Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Father Brown: "The Sins of the Father" (BBC/PBS-TV, 2016)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2016 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Last Saturday, July 16 I put on the latest episode of the Father Brown British detective series to be rerun on KPBS, “Sins of the Father” (originally aired in the U.K. January 14, 2016), in which aircraft manufacturer Robert Twyman (Robert Daws) receives a series of blackmail notes telling him to “confess” — though just what he is supposed to confess to is left powerfully ambiguous until close to the end — or his son will be killed. His son Calvin (Oscar Dunbar) is an amateur pianist who’s interested in going after a professional career and who arrogantly insists he doesn’t need to rehearse for the upcoming amateur show in town — an annual event at which journalist-turned-aspiring pianist Rosie Everton (Amy Noble) is also supposed to play. The town is both enthralled and upset by the visit of a well-known author and lecturer on Freudian theory, Dr. Mordaunt Jackson (Paul Bown), who in an early sequence manages to hypnotize amateur singer Mrs. McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack) into being unable to perform in public. The show is maddeningly uncertain about when it’s supposed to be taking place: the attitudes of the characters and some of the dialogue are contemporary but the cars and clothes mark it as the 1950’s. The lead “sleuth” character, Father Brown (Mark Williams), hears Robert Twyman’s generalized confession but doesn’t get the specifics about just what Twyman is supposed to have done. Calvin Twyman is found strangled to death in a room that was locked from the inside and to which only Robert and Calvin Twyman and their butler, former aircraft engineer Lester Wallace (Dean Williamson), had the key. Later Rosie Everton is also strangled, and Father Brown — with virtually no help from local law enforcement — deduces that Dr. Mordaunt Jackson is the killer: he committed the murders remotely through hypnosis, putting Robert Twyman under a psychological compulsion to strangle to death the nearest person whenever he heard the Chopin Nocturne No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 9, no. 1 and then sending his son Calvin a copy of the score and suggesting it be his piece at the concert, so Calvin would practice it and his dad would go ballistic and kill him — only after murdering his son and then forgetting that he had done so (which was also part of the hypnotic spell) Robert also knocked off Rosie Egerton when, while they were in the same room, she noticed the music for the Chopin Nocturne on a piano and started to play it. Dr. Jackson’s motive is that Rosie, a former journalist who had quit a big-city newspaper to become a concert pianist — but was still working for a local paper to make a living and keep her hand in — was about to publish a story about him selling airplanes with defective parts, and Dr. Jackson’s son had lost his life in a crash of a Twyman plane caused by the defective part. (All My Sons meets The Manchurian Candidate.) It’s a charming show, mainly due to the lovely performance by Mark Williams as Father Brown, even though some of the episodes have strained credibility and this one sails over the top.