Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Two

howards s02e02-02

Jack’s wearing a suit, so he and Tom must be on their way to the inquest.  For those who need this to be spelled out, walking in front of them is a barrister in a white wig.  The drama of this storyline isn’t milked very much as we don’t see inside the courtroom – instead Tom and Jack simply trudge wearily back to the yard later, with Tom breaking the bad news that an open verdict, pending a surveyor’s enquiry, was delivered.  So the waiting goes on …

Before this we see Bill fielding calls from interested parties, concerned about whether the inquest will impact the yard.  Possibly this is another example of cost-cutting – much cheaper to have Bill on the phone, pretending to be speaking to someone, than it would be to hire a couple of extras, as reporters, to mill around the yard asking questions.

Charles isn’t able to visit Relton for another round of icily polite fighting with Avril, so Gerald is sent to deputise.  He’s as affable and friendly as Charles is brusque and unforgiving.  But whilst Gerald claims that he’s merely here as an observer and has no wish to interfere, it could very well be that he’s of the same mind as Charles – it’s just that his style is much more conciliatory.

Where’s Charles?  Off for a painful meeting with his father.  Based on what we know of this family so far, it’s entirely in keeping that Charles should tell Sir Edward’s butler that he has a meeting with his father at ten o clock.  The notion that Charles could simply turn up for an unscheduled chat is clearly unthinkable.

It’s quickly established that they haven’t seen each other for some considerable time, although exactly how long isn’t clear.  The constantly shifting power dynamic between the two of them is established right from the start and over the most trivial matters – Sir Edward was hopeful that they could have lunch but Charles demurs, he’s far too busy.  But Sir Edward rallies and is at least able to offer his son some coffee.

There’s some lovely character building moments as we see Sir Edward attempting to reconnect with his son.  He asks Charles if he remembers the time when, as a boy, he climbed a tree in the grounds of their palatial country house and refused to come down (he was reluctant to return to school).  Charles replies that he does and also recalled that his father was away on business at the time, which leads Sir Edward to formally respond that “I was fully informed of the incident by your mother”.

Like father, like son – Charles has clearly fashioned himself in his father’s image (a driven, single-minded businessman) although he’d no doubt be appalled if anybody attempted to draw this comparison.  Sir Edward wants them to join forces – Charles isn’t interested – but the look on Nigel Davenport’s face as Charles and Sir Edward part makes it clear that a whole heap of trouble is on the way for Frere Jnr ….

Amanda begins her pursuit of Leo and turns up at the yard.  She has a pretext – her boat requires some work – but it’s the unfathomable and mysterious Leo which has clearly drawn her to the Mermaid like a moth to the flame.  Most young men would be flattered by her approach, but Leo continues to glower at her.  Maybe it’s the poolside dip he enjoyed or possibly it’s her playful nature, but at present there seems to be no connection between them.  The fact she later unwittingly dupes Leo into sailing a boat which she doesn’t own (the arrival of the police confirming this) is another example that she’s a rollicking loose-cannon and just about everything that he isn’t.

Polly’s back at the boutique, snapping up clothes like they were going out of fashion (sorry).  This ties back to the previous episode which saw a distraught Polly railing at the futility of her empty life to a concerned, but ineffectual Gerald.  He suggests a charity job – but this didn’t go down well.  It seems that, for all their fighting, she’s missing Abby (at least when her daughter was at home she had someone to talk to, even if the conversations were rarely civil).

Gerald does do his best to be supportive, but – as ever – finds Charles in his way.  Gerald’s plan for a quiet dinner with Polly is shattered after Charles demands his presence elsewhere.  Polly doesn’t take the news well.  “I fully understand. Your business is clearly far more important to you than you wife”.  Relations at Chez Urquhart look set to be distinctly chilly from now on, especially since Gerald has personal problems of his own – although he’s unwilling to discuss them.  The sight of Gerald and Polly, sitting in their comfortable living room, drinks in hand, unable to connect to each other is a slightly chilling one.

You have to accept that a few plot contrivances will occur from time to time, but the way that another totally unknown, very talented, designer drops into Jan’s lap is a little hard to swallow.  There are several things in Anna Lee’s (Sarah Lam) favour though – she doesn’t have a silly French accent nor does she posses a ponytail.  Maybe somebody on Howards’ Way was a fan of The Adventure Game – Sarah Lam had been a regular during its final series whilst Charmian Gradwell, who would appear throughout HW’s sixth and final series, had been another Adventure Game regular.

There’s been a distinct lack of Jack so far this series, but there’s a nice scene in this episode.  A downcast Jack, still smarting at the inquest verdict, is alone in his office, bottle of whisky at hand.  Everything that we know of him suggests that he’ll shortly be drowning his sorrows but no – he heads out into the other office for a coffee instead.  It’s an impressive act of self-control, but how long will it last?  Answer, not very long.

It’s very marked that the closer Jan and Tom get to their divorce going through, the closer they seem to become on a personal level.  They share another convivial meal whilst Tom’s later dinner initiation to Avril looks set to be a more sticky affair (she agrees, but doesn’t look delighted).  Tom seems to conduct most of his conversations these days with a knife and fork in his hands although when Avril tells him that it’s over between them he doesn’t have a mouthful of food, which makes a change.

The tangled Ken/Sarah/Mark triangle hots up a little more.  Mark finally seems to have twigged that Ken’s been making googly eyes at his wife whilst the unexpected arrival of Jan (keen that Ken should sell his minority shareholding in the boutique) makes Sarah just a little jealous.

Meanwhile Tom and Jack have a stand-up row in the yard about the state of the Mermaid’s finances.  We’ve been here before of course, but this time it seems that there’s no other option than to lay off some of the men.  And since that means last in, first out, Leo will be set for the chop.

howards s02e02-01

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5 thoughts on “Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Two

  1. Series 3, the year is 1987. Everything is in full swing, viewing figures are soaring, plots develop nicely and characters come and go. The arrival of Sir Edward Frere is a momentous occasion. Charles and Sir Edward are two powerful adversaries but each of them will also exert strong – and often destructive – influence on the tangled fate of a number of other characters. Here the possibilities are endless and the results often unforeseen and even bizarre.

    Amanda may see Leo as “unfathomable and mysterious” only insofar as she is used to picking and choosing from among swarms of importunate men vying for her attention – and Leo is definitely not one of those. Her curiosity is piqued and she will pursue him for as long as she finds him interesting. Which is not long.

    The character of Anna Lee was also puzzling for me. Maybe someone suggested that Howards’ Way should highlight some of the problems of ethnic minorities. I was actually expecting Leo to take a closer interest in Anna, rather than Amanda, but that motive was never developed. Perhaps being pulverized by a Chinese mafia carried less dramatic promise than being cuckolded by a capricious rich man-eater.

    Finally for today, Jan and Tom are evidently heading for a very amicable divorce and a long lasting friendship afterwards – which in my calculations should have resulted in a happy reconciliation (and I will defend this view till I’m blue in the face :). Alas, as we know, it was not to be.

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  2. Anna’s interesting because she’s such an undeveloped character. It’s something I touch upon later, the way that she’s little more than a cypher – designed to impact Jan’s storyline, but rarely allowed to be a person in her own right. The wonderful Burt Kwouk is is very underused as her father as well.

    Jan’s new-found closeness with Tom and her sudden interest in everything boat-related were both surprises, but the unexpected helps to balance the more predictable plotlines.

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    • In the commentary included on the DVD with Series 1 episode 12 (which I have just caught up with 🙂 Jan Harvey says: “When you look at Series 5, at one point you’d think they are going to get back together, her and Tom… and I think there was generally a feeling in the country that they would like to see them back together again. And of course that was going to be the idea for when the series came to an end that Tom and Jan would get back together […] They never lost their love for each other. They may not be in love anymore but they never lost their love or their care for each other and their children. I really do think that the idea was, as far as the BBC were concerned, that when the end of ‘Howards’ Way’ came, they would bring Jan and Tom back together because that would have been the resolution that people wanted. And of course Maurice [Colbourne]’s death meant that that was never going to be and so it sort of [took away] a central core, the raison d’etre of the series […].”

      Q.E.D! Phew… 🙂

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      • It is remarkable how friendly they are once the divorce goes through in a few episodes time and I wouldn’t disagree with you that a Jan/Tom reconciliation was very much the endgame.

        And the fact that both would have had to extricate themselves from other romantic engagements would have made their remarriage even more interesting 🙂

        Someone someday needs to write a complete history of Howards’ Way and do some digging at the BBC Written Archives down in Caversham to establish the paper trail. I’m sure there’s plenty of buried facts which are just waiting to be brought blinking into the light.

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  3. A *complete* history? It would be a mammoth task. The BBC archives could provide some written evidence, of course, but it would need to be fleshed out with something more. With the chef producer, some directors, a lot of actors and crew members now older or dead, memories are fast becoming blurred… There also are those actors and production staff who do not wish to talk about it. Glaister&Evans’s book is a fascinating mine of information but only up to Series 3. And as I’m listening to Jan Harvey and Stephen Yardley’s commentaries on the DVDs, I note that even their own recollection of certain details (e.g. the storylines concerning characters other than the ones portrayed by them) is – quite unsurprisingly – not always accurate.

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