Part two opens with another excellent two-handed scene between Kenneth More and Anthony Bate. Peter has come to tell Harmer whether he’s decided to change the name of Rosenthal to something less Jewish-sounding. Harmer pretends to have completely forgotten about this request, but we’ve seen enough of him to know that he forgets nothing. To Harmer’s undisguised annoyance, Peter is insistent that the name must remain and when pressed for a reason he states that he wants to send a message of hope and friendship to the Jews watching.
Harmer is incredulous and tells him that there aren’t any Jews watching the programme. Those that are alive are in places where there aren’t any television sets. With a series like An Englishman’s Castle, which is completely dialogue driven, it’s throwaway moments like this which help to paint a fuller picture of their alternative world. In part one it was mentioned that there were still labour camps for some Jews (although most had already perished in the gas chambers) so the number who still exist in Britain must be small. We know of at least one, Jill, so it could be that there are others.
Although Peter doesn’t back down, Harmer gets many of the most telling lines, especially when Peter tells him that he simply wants to show the public that the Jews are like them. But, as Harmer responds, they aren’t. “We are wealthy and comfortable and alive.”
In part one it was mentioned that Peter’s soap opera is drawn directly from his own wartime memories. This theme is now developed further as one of the two sons – Frank – is set to be killed off. The actor playing Frank is highly dismayed when he receives the latest script and learns that he perishes at the hands of the Germans. In a scene that no doubt has echos with many real-life soap operas, when the actor realises that he’s not coming back next week his mood quickly darkens. He protests that he’s been with the series since the beginning and is one of the most popular characters, but all to no avail.
Peter explains that the two sons in the show – Frank and Bert – are both based on him. Frank is his romantic side and Bert is his realistic side. When the Germans invaded in 1940, Peter’s romantic side died, so Frank has to die as well. Since then Peter’s lived as a realist, as he’s seen no other way, but events are now changing.
Peter has two sons in the real world as well. Henry (David Meyer) works on the show with Peter whilst Mark (Nigel Havers) despises his father and everything he stands for. Mark appeared briefly in part one, where he denounced his father’s politics vigorously, and in part two he’s arrested by the police on suspicion of being a terrorist. Havers performance isn’t particularly subtle (Mark’s manic radicalism seems rather overblown) but there may be a reason for this (he’s a radical, but not a member of the true underground resistance).
When Peter returns home, he finds Mark in the custody of the polite, but clearly ddangerous, Inspector (Philip Bond). It’s probably the fact that he’s so very reasonable which is the most unsettling thing about Bond’s Inspector. He’s not brutal or brusque, Bond gives the Inspector a casual air as if he’s just taking Mark away for a few simple questions. The reality – as even Peter knows – is quite different. Mark will be tortured and die, unless Peter can pull some strings.
The only man who has the influence to save Peter is Harmer, and this leads us to another absorbing scene with More and Bate. Harmer is enjoying a candlelit dinner with his social secretary Anja (Suzanne Roquette) but once he learns of Mark’s plight he’s keen to help. He rushes off to the phone, leaving Peter to talk to Anja – the only problem is that Anja only speaks German and Peter knows only a few words (surprisingly so, you’d have assumed everybody would have learnt the language by now).
Harmer tells the police that he doesn’t care whether Mark’s innocent or guilty, he just wants him released – which he is. It’s another fascinating part of the story – both for the way that a television executive like Harmer is able to intercede in police matters and also for the casual confirmation that the evidence planted on Mark was faked.
Peter had come to Harmer ready to offer a quid pro quo – if Harmer can get Mark released then he’ll agree to change Rosenthal’s name to something less provocative. It’s interesting that Harmer only learns of Peter’s decision after he’s made the call, but as ever with Harmer, he wasn’t acting out of friendship (he’s well aware just how important Peter’s programme is to the government and he’ll do anything he can to ensure his star writer is kept happy).
Peter later muses with Jill about whether Harmer orchestrated the whole thing – arranged to have Mark arrested in order to force him to back down over Rosenthal’s name. It’s an intriguing thought – which turns out not to be true – but somebody is manipulating Peter.
It turns out to be Jill, who’s a member of the underground movement dedicated to the overthrow of the government. She’s dismissive of the actions of people like Mark, who it’s implied are simply playing at being resistance fighters. They throw a few bombs around and hit the headlines, but the real struggle is done deep underground – by people like her.
Peter’s realisation that Jill only became his mistress in order to recruit him is nicely played by More. He agrees to join, but it’s not clear why. Is it because he agrees with the aims of the organisation or is it just out of his love for her? One thing that concerns him is her insistence that anyone who is suspected of being a delator (informer) has to be killed. Peter might have fought in the war, but that was a long time ago.
We end this episode, as we began, with a two-handed scene between More and Bate set in Harmer’s office. It’s another few moments which zing with tension as Harmer tells Peter that his son Henry has been promoted to director. This is good news, but the ominous way in which Harmer goes to say just how loyal Henry is to the state indicates trouble ahead. It was Henry who informed on his brother and this leaves Peter with some impossible decisions to make.