Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Travel Through TV: Blackpool 1.02

“It’s called the trickle-down effect. There always has to be a loser. And I spent my life making sure that I’m not it. The right decision is the one that makes you a winner.”

So we’re back for another dive into the odd but compelling world of BBC’s “Blackpool.” This episode had a couple of the show’s most memorable (in both a good and bad way) musical acts. It also really focused in on the relationship between Carlisle and Natalie. I find them adorable (as I will probably say repeatedly throughout this post), so the direction in which they went by the end of the episode kind of made me sad. Not too terribly sad, though, since if Natalie is really that unhappy and that into Carslisle, she should divorce Ripley first. I’ve known several people whose lives have been ripped apart when their spouses cheated, so no excuses for cheating. But this is television, so there is going to be drama. Speaking of drama, the episode also takes another scratch at the surface of what’s actually going on with the drug and prostitution culture in Blackpool, which may bring Carlisle and Blythe closer to figuring out what happened to the man who was found dead at Ripley’s arcade.

This episode again opens on a Holden family musical montage. This time, they’re singing along to “The Gambler,” which seems appropriate. Early on in the episode, we get a real taste of Ripley Holden’s very American neoconservative sensibilities I alluded to in my last post. Danny confronts his father about the fact that the murder victim was most definitely at the arcade on the night of his death. He is very upset that Ripley lied to the police about that. Ripley, in response does a little demonstration for Danny about his own moral code. He introduces Danny to Chantal, a young mother who frequents the arcade, and instructs Danny to give her some money. Before Danny can comply, though, he tells Danny that the money is actually the pay packet for one of the arcade’s employees. Ripley is a winner, so it is morally right that people who work for him benefit from his good fortune. Chantal is a loser, so to Ripley, it’s presumably morally wrong for her to receive a windfall (or morally right for her toddler to starve…your choice). Danny is understandably disgusted by this and runs off.

Meanwhile, the police investigation is progressing. Carlisle and Blythe are staking out the arcade (the stake-out location is conveniently located in front of an ice cream truck – Carlisle seriously never stops eating for the entire first two acts of the episode), and they see some new machines are being delivered. Carlisle decides to find out what is going on, and he delivers both good and bad news to Ripley. He tells Ripley that since forensics is done with their evidence collection, the arcade can reopen. But he also tells Ripley that he intends to interview Danny. By the way, Ripley’s accountant is pissed about the purchase of the new machines. Ripley used the money that was supposed to go towards paying off his tax liability to pay for the machines instead. Since he doesn’t take much in the way of government services, Ripley doesn’t feel like he should have to pay taxes. I can see why his accountant is anxious.

While eating cotton candy, Carlisle is told about a really big break in the case. Some of the deceased’s friends have stopped by the precinct to identify the body. Carlisle and Blythe immediately go to interview the men. They claim that the deceased is a man named Mike Hooley, and they were all out for his stag night. Prostitutes were also apparently involved. Carlisle thinks it’s odd that if Mike Hooley was engaged, his fiancée never took any steps to try and find him. To get to the bottom of that conundrum, he decides to interview some of the prostitutes who live in the run-down flats that Ripley owns (yep, he’s a slumlord too…a real charmer, right?). He decides to do the interviews at a really cheesy old dance hall because it’s “neutral ground.” And they serve pastries. The prostitute we see Carlisle interview swears she’s never seen Mike Hooley in her life.

Of course, some time is also devoted in this episode to the various romantic entanglements that are happening among the members of the Holden family. Most amusing to me is the relationship between Carlisle and Natalie (mostly because I’m enjoying watching David Tennant get his flirt on). Carlisle sees Natalie go into a grocery store, so like a total creeper, he follows her in and pretends to shop. He reveals his true intentions when Natalie points out that his shopping cart is full of tofu. Carlisle claims that he saw her in the store and just wanted to try and ask her out again. Natalie protests, again telling Carlisle that she’s married. Carlisle, however, gives a big speech about how they’re the type of people who have always done the right thing, and maybe now it’s time to do the wrong thing, Natalie agrees to meet Carlisle at a bar that evening. There’s another love-themed musical montage, at the end of which Ripley finds a heart broach among Natalie’s jewelry. I think he knows something is up. But he’s sleeping with the main prostitute at the flats, so he really doesn’t have any room to protest. Anyway, Natalie and Carlisle meet up at a drag club, because Natalie thinks it’s the one place in Blackpool where she knows Ripley will never set foot. The two of them are really adorable together.

There’s also the matter of Shyanne and the much older Steve (who I keep just thinking of as Mr. Molesley from “Downton Abbey”). Shyanne shows up at Steve’s workplace and confronts him about the break-up over text. Steve tries to brush her off until Shyanne takes her shirt off right there in public. This girl is really devoted to Steve to an unhealthy degree considering the short amount of time they have been dating (not to mention the age difference). Steve tells her that the age difference is too much for him. He saw Ripley a second time and realized that they knew each other from school. Thinking about going to school with her father just creeps him out (so he says). Shyanne goes home and throws a hissy fit, accusing Ripley of trying to ruin her life (which he probably deserves). Ripley, for his part, is doing a good job at pushing everyone close to him away. He is really rude to his two closest friends and investors. One of them doubts that the hotel-casino concept will work, and Ripley punches him. The other is the local police chief, and Ripley lays into him about letting Carlisle interview Danny.

We get to see more of Carlisle and Natalie’s first date, which is super cheesy and adorable, although it kind of takes a dark turn. There’s a musical number where they sing along to the song the drag queen is singing, then they suddenly are dressed in fancy clothes and ballroom dancing while Ripley plays a piano. We go back to reality post-song, where Carlisle and Natalie are walking outside. Natalie starts trying to ask some questions about Carlisle, but he keeps just asking questions about her and Ripley in return, including whether or not she still loves Ripley. Natalie is a bit put off by this, but she ends up kissing Carlisle, so I guess she’s not too put off. After the kiss, though, she starts to have regrets, and she runs off. She discusses her dilemma with a Samaritans co-worker the next day, and after that, she decides to give Carlisle another call and apologize. They end up arranging a second date.

Meanwhile, Carlisle is interviewing Danny. There’s some trouble brewing because Danny told Carlisle that he saw Mike Hooley at the arcade, which contradicts Ripley’s story. There’s also the matter of Mike Hooley being involved in a fight at a nearby club called Romeo’s and Danny having clearly visible injuries on his hands. Ripley tries to do a quick save by claiming he put Danny in a cab at midnight. Danny is upset at the growing web of lies, and he ends up running off after the interview. Blythe, for his part, has done some more traditional policework. Mike Hooley had drugs in his system, the type of which were often sold at Ripley’s flats. All the prostitutes, however, denied ever seeing Mike Hooley. Blythe has one other bit of knowledge to drop. Ownership of the flats is in Natalie’s name. Carlisle insists that it must jut be Ripley doing a tax dodge, but when Natalie arrives at the drag club for their second date, Carlisle has stood her up. He’s at his hotel, a disheveled mess.

Ripley takes his two buddies out for a night at the strip club to try and make things right. Everything seems to be going well, but when the police chief goes to get a drink, Ripley tells Terry (the other investor who Ripley slapped earlier) that he doesn’t trust the police chief anymore. The evening gets worse when Ripley discovers that Danny got a job at the club announcing all the performers. While Ripley himself worked this sort of job as a teen, he thinks it’s unbecoming of his son to do so, and he drags him off. Something is seriously up with Danny – perhaps a multitude of things. He is clearly involved in the Mike Hooley murder in some way, even if it’s tangential.

Natalie ends up going to Carlisle’s hotel room to confront him about standing her up. He starts talking about how he was just trying to listen to what she was saying about how she wasn’t sure if she still loved Ripley, and Natalie is furious. She accuses Carlisle of just enjoying the pursuit and backing off now that things were starting to get real. Carlisle doesn’t feel this way at all. We see him indulge in a really cheesy fantasy (set to “I Second That Emotion”) of what sex with Natalie would be like. He tries to get her to stay, but Natalie says that she sees now that the whole thing was just a fantasy. When she gets home, she asks Ripley to hold her, although she doesn’t tell him why.

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