For those who hadn’t seen – or had forgotten – the series three finale, there’s a helpful recap here as a news report brings us back up to speed. Charles and Avril are feared lost at sea, somewhere off the coast of Ireland. Stock footage of Royal Navy ships is intercut with shots of a reporter called Andrew Chater (Michael Walker), clutching a very large microphone and advancing towards the camera in a slightly menacing fashion.
The opening few minutes are film heavy as we cut from the over-enthusiastic reporter to Sir Edward at Highfield (being comforted by Jan) and then to Gerald, who finds himself doorstepped by a whole posse of reporters. Some of them are quite well dressed (one’s even wearing a black bow tie). And though it’s obviously sad that Charles and Avril are missing, they seem more interested in the stability of Frere Holdings, given Charles’ absence.
Jack is barely holding himself together. Eyeing a portrait of Avril on his office desk, he refuses to move (despite the entreaties of both Tom and Kate) until he receives news.
Not everybody’s paralysed by grief though. Ken is quite chipper, organising a photoshoot for a sales brochure (this involves cheesy music and a swimsuit clad model, who he delights in, ahem, touching up). “That’s it! That’s better. Beautiful!” Ken beams, as he unzips her just a fraction more. Good old Ken.
He’s also not adverse to scooping up some business which might have gone Relton’s way, but now – due to the uncertainty surrounding the company’s stability – now lands in his lap. “I’m very sorry for them, but … life has to go on”. Ken Masters = heartless.
Leo and Sarah later discuss him. “He’s got a taste for success and is hungry for more and he’ll use you, me, anyone to get it. Just wait and see” she says. Oh good, I think we’re going to have some fun with Ken this year.
He continues to sniff around Jan, although she remains cool. Is it me, or does Ken sound slightly different during this scene? Less rough and tumble and more refined. Is Kenneth attempting to assimilate himself with his social betters by mimicking them?
The series clearly had a fairly decent budget by this point as they were able to afford hiring a rescue helicopter. It’s possibly a little surprising that Charles and Avril are found so quickly (some ten minutes in) but their exact conditions aren’t clear at first (only that Avril is unconscious) so there’s still there’s still a lingering sense of uncertainty for a while. Given Jack’s face (Glyn Owen was always so expressive) I hope he receives good news soon, otherwise I can foresee him keeling over.
Oh dear. Avril’s sustained head injuries and is still unconscious. With the constant beeping of the life support machine, Jack holds onto her hand and hopes for the best. It’s better news about Charles as he’s young and strong and so should make a full recovery, but Sir Edward is still melancholy. He confides to Jan that he was never much of a father. Does this mean that he really intends to turn over a new leaf, and even if he does will the equally stubborn Charles be prepared to meet him half way? If S3 saw Sir Edward attempting to reconcile with his son via the business route, it looks as if here he’s going to try the personal touch.
Father and son are reunited and as you might expect it’s not a joyful encounter. Charles is hardly in the best shape (bruised and bandaged up) but even had he been A1 it’s doubtful that things would have turned out differently. If Sir Edward really does want to reconcile with his son then it’s long to be a long, hard road.
The fact that Sir Edward paid for Abby’s passage back home and is putting her up at Highfield is an interesting wrinkle. Maybe if his relationship with Charles doesn’t work out then he’ll simply transfer his attentions up a generation or two – granddaughter Abby and great-grandson William.
It’s interesting to see how the dynamic between Bill and Tom has changed over the years. During the early part of S1, Bill had little time for Tom (especially his well meaning attempts to streamline the running of the yard). This has all changed now, as Bill specifically asks Tom, in Jack’s absence, to have a word with the lads, who are still unsettled (reporters are sniffing around). It’s a pity that, following the departure of Davy a while back, the lads have become little more than a group of extras, but it’s always good to see them every so often as it helps to remind the viewers that there’s more to life at the Mermaid than just what takes place inside the office.
Leo’s looking rather sharp today. White suit, blue shirt, black and red tie. He’s off to meet Abby, but that’s not the reason why he’s smartly dressed (at this point he’s still a thrusting young powerboat salesman). They’re at one of their favourite locations – the ruined Abbey – where she tells him that her mother has changed. Polly now genuinely seems to care.
She then drops the bombshell that Charles Frere is her real father. I’d have liked the camera to linger on Edward Highmore for a few more second whilst he digested this news, but there’s a lot to pack into this opening episode, so time was very clearly of the essence. If Jan and Sir Edward do decide to tie the knot that will result in some interesting familial links between Leo and Abby.
Poor Leo now realises that Abby didn’t come home to be with him, instead she’s still working out whether or not she has a future with Orrin. “I’m not even in the picture at all, except as a friend. Reliable old Leo”. Aww.
A late-night meeting between Charles and Jack (Charles has been able to extract himself from his hospital bed, Jack is in the hospital chapel) is an awkward one. Charles is conciliatory (unusual to see) whilst Jack wears a face like thunder. What’s notable about this scene is that whilst Jack intensely disapproves of Charles, it’s less about the accident and more to do with the way Charles hurt Avril when they broke up for the first time.
Glyn Owen – as ever – is wonderful. Jack tells Charles that “I held that girl in my arms when she was one hour old. Watched her grow into a woman. So don’t tell me anything about loving my daughter, Mr Frere”.
It’s clear that the accident has affected Charles, as the arrival of Gerald to talk business isn’t entirely welcome for him. Gerald might be concerned about the shareholders but Charles is fixated on the death of the pilot (“how do I assess that kind of profit and loss?”).
The soundtrack suddenly goes all dramatic as Jan realises that someone’s pinched all of her designs and Jack’s told that Avril’s condition has taken a turn for the worse. Slightly odd that both of these moments are scored the same way as I know the one I think is the more serious (and it doesn’t involve clothes).