I get really easily and wildly obsessed with things. Case in point: my current adoration for the TV show The Avengers. There are few TV shows from the 1960s that so easily and effortlessly marry entertainment, feminism and badass spy-fi plots. So, because this is my blog and I do what I want, I’m gonna start posting brief reviews of episodes as I watch, or re-watch, them.
If you want to get a basic idea of the outline of the show, the Wikipedia page gives a great overview.
Let’s begin at the (kind of) beginning with the first episode to introduce Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), the first tough female partner of secret agent extraordinaire John Steed (Patrick Macnee).
MR. TEDDY BEAR (Episode 2-01, September 1962).
Steed and Cathy face off against a villain known as Mr. Teddy Bear – and he’s not particularly soft or cuddly. He’s an assassin for hire, murdering people with some pretty clever booby-traps. The set-up? Cathy will pretend to take out a contract on Steed’s life in order to draw Mr. Bear out into the open. The plan backfires and Steed ends up dead. Kind of. Not really. He does get badly burnt, though.
For the first episode with Cathy – Steed had already been paired with a male partner for the entire first season, which is now lost to us except in script form – this one features some entertaining exchanges between the two. From their first verbal sparring session as Steed debriefs Cathy, to their actual sparring sessions as Steed tries to debrief her in a different way, the set-up of the relationship of the two characters is what makes the episode pop. And it needs a pop, because the camera work is low-budget and the sets quite obviously cardboard. Already you can see where The Avengers exceeds many shows of its day – the quality of the actors is superb and the chemistry between Macnee and Blackman is sexual without quite crossing the line. Steed’s established as a bit of a letch who nonetheless already has a dawning respect for his female partner. And Cathy … well, Cathy’s a badass, insulting her official superior, calling out an assassin, and generally expressing disapprobation when Steed survives the murder attempt.
So while the best part of this episode is Steed and Cathy, the writing is also quite excellent. Mr. Teddy Bear is an admirable and creepy villain, while Steed’s posturing and overconfidence is nicely matched by Cathy’s quiet resolve. If you must start somewhere with The Avengers, start here.