Sinbad 1.11 Writer: Harriet Warner Director: MT Adler
THE ONE WHERE Gunnar falls in love and is then accused of being a fiend (technical term for a mystical killing beast rather than just mild form of abuse form a spurned boyfriend), while Tiger finds the map to the Land of Dead but runs foul of Taryn.
VERDICT Things don’t start promisingly with Gunnar suddenly reverting to trader mode (his no-doubt thrilling encounter with the cloth seller is one missing adventure that can stay missing) in an unconvincing excuse to get him to meet newly-widowed Lara. Sure, he was a trader in episode one, so there’s a certain logic to it, but what kind of profit is he going to make off a tablecloth’s-worth of material (especially with the trader’s high mark-ups, apparently)? Sinbad and co, meanwhile, go in search of a map to the Land Of The Dead, an artifact which – you might think – would need the skills of an Indiana Jones to obtain, but no; Tiger has an old friend who knocks off maps to the Land Of The Dead in his spare time, apparently. Luckily (for the sake of that old thing we know as drama) he’s a senile monk, so the episode isn’t over before it’s begun. But first the gang bump into Mathew Horne with a feather duster doing an impression on Charles Hawtrey.
So far, so iffy.
Then the episode rapidly improves, thanks in part to some very impressive and atmospheric direction and a couple of very strong performances from Miranda Raison as Lara and Dougray Scott as Father La Stessa. Raison and Elliot Cowan totally sell the relationship between Lara and Gunnar, so much so it’s almost a shock that he doesn’t stay with her at the end of the episode. Gunnar is by far the most fully rounded of the regular characters, and Cowan once again manages to convey so much while hardly actually acting at all.
The main plot is a little creaky – do we ever know why the fiend’s appearance is accompanied by the wind? And why are the other monks in such thrall of La Stessa when he’s clearly a dirty old man with a grudge? – and not exactly bursting with originality, but it worked fine as a kind of Hammer homage. The precredits teaser was straight out of a werewolf film, and the scenes of villagers preparing for the passover were effectively creepy. The fiend itself was a bit of a mixed bag; well animated and intriguingly-designed (the wicker werewolf?) but its eyes were oddly cartoony. Sadly, the Scooby-Doo parallels went further, with a very silly death scene for La Stressa, who unluckily happened to passing underneath ad open window just as the big dog leapt out of it. D’oh!
Generally, though, it was pacy, exciting fun, and also boasted a couple of decent arc plot moments. Tiger’s discovery of the map was beautifully shot (even if the map itself was unfathomable) and Taryn’s appearance as an evil nun was a chilling surprise. And while it was pretty obvious that she had somehow either replaced or taken over Tiger’s body at the end, the final shot of Tiger looking in the mirror and seeing Taryn’s face instead still packed a punch.
While Gunnar and Tiger both had a chance to shine this episode, Sinbad himself felt a little like he’d been reluctantly included for contractual reasons and came across a little bland. Rina may as well have stayed on the ship and played Scrabble with Cook. It’s a shame that Rina is still being so underused, because on the rare occasions she is given the spotlight, Marama Corlett has shown she can play the former thief in an appealing perky goth mode.
Really impressive incidental music this week too. The climactic chase scene was underpinned by a truly stirring score. I’m going to be keeping my ear on Christian Henson.
QUICK QUIZ Right, so who can spot the Land Of The Dead on this map?
LOCK-UP TIME This week it’s Gunnar’s turn to end up in the clink.
MAKING LIGHT OF MATTERS Some very impressive cinematography and lighting this week, though occasionally the lighting was a little over the top (did Gunnar have a personal spotlight in his cell?). But the shot where Tiger says goodbye to her old friend was like something from ’50s Hollywood, and the way she blurred out as she walked off was simple but very effective.
AIN’T NOTHING BUT A HOUND DOG Did you spot the ironic “No Hounds” sign in the tavern? This guy clearly didn’t…
BEST LINES Gunnar: “This is not a prison. This is where my friends the mice tell me stories.” Boy: “Mice?” Gunnar: “You’ve never heard a mouse tell a story? Of course, you have to listen very carefully. Tiny voices. And nearly always about cheese. But happy endings.”