Hooten & The Lady s1 ep 8

The season – series? – finale finds Hooten on a Caribbean island, in possession of half a map which might lead him to the location of a cask, containing a pistol and an emerald ring, buried by Captain Henry Morgan. Alex is also there, of course, because the British Museum also wants the cask; because, with only two days to go until her wedding, it suits her to be several thousand miles away from home; and because, apparently, she has no other interests besides following Hooten.

Anyway, Alex manages to get hold of the other half of the map, and the two of them compete to find the cask, before realising – duh – that they need to co-operate. The cask is found and its contents confirmed, but it’s then snatched by some of the non-white people on the island – see episodes passim – who cast Alex and Hooten adrift on a dinghy. From which they are rescued by Edward; even he has been able to detect Alex’s reluctance to go through with their wedding, so – perhaps somewhat needily? – he’s made his way to the Caribbean with a terrific idea: let’s just do the wedding right here!

Alex, however, is still wondering about the wisdom of marrying Edward, although more for his sake than her own. Which is when Hooten steps up and reassures Alex about her qualities: he’s met lots of women, but not one who’s “as smart as you, as funny as you (?), or as loyal as you”. And there’s more along the same lines: she’s pretty, has a smile that lights up a room, Edward is a lucky guy, and so on. Now, call me a traditionalist, but I would have thought you only say things like that to someone you want to sleep with. (Or, according to disposition – specifically willingness to make the additional effort – someone you’re already sleeping with.) He even skips over how she is, perhaps, the most annoying woman on the face of the planet.

But that’s where he leaves it, just about; with a chaste kiss on the cheek Hooten is out of there, leaving Alex to marry Edward Nice-but-Dim. Except, of course, Hooten then sits on the beach drinking rum straight from the bottle and brooding, which suggests that he perhaps has unacknowledged feelings for Alex, in which case he should have grown a pair a few episodes ago and told her. Anyway, there’s a smart little coda which confirms that, married or not, the two of them are going to continue to be a team; and, in the event that the show isn’t renewed, allows us to imagine them treasure hunting around the world into the future.

So will it be renewed? Dunno, although Michael Landes has hinted that it will. I’d be delighted if it were: it could reasonably be argued that Hooten & The Lady was a little bit of a throwback, but it was good, if undemanding, Friday night entertainment. (Not that I always watched it on a Friday night, but still.) Much of this is down to the two stars: both Landes and Ophelia Lovibond are proper stars with genuine screen presence: whatever “it” is, they both have it. In the event of renewal, I’d have three tiny suggestions: make Alex less annoying (not Lovibond’s fault at all, it should be said); give Jessica Hynes more to do; and, yes, ramp up the will-they-won’t-they between the two leads. Otherwise carry on, and Unpopcult will be here.

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Hooten & The Lady s1 ep 7

It’s nine weeks after the events of the last episode, and Hooten is in Cambodia trying his very hardest to be left the hell alone by Alex: he maintains this is for her own protection, but at least in part it might be because she spends quite a lot of time this week being insanely annoying. Alex, of course, just ignores Hooten, makes her way to Cambodia, and tags along.

Anyway, Hooten – assisted, somewhat randomly, by a 12-year-old Buddhist – has been hired to find this week’s priceless McGuffin, the Cintamani jewel, although in order to do that he needs to track down the four lost implements of Vishnu, stolen from… etc. etc. Suffice to say that the reason Hooten wants to find the jewel is because it will enable him to flush out the man who murdered his wife and child, revealed this week to be a Big Bad named Kane; and the reason he wants to do that is so that he can kill Kane as an act of revenge. Alex is, of course, dead against the very idea of revenge, although since it wasn’t her spouse and child who were murdered, her opinion perhaps doesn’t carry quite as much weight as she would like it to.

Like last week, then, it’s one of the darker episodes: there are a few Indy-esque flourishes, but it’s mostly about Hooten seeking redemption in one form or another, as when he and Alex are trapped in the middle of a Khmer Rouge minefield and, with either remarkable courage or indifference to his own fate, he leads the way out. He couldn’t save his wife, he reasons, but he might be able to save Alex. I quite like this show with a touch of grit, I have to say, and Michael Landes as Hooten is able convincingly to summon up pain, anger, and remorse.

Hooten & The Lady s1 ep 6

My turn to review Hooten and The Lady having coincided – not entirely unintentionally – with what I thought would be the “week where they dress up in evening wear, pretend to be a couple and get all handsy in the process,” I was expecting quite a lot of light-hearted flirtatious fun from this episode. Just my luck then that I got the “dress up in evening wear” part but none of the rest of it; instead, our leads barely even look at each other in their finery, and this week’s instalment, quite unexpectedly, turns into something much more serious than the show has hitherto given any sign of intending to be.

It starts off cheerfully enough, in Russia, with the improbably-named Ulysses Hooten meeting up with his equally improbably-named friend Hercules Rudin, an old, wily thief who claims – apparently truthfully – to have tracked down the legendary 51st Faberge Egg, with the Sanguinary itself (ie the blood of the last Russian royal family) secreted inside. Now, ever since I watched Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna as a little girl, I’ve had something of a fascination for the Romanovs – lest anyone think I know what I’m talking about, though, this doesn’t extend to doing any studying or proper research, it just means I get a bit excited when any Romanov-related stuff crops up on tv. Add that to my general love of shiny things, and this type of bauble is manna to me.

It would seem that I’m not alone in that, however, since it’s also of great interest to a couple of stereotypically taciturn Russian goons who kidnap Hooten, and beat him up a bit in preparation to Lady Alex’s university classmate and nemesis (given how irritating she is just now, I can imagine Lady Alex was even more annoying at uni, but a handbag-sized crossbow is maybe taking things too far) to tease/torture him for egg-related info in that apparently titillating tv show kind of way that I’m fairly sure doesn’t happen all that often in real-life torture situations, but what would I know, not being a slinky tv villainess or indeed any other kind of villainess at all?

Of course, Alex, without any idea what the potential booty might be, nonetheless drops everything to hurtle across Europe when Hooten calls, only to be rewarded with a different kind of booty – how many times is that Michael Landes has been naked in this show now? – which she rescues and promptly covers up in a reindeer onesie because somebody thought we needed a Rudolf joke (a good one, admittedly) in October. Righto.

Anyway, modesty just about restored, if a little snugly so, it’s time to have our first real fight. As Alex carps about being dragged away from her (endless, dull, stupid) wedding prep to chase after a myth, poor Hooten, having already endured an afternoon of beating and mortification, and not entirely comfortable in the reindeer onesie, finally loses his temper and tells her the blindingly obvious: “Sweetheart…. you’d have dropped everything for a $10 snowglobe, because the truth is you don’t really want to get married.” So THERE.

Landes and Ophelia Lovibond are terrific in the awkwardness that follows; he knows he’s right but also knows he’s gone too far; she knows he’s right but hates that he is. There’s talk of parting ways right then, but of course, they don’t – they still have to be pursued through the forest by said goons, crash a wedding, find a very special cleaning lady, and fall out properly, because, in addition to being infuriating, Alex has an entirely one-track mind, and it’s not the fun kind of track either; her idea of expressing compassion and sympathy boils down to “Sorry about your dead pal, guys, but THINK HOW MUCH THIS SHINY THING WILL PLEASE THE MUSEUM!”

I’m not sure we can wholly blame Hooten for throwing the cursed egg into the sea after that.

Not that Alex leaves it there, of course (see above re: mind, one-track). After a frankly bizarre conversation with Clive, her BOSS, who allows his ADULT employee’s MOTHER to tell him how to run his team, she spits out some nonsense about being tired of being a good girl – the idea that she’s a good girl being news to both Clive and me since she’s pretty much done the opposite of every thing she’s been asked to do since the beginning of the season – retrieves the egg and has a good cry. Hooten, meanwhile, has an old, deadly, and apparently resurrected enemy to worry about, and the show, all of a sudden, has a Big Bad, an overarching, tragic mystery and a significantly darker underbelly than I thought. Is that a good thing? I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.

Hooten & The Lady s1 ep 5

Alex and fiancé Edward are fretting about where to have their forthcoming wedding-that-isn’t-going-to-happen when she receives a call from Ella, being held at gunpoint in Ethiopia. Her captors clearly share some of our reservations about the Western-centric approach taken by this show to the appropriation of cultural treasures: they want the Sabean spoon, an artefact held in the British Museum, handed over to them within 48 hours. Although Alex is told to come alone we know that Hooten will be her plus-one, just as soon as she can tear him away from taking bets on bare-knuckle fighting in Turkey.

And so to Africa, starting in Eritrea, where in Bond-ian manner the woman picking Alex and Hooten up at the airport is, of course, under orders to kill them. She fails – twice – which leaves them with the minor problem that they don’t actually know where Ella is, although once they make some improbable connections between the spoon and the lost treasure of the Queen of Sheba they work it out quickly enough, assisted by Clive, this week on his own in the Chloe O’ Brian role back at the museum.

Ella is tracked down, then Alex is captured as well, leaving Hooten on his own to save the day. It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that he does so, in an episode which is an entertaining and handsomely-mounted (location filming in South Africa) way of passing an hour, if not as good as last week’s. The best news is that, because Ella finally gets out of the museum, the terrific Jessica Hynes is allowed a little more room to breathe. Once at large, though, Ella can’t fail to pick up on what’s definitely not going on between Hooten and Alex: “unresolved sexual tension”, muses Ella to Hooten, an odd thing to say in a show which is allegedly devoted to the proposition that nothing is going to happen between its two leads. As it happens, Hooten could do much worse than have a fling with Ella; although, sadly, I think we can more or less rule that out. Finally, it’s worth noting that this episode was written by the young actor Karla Crome, who was one of the very best things in the final two seasons of Misfits, and evidently has big things ahead of her, whatever side of the camera she ends up on.

Hooten & The Lady s1 ep 4

Hooten is in Bolivia pleading for his life – he owes someone money, and there are, let’s be clear, a few guns pointed at him – when he gets a call from Alex asking if he can go to Bhutan with her in order to try to track down a priceless scroll written by Buddha himself. Well, yes he can; that would pay off his debt, although Alfonso – the guy he owes money to – sends his henchman Hidalgo along for the trip, much to Alex’s surprise. Although, of course, at first Hooten doesn’t tell her that Hidalgo’s there to keep an eye on him.

She’ll find out later. Meantime, the first stop in Bhutan – the eighth happiest country in the world, we are told – is an ailing, elderly woman who has a parchment which might reveal the whereabouts of a temple where the Buddha scroll was left. And because she’s seen TV shows before, and she knows how they work, she has some wise words for Hooten: “You lost someone. You still feel the (Secret) Pain.” She gives him the parchment, but to ensure he comes back with the scroll she gives him a poison to which she has the antidote.

And so Alex, Hooten and Hidalgo head into the mountains – rickety bridge, snow-capped peaks, that sort of thing – to find the temple. Hooten, however, is starting to suffer from the symptoms of the poison, eventually going blind; and although we know that Hooten isn’t going to be killed off in a show called Hooten & The Lady it allows us to see a more vulnerable side to him, culminating in feverish mumbles about someone named Ben who he couldn’t save. We do find out who Ben is, and it carries an emotional punch which, in truth, I wasn’t expecting.

Hooten survives, needless to say, and the scroll is recovered. Of course Alex will need to give Hooten the kiss of life, of course she’ll need to loosen his belt, and of course someone will tell her that Hooten is “a dish”, which she pretends not to have noticed, because this is not a shipping show. There’s more, though: an actual on-the-mission death; Alex saying “Hooten, we have a problem”; and even a couple of fleeting glimpses of Alex’s fiancé Edward, who seems to be as clean-cut and aristocratic as Alex herself, although I’m still betting that he’ll turn out to be a wrong ‘un, otherwise she won’t have any reason to turn to Hooten at the end of the season as the only man who she can trust. In short, and somewhat to my surprise, this was comfortably the best episode so far.

Hooten & The Lady s1 ep 3

Something of a pincer movement from Hooten and The Lady at the start of this week’s episode: Alex is, painstakingly, making a presentation to some very important people in Egypt, requesting permission to excavate a sensitive archaeological site which she is convinced holds an object that will help to locate the site of the lost tomb of Alexander the Great. Permission is duly refused; but the point is moot anyway, because Hooten – who between the end of the last episode and the start of this one seems to have been hired on a freelance, no-questions-asked, don’t-look-at-me-if-it-all-goes-wrong basis by the British Museum – is already on site and blowing shit up. This proves to be successful in obtaining the relevant artefact; unfortunately, he then goes and spoils everything by falling into the clutches of femme fatale Melina – who isn’t what she seems, in more ways than one – and giving her a head start on finding the tomb. Which, of course, contains unimaginably valuable treasure.

And we’re off again. To start with I thought the plot was going to go long on villainous foreigners and virtuous Anglo-Americans, but in fact it was neater and more nuanced than that. Add that to lots of fights, guns, explosions, and double-crossing, none of it filmed in a quarry in Dorset, and once again it’s great fun, even if Jessica Hynes and Shaun Parkes continue to be underused as the back-home support team.

The relationship between Hooten and Alex continues to be difficult to parse, mind you. This week, once again straight from Shipping 101, Alex interrupts Hooten and Melina in flagrante and pretends to be Hooten’s wife, allowing Hooten to speculate about a “definite subtext”. He will double down on this later: Alex is told that Hooten is dead, so when she next sees him – very much alive, natch – she tenderly embraces him. “I knew”, murmurs Hooten, “there was a bit of subtext”, which, in Alex’s opinion, ruins the moment. Except there is a subtext, of course; he knows it, she knows it, we know it, and the show knows it. Which makes it odd that everyone connected with the show should deny it.

Hooten & The Lady s1 ep 2

Alex is in Rome (and the show, pleasingly, is also genuinely in Rome). It’s part business, part pleasure: there’s something-or-other that the British Museum wants to get its hands on, before it’s demolished to make way for a Metro extension. But she’s also supposed to be buying a dress for her wedding to the mysterious fiancé we haven’t seen, helped by her mother (Jane Seymour, clearly having lots of fun while getting paid for it, which I mean as a compliment).

Meantime – what a coincidence! – Hooten is also in Rome, on a mission from God; or, at least, the convent we saw him donating money to last week. He has a scrap of an original Sibylline Book and, when he can take a few minutes off from jumping out of planes without a parachute and flirting with Alex’s mother, he’s trying to find the rest of it; a quest which will, fairly swiftly – this isn’t a show which hangs around – take Alex and Hooten to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, dealing with a subterranean alligator along the way. The Mob is involved as well, of course; this isn’t a show which believes that less equals more.

It’s reasonably entertaining, if not quite up to the standard of last week’s opener, and for now we’re not getting too much character development, although there’s another hint of Secret Pain (his) and a Complicated Past (hers: she claims to have been adopted). The chemistry between Ophelia Lovibond and Michael Landes is very watchable, although I still hope that, in due course, the two of them might get it on. Perhaps with someone playing, in the background, a cover version of Aerosmith’s ‘Dude (Looks Like A Lady)’, with the lyrics changed to ‘Hooten And The Lady’. That’s what I would do. Hit me up, writers’ room.