Callan – Death of a Hunter


Written by Michael Winder
Directed by Reginald Collin

The opposition want Hunter dead – and they decide that Callan is the man for the job.  He’s picked up, taken to a warehouse and pumped full of drugs at regular intervals.  This intensive treatment makes him susceptible to suggestion and over a period of days they manage to convince him that Hunter is a double agent, involved in a plot to assassinate the Russian president.

Callan’s really put through the wringer in this episode and it’s very much a tour-de-force for Edward Woodward.  Whilst there’s a few brief cut-aways to show Meres and Hunter attempting to find him, the majority of the episode is firmly centered on Callan’s brainwashing.

It’s an elaborate plot – maybe too elaborate, you might say (especially since the last Hunter was killed in the street).  One major niggle is that the opposition pick up Lonely and tell Callan that they’re going to kill him.  We hear a shot off-screen and see Callan (already pretty far gone at this point) struggle to reach his friend.  It’s therefore odd, to say the least, that we later learn that they faked Lonely’s death and let him go free.  Logically, Lonely should have been killed (although it would have made a bleak episode even bleaker).

At the time this episode was transmitted, it wasn’t known if Callan would return for a third series, so there were reputably two endings shot – one where Callan died and one where he lived.  We know the answer to that now, but it doesn’t reduce the apocalyptic feeling of the final few minutes as Callan confronts Hunter and Meres is forced to shoot Callan.  The emotion in Meres’ voice clearly shows that he now considers Callan to be a friend – quite a change of events from the early episodes.

Most series wouldn’t have had the nerve to carry this storyline through to its logical conclusion, but then Callan wasn’t most series.  And whilst Callan’s final line is a sign that he’s not totally gone, it’ll be a long road to recovery.

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