Acorn TV’s Harry Wild continues as Harry and her sidekick Fergus are convinced the body of a dead man is being used to cover up wrongdoing, and her literary talents are challenged by a serial killer who likes to provide minimal clues. But things get serious when their families are threatened.
Episode 3: Mincemeat
The third episode of Harry Wild opens with a scene between two young men, both staggeringly drunk, and apparently the best of friends, at least until the Irishman bludgeons the one with the European accent and pushes him into a canal. Oddly, they are dressed alike.
Three days later, Harry and Fergus are in her local pub, The Hairy Goose. Fergus, with much grumbling and eye-rolling, is writing an essay on Wuthering Heights under Harry’s supervision, although they both become distracted by a local news story about a bank robbery. Harry’s pub sidekick Glen Talbot (Paul Tylak) is trying to hit her up for a loan for a bet on a horse; all business as usual. But the routine is disturbed when a body is found floating in a canal. Harry calls her son Charlie, who brings his Garda team down to investigate.
For Charlie, it’s a closed case. As the dead man’s ID shows, he is a wealthy businessman, John O’oole (Michael Patric), who was reported missing by his wife several days before. But Harry isn’t convinced. She knows she met the dead man, but she doesn’t remember the context, until she finds a flyer for a Polish restaurant with the name and number of Jacob Baklov (Fiach Kunz) written on it. And then she remembers that he’d actually come to her house, looking for work. There’s no answer to his number.
Harry rushes off to see Charlie and makes her case. It’s just like Operation Mincemeat, a daring piece of British espionage during World War II, where a body with fake information about an Allied landing in France was planted for the Germans to find. Why did O’Toole want to fake his death?
Charlie bursts her bubble: Mrs. O’Toole has identified the body.
Donning a disguise of headscarf, glasses, and general ditziness, Harry and her “grandson” Fergus pay a condolence call on Louise O’Toole (Lynette Callaghan), who is anxious to get away. Sending their host to the kitchen for a glass of water, Fergus accompanies her as Harriet roots around in the living room. The couple’s daughter Emma Harding, they discover, is O’Toole’s stepchild and attends a fancy boarding school, St Albina’s in Wicklow. Since Louise is not at all willing to talk, Harry hatches a plan to find out more about Emma’s stepdad.
But first, they stop off at the Polish restaurant, where Harry can’t get any answers about Jakob Balklov. All they know is that he’s missing. But before they leave, Harry writes a message on a menu.
She visits Charlie and his family and announces that she’d like to spend the next day with her granddaughter Lola. At first, the parents are reluctant, since it’s a school day, but Harry turns on the charm, and Lola (Rose O’Neill, Moon Man) is thrilled by the idea. She’s even more excited when Harry takes her shopping; she and Fergus are to be disguised as children of Hollywood royalty Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, visiting St. Albina’s as a possible school for Zillow Joanie Pitt. Fergus and Lulu form an instant bond, and you get the impression that Harry has never considered this as a romantic possibility or a problem.
While Principal Hastings (Rachael Dowling) is thrilled by Harry’s subterfuge, Lola finds her attempts to ingratiate herself with Emma (Gillian Roberts) don’t go so well. Advised by Harry to talk about field hockey, Lola finds Emma, the school’s hockey champion, is unreceptive. But that all changes when the crowd of students find whose daughter she supposedly is, and she and Emma bond on the issue of stepfathers. Emma hated John O’Toole.
The owner of Novak’s Polish Kitchen, for whom Harry left the note, responds and is saddened by the news of Jacob’s death. Jacob had been excited because he was about to come into some money and buy into a greyhound share, and Tom Whittaker (Luke Hayden) was his contact at the greyhound track. Fergus introduces himself to Whittaker as a new assistant and finds out that, again, everything comes back to O’Toole.
Harry believes O’Toole killed Jacob, and discusses her idea with Charlie’s boss Ray, who is far more receptive; but why did O’Toole need to disappear? Harry and Fergus decide to stake out the O’Tooles’ house, and follow Louise to Whittaker’s house. Whittaker, it appears, is in possession of a large amount of money.
Glen, the worst stake-out driver in Dublin, follows Whittaker, with Fergus and Harry aboard, to the greyhound racetrack where John O’Toole (Michael Patric), very much alive, shows up. Whittaker and the O’Tooles are the missing members of the gang who carried out the bank robbery mentioned in the news story at the beginning of the episode. O’Toole befriended and murdered Jacob to fake his own death and escape with the money. Charlie and his team, alerted by Harry, arrest them.
Ray comes to visit Harry that evening, full of warm praise for her intelligence and case-solving ability. It’s not quite a professional visit. Harry offers wine, and implies that she doesn’t mess with married men. But Ray’s marriage to the terrifying Assistant Commission is over, he tells her. Is this a new romantic chapter opening in Harry’s life, or does she intend to bite off his head and eat it for breakfast in the morning?
Episode 4: An Unhappy Happy is a Dangerous Thing
A tall sinister man, whose face is partly hidden by a hood, visits the apartment of a small-time moneylender, Ringo Rogers (Dylan Kelly). When Ringo asks him for collateral for a loan, he offers an old flip phone. Ringo asks him if he’s a time traveler and laughs.
“I’m not a time traveler. I’m a nihilist,” he replies, and swings an axe.
Harry awakes to Fergus hammering on her front door, and finds herself having to protect the teenager from the presence of Ray Tiernan in her house. One of Happy the Shark’s subsidiaries has been murdered, and if Harry and Fergus take on the case, he’ll forgive Fergus’s father’s loan. They’ve been summoned to a Chinese restaurant, and Fergus begs Harry not to mention the time Happy threatened to break his sister’s arm. Naturally she mentions it first thing.
“Business is business,” Happy replies with a shrug.
Harry lays down her terms. She confirms Happy will forgive Patrick Reid’s loan and that the police, not Happy, will deal with the murderer if and when he’s caught. Happy has a grudging respect for Harry. He tells her what no one else knows, that Ringo was his son.
Harry and Fergus visit the blood-spattered apartment where Ringo was killed. Written in blood on the wall is a phrase Harry recognizes: “The darker the night,” and that, plus Ringo’s profession, kicks in her literary instincts. The words are quoted by Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment, from his friend the poet Apollon Maykov:
The darker the night, the brighter the stars
The deeper the grief, the closer is God.
In the book, Raskolnikov murders a moneylender, and kills her sister by accident, becoming racked by guilt. Ringo has a younger half-brother, Toby (Daniel Ryan), who has Down’s Syndrome. Does this mean he’s in danger? Harry finds out that Toby and his classmates are on a field trip, and we see that tall, sinister man stride onto a path in the woods, following the children and carrying a large coil of rope. Harry and Fergus frantically search the place, and find Toby tethered in a ruined building.
“He was nice,” Toby says. “He was my friend.” He’s not hurt or particularly scared, even though the next line of Maykov’s poem is written on his torso with a felt tip pen.
Harry retires to her local pub. There’s been a delivery for her there, a copy of 84 Charing Cross Road, a book about a 20-year romance between a bookstore owner and a writer. A burner phone is in a cut-out section of the book, and there’s a letter, which is almost a love letter but certainly a challenge:
We’re two sides of the coin, you and me. You use literature to solve crime. I use it to murder. How perfect we are for one another.
When the phone rings, Harry hangs up on him twice. She demands his name; he’s Billy, and he tells her another murder will take place before 11:45 that night. The significance of the time format––rather than a quarter to twelve––is significant, Harry says, referring to a Sherlock Holmes story. But by the time Harry reaches Charlie, it’s too late. Charlie has been called to a gruesome crime scene where the victim sits at a table scattered with posters about a missing cat. The cat in question is eating what’s left of its dinner after the murderer has used cat food to continue the Maykov quote on the wall: “The deeper the grief.”
Harry is called into the Garda station, where she’s confronted by Charlie, Ray, and Ray’s (ex?) wife and superior officer Vivian Mitchell-Tiernan (Ciara O’Callaghan). Harry is not intimidated. When she is told Mitchell-Tiernan’s position is that of Assistant Commissioner, she fixates on the word “assistant” and requests coffee. Charlie hustles her out, while Ray grins.
But when Harry gets into her car to leave, Raskalnikov aka Billy is in the back seat and ready to talk. He’s proud of his plan to kidnap and return the cat and to tear down the posters. As for writing using cat food as his medium, he mentions that he discovered its adhesive quality when he covered a teacher’s car with it at school.
Harry is able to identify Billy from this anecdote and finds he’s the son of the wealthy Lund family. Since his father Patrick (David Michael Scott) is an artist, Harry poses as a gallery owner with Fergus as her bullied assistant. Billy’s upbringing was unusual, to say the least. Patrick’s project of daily photographs of his son ended when Billy left, and, Patrick’s fiancee Siobhan Hill (Cait Maloney) was once engaged to Billy. Fergus blinks as he views a sequence of nude portraits of her. Fergus borrows a computer in the house on the pretext of urgent work, and finds Billy’s address.
But the house is empty, and Harry becomes terrified when Billy phones and threatens Lola. Charlie moves his family to safety. But once again, Billy looms out of the back seat of a car––Charlie’s, this time––and drugs and kidnaps him.
Fergus meanwhile goes home and finds Happy playing a board game with Libby, their father out somewhere. As surprisingly gentle as this scene is, Happy is becoming impatient.
Orla makes a panicky call to tell Harry that Charlie has disappeared. Harry ’s next call is from Billy telling her she has until 5:00 pm––just over an hour––before he kills Charlie. She and Fergus remember that the first victim, Ringo, had a Van Gogh print, Starry Night, on the wall ("... The brighter the night”). As with the Sherlock Holmes clue, they are able to link this obscure information to a specific church in the city and rush over there. Helpfully, there’s a copy of Crime and Punishment in plain view in the church, with a passage about Napoleon highlighted. The entrance to the crypt is behind a portrait of Napoleon, where they find Charlie handcuffed to a wheelchair, and Billy waving his axe around. There’s no signal in the crypt so they can’t phone the Garda.
Happy, who’s become really impatient, has also found his way to the crypt. He and his sidekick are both armed and very annoyed that the Garda are involved. Billy isn’t pleased about the change of plan either. Charlie yells that everyone is under arrest, but Happy ignores him and says he really wants to shoot Billy. His associate reminds him that Ringo was a pacifist and wouldn’t approve, and Harry, exasperated by the stalemate, facetiously suggests he could shoot Billy in the leg if it would make him feel better. Happy fires, and agrees that yes, he really does feel better for it.
When Harry and Fergus accompany Charlie to reunite with his family, Orla and Harry share a rare moment of acknowledgment and gratitude. Lola whispers “thank you,” to Fergus, who looks very pleased.
We’re up to the halfway point of the series which certainly has some silly or inexplicable moments, but it’s held together by the strong performances of its leads, Harry (Jane Seymour) and Fergus (Rohan Nedd). As a mixture of crime drama and humor, it absolutely works. What do you think?