for the route of the high speed rail link that could cut out the heart of Bracknell’s tiny community. Gulp. And, oh God, poor Lizzie. The writing’s been on the wall for her big regeneration project since the beginning, really, but yikes. No wonder Reid didn’t want the project named after him – it’s all gonna crash and burn, making him a gazillionaire but leaving the County Council out of pocket and looking for scapegoats. And it’ll be Lizzie’s head that rolls, unless Sam and Phil can warn her and expose Reid before his dodgy deals go through.
The problem with that, of course, is that Reid is currently the least of their worries. They’ve got much more life-threatening problems to deal with first. Marat Milankovic, the Russian who bought all the art from Mr Stevens, asked Sam and Phil to take care of him for a day, and the MI5 – including rogue agent Smoke – are hot on their tail. The climactic scene of this episode, featuring a motorcycle chase and a standoff with a helicopter, is the biggest stunt we’ve seen on The Wrong Mans, including that first car crash. And it’s brilliant. I’d probably watch this show if it was just about Sam and Phil working in an office, but the action set pieces have all been great. Somehow, it’s always a surprise when they pull off something on this scale, and that makes it even more satisfying.
I’ve said before that I appreciated how fast each episode moves and how quickly each individual subplot gets wrapped up, and that’s still true, but I think this episode really kicked things up a notch. Suddenly, the writing seems more confident, more in control. It’s a show that can easily find room to let its characters reminisce about their childhoods or argue over pasties while simultaneously setting up an explosive showdown featuring at least three different modes of transport and unravelling an elaborate town planning plot. That takes some doing, but The Wrong Mans is pulling it off.
The attention to detail is impressive, too – did you catch the Berkshire County Council eye test-style poster in the mail room, or Phil’s Bourne Identity mug? The only slight cockup I noticed was in the MI5 scene at the beginning: apparently Sam is 29, having been born in 1983, but Phil, born in 1985, is 31? Can intelligence agents not do basic arithmetic, or what? Perhaps I should cut them some slack, though: they did have the amazing Rebecca Front glaring at them while they read out our mans’ vital statistics. Maybe they got flustered.
It’s kind of sad that next week’s will be the last episode of The Wrong Mans: it seems to have just hit its stride, and turned into a really impressive bit of comedy/drama. Shall we start the letter writing campaign for a season 2 now?
Read Sarah’s review of the previous episode, Inside Mans, here.
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