‘The Hour’ – ‘Episode 2’: Hanging with Mr. Elms

A quick review of the second episode of “The Hour” coming up just as soon as I click my heel harder on the third step…

“It’s what you do for someone you believe in.” -Bel
“And you believe in him?” -Freddie

While I found the setting and characters of “The Hour” intriguing in the first episode, I also found it a bit of a slog, as Abi Morgan and company had to establish so much about this world and its people. Having established what The Hour(*) is and who’s working on it, episode 2 is much lighter on its feet, having to only pause long enough to explain a bit about the Suez Canal crisis.(**)

(*) As I did when I reviewed “Sports Night” on the old blog, I’m going to refer to the scripted TV drama in quotes and the show-within-the-show in italics to keep myself and you sane.

(**) And because it’s been so long since I read about it in history class, I’d forgotten that Egypt’s prime minister at the time was named Nasser, and therefore was confused for quite some time about why characters in 1956 were discussing NASA when the space agency wouldn’t exist until 1958. (The American spacesuit in the opening scene contributed to this confusion.)

In particular, we get to spend a fair amount of time on the Freddie/Bel/Hector triangle, which is part romantic jealousy, part professional jealousy, and all complicated. Bel likes Hector and also needs him for The Hour to work, Freddie resents the hell out of this son of privilege(***) gliding his way to the top when (at first, at least) he’s clearly in so far over his head but also doesn’t like the way Bel looks at him, Hector has his wife to worry about, etc. All very “Broadcast News,” sure – Hector’s story about why he wanted to be a newsman even sounds a bit like the story the William Hurt character says about his father – but done well, and with three terrific actors.

(***) Though what I loved about the scene where Freddie pulls Hector’s resume out of thin air is that Hector gets to be amused by the whole thing. This isn’t Freddie putting the handsome rich guy in his place; it’s too men who are more equal than either wants to admit.

And the espionage plot takes a bit more shape – even if that shape at times very closely resembles “Rubicon,” with its obsession with crossword puzzles and elaborate corkboard conspiracy diagrams – including the arrival of the murderous Mr. Kish as an undercover operative at The Hour.

Very interesting, all around.

I’m taking next week off and will likely only have time before I go to put up a post inviting you all to discuss the third episode, and once I’m back, we’ll be starting to get deep into fall premiere craziness, with the show’s finale airing on the Wednesday of the broadcast network season’s premiere week. So I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write going forward. But it’s an interesting show and at the very least I want to create a place where people can discuss it (keeping in mind, as always, that the spoiler rules around here say that it’s NOT okay to discuss anything that happens in episodes that have yet to air in the United States).

What did everybody else think?