Callan – Where Else Could I Go?

where else

Written by James Mitchell
Directed by Jim Goddard

Where Else Could I Go? is something of a reboot for Callan.  Partly this was unavoidable.  Since a brainwashed Callan had killed his boss in the previous episode, Death of a Hunter, there had to a new Section head and William Squire fills the part perfectly.  And thanks to the fact that the colour Thames episodes were the most assessable during the last thirty years in the UK (repeats on C4 in the 1980’s and on UK Gold during the 1990’s) Squire would have been the first Hunter that many (including myself) would have seen – so he is Hunter.

His Hunter is very much in the Ronald Radd mode.  He has a respect for Callan’s abilities, but he also has no qualms in withholding information from him (especially when he knows that such knowledge would impair Callan’s ability to successfully carry out the mission).  Squire’s Hunter is also completely ruthless, able to compartmentalise his personal life from his professional duties (see God Help Your Friends for a good example of this).

We’re told that Toby Meres is on secondment in America (in reality, Anthony Valentine was filming Codename for the BBC).  Valentine is missed during series three, but it does provide an opportunity to create a new Section operative for Callan to battle with – James Cross (Patrick Mower).

As with the Callan/Meres relationship, Callan and Cross take a little time to form a reasonable working partnership.  Cross (unlike Meres) is younger than Callan, so there’s less of a feeling that the two are equals (Callan would later always call Meres by his first name, whilst Meres would usually refer to the older man as Mr Callan).

But this edge between them (like the earlier one with Meres) is useful for creating tension and drama.  Most series would have gone down the buddy route (like Bodie and Doyle) whereas Callan does something a little more interesting.  Cross is young, keen and desperate to prove himself to be as good, if not better, than Callan.  But his inexperience and rashness will often create problems (as the upcoming episodes Summoned to Appear and A Village Called G demonstrate).

There’s still some familiar faces though.  Liz (Lisa Langdon) remains Hunter’s secretary and she’ll enjoy some decent character development during series three and four (especially in A Village Called G).  Clifford Rose is still the icily amoral Dr Snell and, of course, the peerless Russell Hunter is back as Callan’s smelly friend Lonely.

Lonely is pivotal to this story, since Hunter uses him to see if Callan still has any fight or spirit left.  If he has, there’s still a place for him in the Section.  If not, then he’s finished – certainly in the Section, but also probably outside of it.  No doubt Hunter would have no qualms in ordering his permanent removal.

Where Else Could I Go? opens with Cross visiting Callan in hospital, where he’s still recovering from the events seen at the end of series two.  Although he’s clearly far from well, his ability for self-preservation is something that’s automatic.  Cross announces that he’s come from Hunter, but Callan (who’s never met Cross before) isn’t going to take anything on trust.  Unseen by Cross, he places a razor-blade in a bar of soap and keeps this weapon behind his back until he’s seen Cross’ written authorisation.

He’s then reassured enough to put his weapon down, but not before he silently shows it to Cross.  This ensures that their relationship starts off on a combative footing.  Cross knows of Callan’s reputation but considers him to be past it, nothing but a shadow of his former self.  Callan, whilst his dislike for the Section has been stated many times, still needs it – and he isn’t going to be trampled underfoot by a young upstart like Cross.

Physically, Calllan’s not in bad shape, but it’s his attitude when he meets the new Hunter that’s concerning.  He’s conciliatory and deferential – with little sign of the old, fiery operative.  Therefore Hunter decides to threaten the one person in the world (Lonely) who Callan has affection and friendship for and see what happens.

The first meeting between Callan and Lonely in this episode is very awkward.  With Callan hospitalised for several months, Lonely drifted back into crime and since he’s not the world’s brightest crook (although with Callan to watch his back, he’s a formidable thief) he’s ended up on remand and is looking at a lengthy prison sentence.  Callan offers to help, but a tearful Lonely refuses – since Callan wasn’t around when he was arrested, why should he help now?

It’s a cracking scene for both Edward Woodward and Russell Hunter.  Callan is still hurting, but the signs are there that he’s beginning to recover some of his spirit whilst Hunter manages to make Lonely seem even more pathetic than usual.  But eventually Callan is able to talk him round, thanks to the intervention of a high-powered lawyer called Henshaw (Gary Watson).

Henshaw and Callan know each other from their army days (Henshaw was Callan’s superior officer) and their meeting helps to shine a little light on Callan’s pre-Section career.  Back then he wasn’t called Callan, and was obviously far from a model solider, but he did save Henshaw’s life and now Callan is calling in the debt.  The fact that Callan chooses to use the leverage he has to try and get Lonely released is a good sign that Callan feels responsible for him (although he’s also well aware of how useful, as a thief, he can be).

The showdown between Hunter and Callan is the episode’s key moment.  Callan loses his temper when he realises that Hunter has targeted Lonely – but Hunter isn’t upset.  He’s been waiting for Callan to show some spirit and this convinces him that there’s a still a place for Callan after all.

Hunter agrees to stand bail for Lonely and then asks him if he’s happy to be back in the Section.  Anybody who knows the history of the character will also know the love/hate relationship he has with the Section in general and the various Hunters in particular.  Previously, we’ve seen that Callan was keen to leave and forge a life outside.  But this is an older, damaged Callan who knows that, at present, he needs the security that the Section offers.

So there’s no smile on his face, just bitter resignation as he says “where else could I go?”

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