KCET airs a new Season 2 episode of "Inspector George Gently" this Sunday, April 21, at 9 p.m. If you're eager to get to the bottom of this week's whodunit early (or if you need to play catch-up once the end credits start rolling), then this recap is for you. Prepare for spoilers and answers aplenty.
(Need a refresher on the other installments of this detective series? Then check out our previous "Investigating 'Gently'" recaps.)
So who's the unlucky stiff this week?
That's the thing: This episode doesn't begin with the discovery of a corpse, "Law & Order"-style. Instead, Gently and Bacchus are staked out in a South Shields cemetery, watching a masked man nervously check his watch. Eventually, the cops make their move, but following a scuffle with Bacchus, the suspect gets away. The only thing Gently and Bacchus can show for their efforts? The suspect's suitcase... which is full of expired passports.
Huh. That's decidedly less compelling than a murder, isn't it?
Just hold your mystery-solving horses. When Gently goes into the local passport office to chide the staff for being so careless with a shipment of old passports, he meets the clerk in charge of the order, Maggie Alderton (Robyn Addison). Despite the fact that she identifies herself as a miss and not a missus, she has a photo on her desk showing her holding a baby. Bacchus eyes her suspiciously.
Certainly, Bacchus has put together that a single mother might need additional income, and therefore Maggie could be behind the passport scheme. No?
That's part of it. But the baby Maggie is holding is very dark-skinned. Ever the foil for the enlightened Gently, Bacchus makes the remark afterward that Maggie "likes a bit of the tarbrush." Gently, who worked as a policeman during the racially motivated 1959 Notting Hill riots, rebukes him, explaining that racism has no place on the force.
Is the race of the baby going to be a major plot point for this episode?
Most assuredly. The suspect from the cemetery, Jimmy Cochran (Andrew Lee Potts) walks into a bar populated almost exclusively by Arab-British youths. He and the apparent leader, Hamed (Tariq Jordan) trade insults -- about Maggie, about each other, about the paternity of Maggie's baby.
What's up with Jimmy's hair?
Yeah, it's kind of distracting how he looks like Meat Loaf from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
That particular hairstyle is known as a D.A. -- or "duck's ass." It's an easy visual shorthand for rebelliousness.
Why isn't anyone dead yet?
Hold on. Subsequently, Cochran goes to Maggie's apartment. We don't see what happens once he gets there, but in the immediately subsequent scene, Maggie is dead, her body washed ashore. The basket in which she was carrying her son is found at the top of a hill -- presumably the spot from where her body was tossed into the water. The baby is suffering from exposure to the night air, but he's still alive.
So Jimmy must be the prime suspect, then?
Only briefly. Neighbors also saw an Arab man at Maggie's apartment earlier that night. Either could be the killer. But Jimmy seems a less likely target once Gently and Bacchus find a bouquet of flowers at the spot where Maggie was thrown into the sea. A note attached swears revenge.
What, exactly, is the history between Maggie and Jimmy?
They were high school sweethearts, as Maggie's parents explain when they come to identify the body. Maggie fell so hard for Jimmy, in fact, that she abandoned a promising academic career to be with him. Maggie became pregnant out of wedlock. When she gave birth, however, the child was very dark-skinned. That day, her parents never spoke to her again -- "We don't know any colored people," her mother explains -- and Jimmy, feeling betrayed, left Maggie.
Was Maggie involved with the passport scheme or not?
She didn't seem to be enjoying any additional income. In a C-plot that I'll just tie up now, there's some suspicion that she and her boss, Mr. Saint (Joe Simpson), may have been involved together -- either criminally or sexually. It doesn't pan out. Mr. Saint was approached by Jimmy directly about making some extra money with old passports. And any strangeness between Mr. Saint and Maggie resulted not from him wanting to be with her, but him wanting to be her. He's a transvestite who would collect certain feminine articles of Maggie's to keep in his private box of femininity.
Where's Jimmy during all this?
Oh, you know -- conveniently offscreen, evading the cops. Hoping to gain insight about Jimmy, Gently and Bacchus visit his mother, Mrs. Cochran (Catherine Terris -- Mrs. Spalding from "William and Mary"). Only she's not his biological mother. That woman died when he was a child, from the same fire that gave Jimmy a rather butch-looking burn scar on his neck. But Mrs. Cochran was only his guardian for a short period. He misbehaved and she shipped him off to a boarding school. She can, however, identify the handwriting on the revenge note as being Jimmy's.
So Mrs. Cochran wasn't that much help, then?
No, but the audience sees one additional clue. After Gently and Bacchus leave, an 40-something Arab man (Stewart Scudamore) knocks at her door. She clearly recognizes him, but tries to prevent him front entering.
And what's Jimmy's connection to the South Shields Arab community?
There's none that we know of. He's antagonistic to the Arab youths, and doesn't shy away from using harsh language when confronting them. These tensions come to a head shortly in the parking lot of the bar that the Arab guys frequent. Jimmy and Hamed tussle, but when the cops appear on the scene, that same 40-something Arab man shows up and urges Jimmy to flee. The cops arrest Hamed. During Hamed's interrogation, he reveals that the older man -- the one who appeared at the rumble and the one neighbors saw at Maggie's house is Thomas Ali. Also, Hamed recently crossed paths Maggie with at a boarding house where many Arab men live. Maggie showed up, passport in hand, searching for Mr. Ali. When she couldn't find him, she handed a letter to Hamed's associate. The next day, Mr. Ali approached Hamed and asked for a ticket on a boat to Yemen. He had his passport, meaning he presumably saw Maggie.
Is Thomas Ali the same person as this Thomas Jamil Ali we've been hearing of?
Nope. The investigation turned up a birth certificate bearing the name Thomas Jamil Ali, but we're not clear who that is. But we find out soon enough. Gently and Bacchus return to Mrs. Cochran's house and ask about Jimmy's parents. It turns out Mrs. Cochran is actually Jimmy's aunt. She only told Jimmy that his father died at sea because the family never approved of him... because he was Arab. Because Jimmy was light-skinned, they eventually changed "Jamil" to "Jimmy" and moved him where his father couldn't find him.
Does Mr. Ali know he's Jimmy's father?
Yes. Maggie informed him of this in the letter, prompting him to meet her at her apartment. Having access to various passports and birth records, she realized the truth about Jimmy's parentage. That's why Mr. Ali acted so protective toward Jimmy throughout the episode. In fact, while Gently is learning all this information, Mr. Ali approaches Jimmy and explains this himself.
So Maggie's baby then...?
It's actually Jimmy's. It's just that while Jimmy was light-skinned, his son took after his father's side of the family. Maggie was, in fact, faithful to Jimmy. It's just that no one knew enough to figure out how she could have conceived a baby that looks Arab.
Great. So who killed Maggie then? And why?
Gently seems to be zeroing in on one of Hamed's lackeys as the killer -- his tire treads match those observed at the site of Maggie's murder -- and even brings Hamed into the interrogation, presumably to get Hamed to coax a confession. The lackey can't take the fall, however, and blurts out that Hamed borrowed his car on the night of Maggie's murder. Finally, Hamed confesses. Having learned of Maggie's search for Mr. Ali, he thought that she and Mr. Ali were lovers. And if Maggie was willing to sleep with an older Arab man, she might also do so with a younger one. He picked her up, telling her that Mr. Ali needed to see her again, but drove her out to the beach. When she resisted his advances, he raped and strangled her -- then set her baby out in the cold before driving off. In the episode's final scene, Hamed is hanged for his crime.
And what of Jimmy and the baby?
Finally reunited with his son, Jimmy has seemingly decided to be a good father to the boy. And while he seems to have established a relationship with his father, we see Mr. Ali trying in vain to find a place to live in spite of signs reading "No Irish / No Coloreds / No Dogs." Maggie's parents attend her funeral, but they don't speak to Jimmy nor acknowledge their grandson.
That's not exactly uplifting.
No, but didn't we all learn a valuable lesson about racism?
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Martin Shaw stars as commander George Gently, an incorruptible, uncompromising cop transplanted from London's Scotland Yard to England's North Country in the mid-1960's.