Despite only having a few months left to serve on his five-year sentence, an old schoolfriend of Terry’s, George Palmer (Paul Copley), escapes from prison in order to prove his innocence. Naturally enough, Terry offers to help him, but this decision puts those nearest to him in danger ….
The Old School Tie opens with yet another split in the Arthur/Terry relationship. Terry’s been out of contact for a few days, doing a friend a favour, and Arthur’s incensed at his lack of consideration. Terry’s equally irritated at Arthur’s controlling nature and tells him from now on he’ll find this own jobs. Arthur has the last word. “Modern bloody generation, you’re all the same. Give ’em a leg to stand on and they use it to kick you up the arse”.
The dynamic between Arthur, Terry and Dave is at the heart of this episode. It’s revealed that Dave was the friend Terry did the favour for and because of this Terry asks him to shelter George. Dave is reluctant – if the police find him then there’ll be trouble all round – although eventually he agrees.
But what’s really interesting is Arthur’s reaction. When he learns that Terry was doing a job for Dave he seems to regret his earlier harsh words. Other writers might have had Arthur demand payment from Dave for Terry’s services (Terry declined any money) but Jeremy Burnham didn’t go down this obvious route. Arthur may often be painted as mercenary and self-seeking, but it does seem that friendship overrides all other concerns.
Yorkshire-born Paul Copley seemed to be struggling a little to master a London accent but he’s still effective as the mild and honourable criminal. The early scenes between George and Terry waste no time in telling us that George is a career criminal (and was actually out on another job when he was arrested in error for the diamond blagging).
Terry therefore doesn’t see what George has to complain about – he might have been innocent of the crime he was sentenced for, but since he was guilty of many others then natural justice has been served. Ironically this was no doubt the attitude held by many bent coppers and would have served as their justification for fitting up suspects.
George has a wife, Olive (Sherrie Hewson) who’s concerned about George, although she pretends not to be. Olive’s brother, Harry (Derek Thompson), is also concerned, although for different reasons. From the moment we first see Harry he’s operating in a very shifty fashion, making it plain that he knows more than he’s telling. The later revelation that he was involved in the diamond blagging is not a very surprising revelation.
This is a much grittier and harder-edged episode of Minder than usual. The two heavies, Billy (Ziggy Byfield) and Tommy (Nick Stringer), don’t look too different from similar characters who pop up most weeks, but the difference is that Billy and Tommy actually do some damage.
First they pay a visit to Debbie (Diana Malin), a stripper who’s staying at Terry’s flat for a few days. She’s plainly terrified of them and would have no doubt told them everything she knew with only a little persuading, which makes the fact that we later see her with a badly bruised face somewhat disturbing. Presumably they gave her a going over off-screen just for the fun of it. Dave is also the recipient of an off-screen beating from them, although in his case it’s easier to imagine that he would have kept quiet until they started inflicting real pain.
Prior to visiting Dave, they’d called on Arthur. It’s Arthur who gave George’s location away and later he admits this to Terry. They didn’t physically attack Arthur – only damaged some of his stock in the lockup. Arthur’s cowardice initially irritates Terry, but again the scene’s played straight as Arthur tells Terry that he couldn’t have stood up to physical violence. Terry instantly agrees and understands.
When Terry and George are captured by the baddies they too receive some punishment, although this happens on-screen for once. Everything’s set up for the final reel as the cavalry – in the unlikely form of Rycott and Arthur – come riding to the rescue. This was Peter Childs’ only S2 appearance, but he’s great value in each and every scene – especially the brief fight at the end. As Arthur cowers in the doorway, Rycott steams in and smashes one unfortunate against the wall. Ouch!
As ever, Arthur and Terry are reconciled. I like the tag scene in which Arthur, blind drunk, asks Terry to drive him home. When quizzed about how long he’s been in the pub, Arthur replies half an hour! He’s clearly a fast drinker.
A refreshingly tougher story which ranks as one of the strongest from the second series.