Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Grimm: The Grimm Who Stole Christmas

"Strange is your speciality!"

These Christmas episodes with a twist are becoming quite the Grimm speciality and this one, with its violent Grinch-like Wesen turning out to be just wild metaphors for teenage abandon who can be nicely cured with, er, fruitcake, is no exception. This is an entertaining tale with a nice little twist, and silly exactly to the right degree.

But what of the metaplot? Well, after last year it's heartwarming to see both Monroe and Rosalie enjoying a perfect Christmas. The Wesenrein continue to menace our newlyweds for their "miscegenation", but Triubel is on the case, ably assisted by Josh. And Wu continues to be suspicious about Nick and Hank; this will come to the boil very soon.

Trubel and Josh have results from their little spy mission against Wesen Neo-Nazis; they're quite a team. We're shown this very shortly before Trubel announces that she's off with Josh (and Nick's Aunt Marie's truck) to look after him at his home, no doubt to be the focus of a storyline later in the season. They'll be back, especially as Josh's pursuers are after a doohickey held by Nick.

But the Wu subplot is clearly coming to the boil in the very near future, especially as Renard warns Nick and Hank not to let Wu know about him. Meanwhile, Juliette may be pregnant, and it may have happened during her time as Adalind. We end with a pregnancy test, but we don't see...

This is how I like my Grimm; lots of weaving subplots. I'm still loving this season in a way I haven't really loved the others. I hope they can keep it up.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Grease (1978)

"Rock Hudson lost his heart to Doris Day."

Yeah, right. Suuure he did.

I'm sure I'm not the only man to have been forced to watch this film by my better half but, cliched though it may be, that is how I came to see this, a film I wouldn't normally watch. You can thank Mrs Llamastrangler for this post.

First impressions are that this is a fairly straight-up romantic musical. There's a lot of humour, but none of it is metatextual; its a fairly straight take on the tropes of high school romance with songs. And there's nothing wrong with that; it works, although the ending, in which our lovers finally get together, feels somewhat rushed.

Second impression is that this may be set in the 1950's but, like Happy Days, it's giving us a very '70s version of the '50s, something not quite like the '50s as they were or, indeed, the '50s as shown in popular culture today. But for Grease, of course, the '50s were only as long ago as the '90s are to us, with the gap in social mores not looming so large.

Oh, and there's a certain obvious debt to Romeo and Juliet, although perhaps in this case more through the medium of West Side Story.

I won't say much about the songs; they do what they're supposed to do, but they're not really my think, and don't really evoke '50s rock 'n' roll, not even Greased Lightning. They're show tunes mixed with s little disco, which fits just a little oddly with the setting. But I'll make a load of observations...

1. So that's why Lauren Laverne called her band "Kenickie" back in the '99s. The penny drops. This is why all films that have permeated popular culture to this extent need to be watched, or pop culture references will go unrecognised.

2. I'm surprised they let Olivia Newton-John use her natural Aussie accent, especially as the script and characterisation make no real reference to her Antipodean origins.

3. American high schools seem to be conformist hells anyway. '50s American high schools are seemingly much worse.

4. The Blob is on at the drive-in. Nice!

5. Fanny Flagg!!! Titter. Chortle. Etc.

6. It's refreshing to see a PE teacher- Sud Caesar's Coach Calhoun- not being portrayed as a thug for once.

Musicals are not my thing, unless there a quirkiness to them, and this is a straight-aged musical. Still, it's well enough made, and at least I've finally ticked this film off. Just never make me watch it again.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Cucumber: Episode 7

"I thought we'd seen the last of this- funerals at too young an age."

After last episode's extraordinary demonstration of Russell T Davies' genius, we get another example of what a master of structure and storytelling he is. It feels as though Cucumber ascended to another level last week and is staying there. Cucumber is not only bloody good telly, it's I, Clavdivs good. Edge of Darkness good. Absolutely superlative stuff.

No supermarket framing sequence this week,it's straight to Lance's funeral. Once again a group of gay men of a certain age are mourning one of their own, as in days of old, but this time there's real anger, especially as Daniel Coltrane is using that tired old "gay panic" defence; Cliff appears to be quite sincere as he offers to kill him. But this is all wearily familiar territory for these Middle Ages men, who have grown up with the spectre of both premature death and homophobic violence. The contrast between this generation and the casually on bisexual generation of Freddie and co is both a big theme of the series and hugely perturbing for Henry. Vincent Franklin is incredible here.

This being RTD, the heavy stuff is leavened by a bit of fun with cock hairs. But this is followed by a harrowing scene of Henry crying, in the gents, too proud and repressed to do it anywhere else. This says an awful lot about him as a character. Earlier in the series he seemed an abrasive and brave choice for a main protagonist, but by now he just seems nuanced, fascinating, not a tragic hero in a plot structural sense but certainly of that lineage. Again, RTD and Vincent Franklin deserve all the plaudits in the world.

Freddie gets further development here, coming to resent, and feel trapped by, Henry's dependence on him, in large part because he was the one who happened to be there during that phone call. He's shallow, perhaps, but shallow people, at least when written by RTD, can be interesting and have hinterland.

Perhaps the most upsetting scene, though, takes place afterwards between Henry and Marie, and their huge falling-out on what happens with the house; Henry was not married to Lance, and only has half the rights to it. Worse, she now has possession of all the savings from the joint account that Lance took. There's a subtle homophobia to all her actions and attitudes here. And their dinner descends into deep acrimony with Henry screaming insistently that Lance's death was not his fault. It wasn't, of course- it was Daniel Coltrane's alone- but the cruel unspoken accusation that Henry was somehow responsible hangs horribly over everything.

The scene between Henry, Freddy's and Dean in the car is extraordinary; such a long scene in such a confined space would seem to be more theatrical than televisual, but it works, and is a necessary way of getting Henry to discuss his hang-ups over sex, and how Lance was so good that he put up with no penetration for nine years. The narrative needed this catharsis and, as akways, RTD leavens the harrowing stuff with humour as the three men bond as Freddy discusses the respective sexual plumbing systems of women and men.

We end, as with much of this episode, in a scene of legal brutality; Henry, Freddy et Al are all evicted from their flat, which was only ever an outrageous legal con to steal their stuff. But Henry, his mid-life crisis at its peak, invites all of the newly homeless twentysomethings to his house, much to Marie's outrage. This is the best telly, with the best written parts, that I've seen in years.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Smashed

"How've you been?"

"Rat. You?"



Another light episode, then, but one where stuff happens well and truly; the simmering sexual tension between Buffy and Spike eventually erupts into some symbolically building-demolishing sex, while Willow is led even further astray into the selfish use of magic by a de-rodented Amy. Mind you, the scenes of them both doing naughty magic in the Bronze are notable because this is the first time the Bronze has made an appearance in aaaages!

(Oh, and I bet Willow likes the Donnas. And Verruca Salt.)

Amy's first scenes are amusing, though, as she digests the news that three years have passed and that, anyway, the whole school was swallowed by the Mayor. And our three baddie's provide further amusement with the freeze ray and all that. But their main role in the episode is to prove to a Boba Fett-threatening Spike that his chip is present and correct; it's just that Buffy no longer counts as human since her resurrection, which is an alarming thought. Or, if you're Spike, a kinky one.

Buffy, for the first time ever, isn't quite as good as Angel and, it occurs to me for the first time, be a little past it's peak, especially now Once More, with Feeling is over. Still bloody good, though.

Bet we get a really serious episode next. You can always tell...

Monday, 23 March 2015

Angel: Quickening

"Manifest destiny, the Beach Boys..."

Well, that's me up to date with blogging all the episodes of Angel I've seen so far. Nearly there with Buffy, Cucumber, Grimm and one outstanding film, but im proud of this Angel post. Mainly because I'm writing it with my baby daughter in my arms and feeding her. Anyway...

Angel shows no signs that it's going to stop being first class telly any time soon. We begin with a flashback to York in 1764 although, of course, this being an American programne, no one seems to have a Yorkshire accent. Cue Holtz's family getting mercilessly slaughtered by Angelus. Naturally, Sahjahn chooses this very moment to transport him 237 years forward in time, sworn to kill Angel with his inhuman underlings. And all this at a time when rather a lot is going on. And, into this, plus Darla being up the duff with Angel's child, a possible antichrist, we can also add Wolfram and Hart.

Our evil legal firm are somewhat behind the curve in the whole Darla-being-with-child stakes, although Lilah continues to run rings round the ambitious yet rather stupid Gavin, however much short term advantage he may have at any one time.

Into all this we have the bombshell that is Darla's waters breaking, after having those TV style contractions that only last a couple of hours. Birth and pregnancy on telly are so very neat, and not at all like it was for Mrs Llamastrangler last months. Believe you me, contractions can last muuuuch longer. And the waters breaking us only a vague sign. But, anyway... it's a human. A boy!

What's truly impressive in this episode is the confluence of events to set up so many different things for next episode, which is obviously a big one. There's a real sense of fast-moving excitement here, and yet there's still time for character moments and Wolfram & Hart terminating its psychics' employment contracts with extreme prejudice.

Angel continues to be excellent. I'm genuinely excited about the next episode.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tabula Rasa

"Magic's all balderdash and chicanery!"

It's the morning after the musical before. After all the heaviness of the revelations we need a light episode, and that's what we get. And it's so very appropriate at this of all moments that the comedy should arise from a series of misunderstandings from a spell of (what else?) forgetting. And yet the cause of the comedy is also the cause of the quietly devastating ending; after trying to violate Tara a second time by trying to make her magical forget, Willow has ruined everything, and Tara wordlessly leaves her. It's utterly heartbreaking. All this,and Giles quietly slips away to Blighty at the end.

Buffy is, of course, in denial about that kiss with Spike ("All Gone with the Wind with the rising music and the rising..."), which proves that it's definitely going to be a thing in coming episodes. On the subject of Spike, though, it seems he owns forty kittens to a loan shark. Literally. A walking shark in a suit. And yes, it may have seemed like a good idea on the page, but... really? This is the most cringeworthy bit of prosthetic I've ever seen on Buffy. But let's move on. 

The forgetting spell, of course, affects the whole gang, and hilarity ensues. I love Spike's sudden realisation that he's British ("Blimey, shagging..."), although why he should assume he's American by default I have no idea. A bit of mild if harmless scripting chauvinism, methinks!

Still, any episode with Giles fighting a Ray Harryhausen skeleton has to be a winner. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Grimm: Highway of Tears

"It's good to have you back!"

It looks as though this season is going to continue as well as it started; we're several episodes in, and there's a pleasing number of ongoing plot threads. Here we're mostly concerned with the dramatic tension- will Elizabeth's concoction cute Nick in time for him to solve a strange series of murders committed by reptilian Wesen linked to the Thuggee? (Oh, and Rudyard Kipling was a Grimm. Blimey.)

But there are other threads bubbling under. The motive for Nick (and Juliette) agreeing for Nick to be re-Grimmed, as it were, is the constant harassment of Rosalie and Monroe by the Wesen Ku Klux Klan, who object to their inter-racial marriage and burn crosses on their lawn. 

Meanwhile, in Austria, Adalind tells all to Pronce Victor, who at last learns that the baby (unseen so far this season) is with Kelly Burhhart. More importantly, though, just when is he going to get rid of that thing on his upper lip? It's doing my head in.

Elizabeth's spell requires Juliette to become Adalind and shag Nick in said form, leading to some awkward but also illicitly exciting sex for them. But Juliette collapses afterwards. Hmm. Something has happened to her!

Elsewhere, Elizabeth tells Sean that she's leaving, and Josh arrives at the Burkhart residence to find only a tense Trubel. This is to be continued next episode, I'm sure. But for now, Nick is back as a Grimm and the series has never been better.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Angel: Offspring

"We tried to stop her by hitting her fists with our faces."

This is where the season really begins. The characters have had their fun, but from now on things get relentless.

We begin with the gang researching an intriguing yet inevitably vague prophecy about the birth of an Antichrist of some kind. This is able to be communicated pretty much in shorthand, as we've already been through this sort of thing with the Shanshu stuff, but the scenes are used nicely to further establish Fred as a useful and well-liked member of the team.

Of course we, the audience, are well aware that this is likely to relate to the child currently inside Darla's baby, father of this parish, and the arrival of a very pregnant Darla into the hotel sends shockwaves. Angel, from this point, is set to be a fast-moving serial with few stories of the week and no settling into any status quo, reminding me very much of Chris Claremont's classic fifteen year run on Uncanny X-Men.

Cordelia, whom Angel is increasingly coming to fancy, reacts rather strongly against Angel who has, after all, when all has been stopped away, acted as the feckless father type, knocking up his on-again, off-again father during a one night stand without protection and leaving her to deal with the consequences. (Yes, I know, if we're being literal about it then vampires can be forgiven for not using contraception, but this is subtext.)

The ultimate tension, of course, making for great drama, is the question of whether Angel's only child is a monster, set to unleash Armageddon? We end, after an entertaining scrap between Mummy and Daddy in a kids' amusement arcade, with reluctant mother Darla begging Angel to kill her. But he can't. Because the baby had a heartbeat. A soul.

As a postscript, making this episode even more ominous than it actually did, the demon Sahjahn brings Holtz, fresh from Angelus' murder of his wife and children, to the present day, extracting from him a promise to kill Angelus. But he has, of course, neglected to tell him about the whole soul business...

This is dramatic stuff, and great telly. It's almost as dramatic as the birth of my own daughter. Not only is this episode brilliant, but it elevates Angel to another level.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, with Feeling

"She needs back-up. Anya, Tara..."

The metatextual joke in the above quote is that, yes, Giles is sending two of the gang to help Buffy against a demon baddie, but they are doing so in the capacity of... backing singers. That's one of many wonderful metatextual touches in this, the best ever episode of Buffy and a piece of televisual history, written and helmed for our delectation by Joss Whedon himself. My favourite metatextual joke is that the underling captured by Spike and questioned about the baddie's intentions seems about to deliver the info in the form of a song after much build-up, but then simply tells them.

Like the second-best episode, Hush, this episode relies on an unusual form- the fact that it is structured like a musical, with characters bursting into song- and marries this to content. Songs in musicals are generally about the singer's  innermost feelings, but here this means that everyone's innermost secrets are revealed to all and sundry. Hence Tara learns that Willow has used magic to manipulate her mind. Hence the outing of Xander and Anya's mutual doubts about their marriage ("I love her tight... embrace, tight embrace!"). Hence Giles' decision to leave, so Buffy can get used to not relying on him as a crutch. And hence (this is the biggie) everyone learning that they brought Buffy back, not from a Hell, but from a Heaven. The episode ends with the characters, and their relationships, shattered.

There are some nice structural touches. The opening medley of short scenes is without dialogue, contrasting the status quo where there is a lack of communication to the excess of communication that follows. And an alienated Buffy sneaks off from the big show-stopper to share a dramatic final kiss with Spike.

It would be remiss of me not to praise the awesomeness of the songs, again by that Rebaissance man, Joss Whedon, or the equally awesome singing voices of certain cast members. But this episode is awesome because it is metatextual. This may be the highlight of Whedon's TV career.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Agent Carter: Valediction

"I plan a complete and total overhaul of the kitchen spices..."

It's the end of the season and, worryingly, if online gossip is at all reliable, the series. So it's time to thank a certain person for making it possible for seeing these episode. This person goes by the YouTube handle of MrVortexofDOOM and, for those of us who like this sort of thing, his missing episode reconstructions knock Loose Cannon into a cocked hat. So please have a proper look at his channel, press the "like" button, and spread the word.

As we might expect,the episode is topped and tailed with deliberately egregious examples of sexism; we begin with that Captain America radio show again, with its arse-clenching rendition of Peggy's character, and we end with a triumphant Peggy being applauded back into the office, only for official credit to fall to the much less competent, but much more male, Jack Thompson. In between these two bookends are some wonderful things.

Tony Stark gets a baptism of fire; he may now have been cleared, but he's hypnotised to do himself in by taking off in a plane and doing a Steve Rogers. It's an interesting riff on the guilt that he feels about that day, and the fact that it is Peggy who persuades him to come back from the brink speaks volumes about the mutual respect they share, forged in war, in spite of everything.

It's a feelgood ending; Dotty Underwood escapes to strike again, and both Peggy and Angie get to stay together chez Stark. Most touchingly, Jarvis trusts Peggy, and not his employer, with Steve Rogers' blood.

This is a very pleasing finale. It would be awfully good to have a second season now...

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Agent Carter: SNAFU

"Have you ever been hanged, Mr. Jarvis?"

"I don't think I have, no."

"It is quite unpleasant."

The penultimate episode, then, and a dramatic one, with Dooley's horrific yet heroic death as its centrepiece; hypnotised into wearing a suicide vest, he heroically defenestrates himself to his doom, and that's a phrase which one doesn't often get a chance to use. Get in.

Peggy's desperate attempts to get the SSR to believe the truth- Dotty Underwood and her hypnotist mate are the baddies- flounder on the usual casual sexism; the assumption, predictably, is that she and Stark had a "thing". Fortunately, the potentially frustrating scenes of the SSR not believing Peggy don't outstay their welcome; the episode soon becomes a gripping thriller. 

After a gripping final scene with gas being released at a cinema we are left eagerly anticipating the finale. Agent  Carter may have suffered some pacing problems in the middle but the concluding episodes have been excellent so far. 

Agent Carter: A Sin to Err

"I knew you didn't work at the phone company!"

Yes, this is the episode where Peggy gets caught by her SSR "mates", and also the episode where the plot crystallises; Leviathan (much fleshed out in this episode) are after Stark's inventions. But let's talk about Angie for a minute.

She's in the series mainly to perform a narrative function, that of Peggy's female friend and confidante, so obviously she has to find out her friend's secret, as she does here. But she's also a parallel character to Peggy, also stuck in a traditionally female job, constantly suffering the slings and arrows of sexism and misogyny. She, too, aspires to greater things, in her case Broadway stardom rather than being a spy. And which of all plays is she rehearsing? The Doll's House.

On a similarly feminist note, it's also fun to see Jarvis getting slapped by a parade of Howard Stark's exes. But the core of the episode lie in Peggy being caught just as the true baddie lady, Dottie Underwood, is about to strike. All relies on Peggy's ability to convince her former comrades of the truth before it's too late. Only in handcuffs is she finally taken seriously.

I can still why the series has been criticised for its slow pace, but things are beginning to speed up now. Two more episodes...

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Agent Carter: The Iron Ceiling

"He may be an utter wanker but he is one of us."

Nice title; alluding to the glass ceiling that pretty much defines the show, but also a nod to the presence of a Stark. Nice episode, too, giving us a potted history of Peggy's new, mysterious neighbour who, it seems, is a Soviet agent with a past all bound up with Stalinist darkness; her continuing habit of chaining herself to the bedpost is nicely symbolic.

Howard Stark is still not Peggy's favourite person, but Jarvis manages to mollify her somewhat; Stark may be a git, but he's a good git. And there is still tension in relations between the series' two biggest protagonists.

The glass ceiling is exemplified, rather blatantly, by Peggy's brilliant code-breaking work not getting her anything in this man's world. And yet, when she ultimately gets her way and gets sent on a mission, Dum Dum and the other Howling Commandos, old war comrades of hers, treat her with both an affection and a respect that her colleagues will never show. Only in the heat of war can a woman like Peggy show what she's made of. It's 1946. Feminism is a generation away. But at least this time with her real friends help her to decide how she really feels about Stark. 

We end with Peggy's star on the relative rise, but Daniel is suspicious. By this point the series is beginning to feel a little too slow-paced, but the characterisation. And spectacle continues to impress.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Agent Carter: The Blitzkrieg Button

"Hey, can I borrow the sports section?"

Yes, it's the inevitable Stan Lee cameo, sitting on a park bench. He's 94, you know.

A confession: I have in fact seen the whole series of Agent Carter, having intravenously injected the whole addictive series a few days ago. Try as I might to maintain dramatic irony, I know how it ends. I shall discuss the hows and wherefores at the end, but in the meantime you may wish to look up the YouTube channel of a certain MrVortexofDOOM, especially if you're partial to reconstructions of missing Doctor Who. It's jolly good.


This episode is where we really get to know Howard Stark. Then again, we already do; he's a genius millionaire playboy, exactly like his son, and he does absolutely nothing that you can't imagine being played by Robert Downey Jr. Dominic Cooper is an excellent second best, though. The scenes with him "hiding" in Peggy's apartment are a hoot.

I also loved the '40s science lab, and the proto-James Bond pen. But the episode is mainly about a big plot twist; Howard's big, dangerous MacGuffin is not in fact a big bomb but Steve Rogers' Super Soldier blood. This, naturally, is not without meaning for Peggy. And the temperature is rising for our Peg, technically committing treason although, it must be said, Jarvis seems to be more worried on her behalf than she dies. Their relationship is touching; alone of all the men in this (well, besides Stark), he respects her and I'm so glad there's no suggestion of sexual attraction between them, which would entirely spoil things.

We end, though, with Peggy beginning to harbour doubts about Stark; were all the risks she ran for nothing? And what of her blonde neighbour's propensity for duffing people up? Halfway through, and this is more and more intriguing. This is gripping stuff.

This blog post was brought to you by a man with his baby daughter in one arm, so hopefully there aren't too many typos...!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Grimm: Cry Luison

"You need to be a Grimm again!"

The strong run of recent episodes continues as we get a rather clever crime story, a fraud involving a set of quadruplets, that could be only slightly rewritten not to involve Wesen at all. It's a clever, satisfying plot. No doubt there's some interesting Brazilian cultural allusions I'm not getting, but the stories of the week this season certainly seem to be a cut above what they were.

A lot of season arc stuff happens too, of course. A lot of delightfully trippy stuff happens to Adalind, evoking Alice in Wonderland, until we learn that she never escaped her cell at all. Victor, however, wants to speak to her. He's still sporting that facial hair.

Also, Elizabeth has bought Sean a very, very posh house indeed. Mother and son are getting along rather sweetly, much as neither of them are particularly demonstrative people, to the point that Sean feels abject tell his mum that Nick's mother has her grandchild. I'm sure that she will make use of this information at some point.

In another subplot, Josh the not-Grimm is in trouble, but the details can wait until another episode. Apparently they're after that I famous key, now held by Nick, which promises to be fun.

We end with a cliffhanger, though, as the Wesen Ku Klux Klan leave a burning cross on Monroe's and Rosalie's lawn...

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Grimm: Dyin' on a Prayer

"You married a monster, that's all."

This is an interesting broadening of the kinds of stories Grimm can tell; the legend of the Golem that protects the Jews of Prague has nothing to do with Wesen; the Wesen baddies, a pair of domestically violent brothers, are fairly perfunctory. Still, this is interesting; will the loss of Nick's powers expand the narrative possibilities?

It's all very well handled, although admittedly its a coincidence that the only known Golem remains should end up in Portland. And Nick gets to play the hero by just being a good cop with, admittedly, supernatural knowledge.

In other season plot threads, Rosalie and Monroe are beginning to face prosecution from the Wesen KKK for their mixed marriage. Trubel tells Nick about her offer from Chavez, the FBI woman, and Woo continues to have suspicions about Trubel and Nick. It's all bubbling away nicely in this superb season. And if this is the level of stories of the week we're getting now then I for one have no complaints.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Cucumber: Episode 6

"You've taken a wrong turn, but you can turn back."

I hate to simply echo what's being said all over the Internet, but this is one of the finest pieces of television in recent years. It's extraordinary.

We're shown from the framing device at the start that this episode will be different; this time it is Lance, not Henry, in the supermarket. And Russell T Davies gives the game away from the start with a caption: "Lance Edward Armstrong, 1966-2015".

Davies, in a recent interview with the Radio Times, has likened the structure of this episode to Lance's life flashing before his eyes in those last few seconds after the golf club connects. More than half the episode takes place before the start of the series, including Lance's getting together with Henry and the early part of their relationship, from his perspective. But the heart of these early scenes are in Lance's early scenes, his discovery of his sexuality, the difficult coming out and the slow acceptance, Christmas by Christmas, of his father. There is tragedy, too, with the childhood loss of Lance's mother and the loss of a partner to AIDS. All of this rounds Kance as a character and, of course, gets us to emphasise with him so that his death will hurt more. You're a right bastard of a genius, RTD. This episode feels like a punch in the face to a Eurythmics soundtrack.

It's a huge relief that Henry gets to see Lance before he dies, and to finally tell him that he loves him. Lance doesn't take the proffered olive branch, though, and coldly rebuffs him. Instead he goes off on one final, terrible night out.

Daniel gives out warning signs at every moment, as he always has. His behaviour in Canal Street is extremely disturbing yet, as Lance explains to the strange, unreal ghost of Hazel from Queer as Folk, he's handsome enough to be worth it.

These scenes with Hazel, written as a kind of fairy godmother, are the emotional heart of the episode. The fact that she is a ghost adds a note of unreality; RTD has  postulated that, if the whole episode is Lance's life flashing before his eyes, this could be a bit his subconscious has changed. But it's nicely ambiguous, and a nice choice. And dramatically, of course, it's the point of no return.

The final, fateful scenes are in real time, and are masterfully scripted and acted, with Daniel finally acting fully on his suppressed desires, but then lashing out in a fury of denial and gay panic, snuffing out this sweet man whom we have come to know and love. It is sudden, devastating and crafted to hit hard.

And then we have a masterful visual sequence from director Alice Troughton, and tears, and no more Lance. And this is going to leave a huge hole in the world.

Cucumber: Episode 5

"We built cages to keep ourselves civilised."

This is the first thing I've blogged with a little person sitting there sleeping in a bouncer next to us as she watched it. So, technically, the first programme my baby daughter watched was Cucumber. Appropriate or what? Anyway, this is still the best thing on telly right now.

We are alerted to the fact that things are entering a new phase by the difference in the framing device at the start: Henry's monologue takes place not in the civilised, safe, artificial environment of the supermarket, but in the wild and dangerous environment of the primeval forest. 

Henry's life has lost its moorings since that fateful night out; he has lost his relationship, his job, his money and his place in society, and has found himself making some questionable decisions as a result. This is the episode where the consequences of those decisions come home to roost.

Cleo is an extraordinary creation of a character, nuanced and real in a way that fictional characters rarely are. Her reaction to what Henry has been doing on YouTube is perfection in terms both in terms of script and performance. And this is a devastating revelation of the damage done by casually misogynist pornography, done just for fun, on the sexuality of adolescent girls. It's an extraordinary scene.

Elsewhere, Cliff is great as usual, and Henry's relationship with new boyfriend Leigh is quickly unravelling. Not only is Leigh alarmingly right wing, he also wants (gasp!) sex. Henry, being Henry, doesn't so much dump him but takes the easy way out by standing him up, choosing instead to get pissed with Freddie. He still has absolutely no chance with the young Adonis, of course, but the two of them have struck up a moving little friendship of sorts. But Freddie's parents have a few home truths for him, home truth for which he has no real answer. Structurally, this is clearly the episode where we are being invited to examine Henry's recent actions in the light of something big is about to happen. And I'm not just saying that because I've already seen the masterpiece that is Episide Six.

Lance is continuing to pursue the disturbingly laddish Daniel, whose denial about his sexuality is suffused with menace and the simmering threat of violence. Lance's chat in the office with Veronica, who thinks Daniel is weird, is a great big sign that things are going to go very badly wrong.

We end with a conversation between Hebry and Lance, a conversation which Henry badly mishandled. They part on bad terms, and things look ominous...