Previously on By Any Means: Episode 4.
Well. After an interested reader has found their way to this blog by Googling, quote, “by any means is crap,” unquote, I might as well point out that I did not actually use those words in conjunction and in the right order. However, I might also point out that I wasn’t particularly happy with this episode at all.
One, the ethnic stereotyping is strong in this one. This is all about context, and so far, the context is this: we haven’t seen TomTom actually interact with criminals before. He complains that he’s not allowed to go out and do the dirty work a lot, but that’s all we know. So now we see him with a convict, who happens to be a man born in Turkey, and he suddenly won’t take his hands off the gun Jess gave him. We don’t even know if Jack gave TomTom any weapons training. The trouble isn’t necessarily that the convict in question is not Caucasian, the trouble is that we have nothing to compare this scene to. Studies have shown that people feel inherently more threatened by others of a different ethnic origin. With that in mind, we can’t tell what it is, exactly, that’s setting TomTom off.
The second issue of stereotyping is TomTom’s reaction to Mehmet’s question, whether he’d have stood by and done nothing when Ahmed hurt Jess. I strongly object to TomTom’s, “I’d have blown his head right off.” That is the kind of male posturing that, for one thing, TomTom has never exhibited before, at least not in association to violence; and connecting it this obviously with the influence of a muslim character is perpetuating prejudice so lazily I can’t wrap my head around it. TomTom wouldn’t have shot Ahmed because, a) he’d have been too scared, b) he knows Jess can handle herself. If he had been there, he’d have seen that Jess was taken by surprise, but not incapable of fending Ahmed off by herself. She had him on the ground in three moves. It’s one thing for him to be worried about Jess’s safety, it’s quite another to deny her agency on the basis of her gender in her absence and to say something so moronic — and for the writers to use that to bridge the “cultural gap” between TomTom and Mehmet, erasing female emancipation and promoting Mehmet’s culture/religion as endorsing senseless violence… Where do they get off?
Point two, David Harewood was wasted on this shady MI5 operative. What, five minutes of screen time, if that? Also, except for the ambassador and his daughter in Episode 3, I can’t think of any significant supporting characters adding to the diversity of the cast. In this episode, nearly every guest role was cast with non-white actors, except for the Chief Constable; which may not have been the producers’ intention, but which looks unfortunate. Why weren’t there more diverse guest actors beforehand? In light of something that Sleepy Hollow producer Heather Kadin, for instance, said about diverse casting, it seems as though this was the episode to fill the quota with.
Apart from that, that scene with Jess disguised as a chav and the two kids Jack borrowed off an au pair (excuse me?), was utterly ridiculous. Grifter narratives often use caricatures to manipulate people and wreak havoc — just look at the Ocean’s trilogy — but that was just… and then, the camera trails up Jess’ legs as she walks away, irrevocably introducing the element of sexuality into a narrative that could — that should — focus on a woman doing her job. Again. Charlie could have complimented anything, her personality, her wit, her determination, but no, he goes for her body, because that is obviously the only real asset Jess has. I’m not saying he can’t find her attractive, but the key to representation is what we see in relation to everything else — and in relation to everything we do not see. Add to that the whole funny business about Jack’s shirt… it’s just completely unnecessary.
I had really hoped that this series would take off properly after I really liked the second episode, but since then, it has kept bouncing back and forth between mediocre and ridiculous. The characters have so far still not succeeded in drawing me in and making me really care about what happened to them, and I don’t entirely care about the cons, either. Every episode, I get bored at some point around the middle, and that’s not supposed to happen — especially not if the con is supposed to work not just on the mark, but on the audience.
Next: Episode 6 (series finale).