Minder – You Gotta Have Friends

gotta

Billy Gilpin (David Buck) is a wanted man.  The police want to question him about the attempted murder of Lord Ingrave, whilst local villain Bobby Altman (George Baker) is also keen to track him down.  Billy worked for Altman and has absconded with seventy thousand pounds worth of bearer bonds.

As Terry gave Billy a lift, that makes him an object of interest for both the police and Altman.  The police are fairly easy to deal with but the barely stable Altman is another matter.  He’s convinced that Billy gave Arthur the bonds and issues a stark ultimatum – if Arthur doesn’t return them, his life expectancy will be very short.

Moments of levity are few and far between in You Gotta Have Friends.  They mostly occur at the start, as we see a very drunken Arthur making his way home after a night spent with his friends at the Lodge.  He’s accosted by Billy who urgently needs a ride out of town.  Arthur’s in no fit state to drive (some lovely drunk acting from Cole in this scene) but he knows just the man – Terry, of course.  It may be the middle of the night, and Terry’s rather preoccupied with the lovely young Valerie, but this doesn’t really register with Arthur.

After this, things take a darker turn when Terry’s picked up by the police for questioning the following day.  In the years to come he probably would have been quizzed by either Chisholm or Rycott and that would pre-condition the viewer to know that nothing particularly serious is going to happen.  But here we have the more imposing form of D.I. Barnett (Allan Surtees).

Although Terry’s never really in serious trouble, it’s the tone of the scenes at the station which feel different from similar moments from later series.  The bleak, whitewashed walls do seem to have a more oppressive feeling here.  Even Terry’s temporary cell-mate, Whaley (a decent cameo from Roy Kinnear), might not be all that he appears.  On the surface, Whaley looks like a friendly chap, genuinely interested in Terry’s plight – but is he one of Barnett’s tame grasses, there to act as a possible prosecution witness?  We never find out for sure, so Terry may just be acting a little paranoid (possibly brought on by his brief confinement).

George Baker is imposing and powerful as Bobby Altman.  His meeting with Terry demonstrates he has trouble keeping his temper under control.  This, together with his group of minders (including Brian Hall and Prentis Hancock), give us an early indication that he won’t be a pushover.  When Altman tells Terry that he’s going to kill Arthur, we believe him.  And whilst Terry could easily take the older Altman, he’s told quite plainly that with the superior numbers on his side, Altman would always emerge victorious.

There’s a fairly heavy use of library music in this episode and since most of the cues tend to be dramatic and suspenseful ones, that simply adds to the tension.

Later, Altman abducts Arthur and gives him one more chance to tell him where the bonds are.  As Arthur doesn’t have them he can’t do this – but Altman has long since passed the point of reason.  A health-fanatic, he forces Arthur to go for a jog with him and pushes him to the point of collapse.  When Terry rescues him, it’s slightly played for laughs, but before this it’s another disturbing scene.

Luckily for Arthur, Terry arrives in the nick of time with the bonds, which had been in the possession of Lady Ingrave (Deborah Grant).  Despite their mis-matched backgrounds, she was in love with Billy and the pair planned to disappear together (although his death – he’s later fished out of the river – puts paid to that).

The Arthur/Terry dynamic is quite obviously what makes Minder work.  Arthur might be self-centered and manipulative, but there has to be some kernel of respect between the two of them – otherwise the series simply wouldn’t work.  This is demonstrated when Terry finds a barely-conscious Arthur, with Altman towering above him.  He hands over the bonds, but has no hesitation is aiming a well-thrown punch in Altman’s direction, knocking him down.

Honour is therefore satisfied.  Altman’s got his bonds back, but Terry’s struck a blow for his friend.  And despite the power (and man-power) Bobby Altman has, he knows that this is one time he should walk away.

You Gotta Have Friends brought the first series of Minder to a conclusion.  It would be Leon Griffiths’ last script for a few years, due to ill-health, but he’d set up a very firm foundation which ensured that the many writers who followed in his footsteps would have plenty to work with.

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