Stan Lee’s Lucky Man S01E09 “The House Always Wins” REVIEW

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man S01E09 “The House Always Wins”

 

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stars 3.5

Airing in the UK on Sky 1, Fridays, 9pm
Writer: Rachel Anthony
Director: David Caffrey

 

Essential Plot Points:

  • Winter arrests Harry and interviews him about the severed head in his freezer.
  • Harry’s statement proves he could do with a magic fibbing bracelet to go with his magic luck bracelet; he’s a terrible liar.
  • Winter isn’t totally convinced that Harry is either totally guilty or totally innocent.
  • Winter reveals to Suri why he thinks Harry is dangerous; he once gambled that a psychopath would be unarmed, but he was wrong and lead his team into an ambush.
  • Winter assures Suri he doesn’t hold a grudge, though; that he is pragmatism in a beard. To be fair, everything he does this episode would seem to back up that claim.
  • Orwell doesn’t care about facts and hides a forensics report that casts doubt on the case against Harry’s brother, Rich, and which also lends weight to the veracity of Harry’s other claims.
  • Harry is incarcerated in Whitecross where he discovers that all the inmates and the prison guards are under Golding’s control. Not good news for Harry or Rich who keep getting whispered at really harshly. (Don’t worry, this will soon escalate into something properly scary.)
  • Nikhail Julian invites Anna and Daisy for tea. This will become ominously relevant by the end of the episode.
  • The inmates try to forcibly cut the bracelet off Harry but fail.
  • Winter discovers the forensic results that Orwell hid. He is not happy with Orwell. Orwell shows signs of being a crooked cop and we all know what Inspector Pragmatism thinks of crooked cops.
  • Winter also follows up Harry’s investigation into the murder of Eve’s mother. Luckily all it needs to solve it is an archives officer who enjoys a challenge.
  • Winter discovers that Nikhail Julian was the suspect who was covered up. Julian paid off Frierson to wrap up the investigation then kept him on as a mole within the police and after that in the Mayor’s office.
  • Winter arrests Frierson and realises… JULIAN IS GOLDING!
  • Back at Whitecross, Nikhail Julian has his men use Rich as a punching bag and invites Harry along to be in the audience.

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Review:

In terms of the show’s supernatural elements this week’s Lucky Man hits a new low. Harry uses his magic luck to fix a broken washing machine. Well, blimey. Match that if you can, Captain America: Civil War!

To be fair, there is also a bit where the prisoners try to cut the magic bracelet off Harry with a buzzsaw and it shatters but we’ve seen that before in the series and it’s not so much a matter of luck as self-preservation on the bracelet’s behalf. In fact, if you’d never seen the series before, you could watch this episode of Lucky Man and not realise it was fantasy show.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. As a piece of action/crime telly “The House Always Wins” delivers a tense, pacy, revelation-packed episode of trusty old “wrongfully imprisoned” tropes. It has that pleasing feel of everything coming to a head that all good penultimate episodes should have. Support characters are taking their final positions for the endgame, revealing or realigning their allegiances (which in Suri’s case is a blessed relief; she’s recovered from last week’s bout of chronic stupidity and is firmly back on Team Harry).

It’s not a massive surprise that Nikhail is Golding (assuming he is Golding and there’s not another twist next week when Daisy is unearthed as the criminal mastermind). Dramatically he – and his prison – didn’t seem to have a reason for being in the show so prominently otherwise. On the other hand, it was great seeing Winter claw his way towards proving our suspicions. The final sequence of the episode – an edgy series of alternating cuts with overlapping dialogue between the Winter/Frierson showdown and Harry watching his brother being brutally beaten – is one of the show’s best-directed moments so far as the horror builds and the realisation dawns. By the time Nikhail’s smug face appears in the cell door window you can happily punch it through your TV screen.

But it still seems odd when the best moments in a fantasy series aren’t the fantasy moments. Ah well, that’s Lucky Man. We should know by now.

Most of the prison sequences are compelling, even if most of the inmates and guards have clearly been hired from Clichés’R’Us. Meanwhile, on the outside, the wet but dogged Winter continues his rehabilitation into the ranks of herodom. It’s actually quite fun to try to work out if he’s secretly cursing every time he finds more evidence that makes Harry look less guilty but he’s a man of honour and the truth is more important to him than any grudge. His measured, restrained approach, however, does mean that his confrontation Frierson is a tad lacklustre; imagine Gene Hunt nicking the crooked deputy mayor instead.

So next week – the finale. “The House Always Wins” certainly leaves you wanting more. But what we really want more of is some fantasy. If we’re lucky, there’ll be loads of  jawdroppingly unbelievable examples of luck in episode 10. (Fingers crossed.)

 

The Good:

  • Pacy, paranoid prison drama.
  • Suri getting her brain back
  • Winter barely getting a word in edgeways when Anna gives him a tongue-lashing.
  • Winter slowly but methodically getting to the truth.
  • Winter shouting out Orwell.

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  • This expression. (We were going to call it “shot of the week”.)

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  • In fact, the whole Lily-Anne/Karim scene was great from, “You getting the carpet cleaned?”
  • Nesbitt is still on fine form. We love the fact that in a TV drama landscape where 95% of all protagonists must be masters of witty repartee, Harry comes up with crass comebacks like, “I remember smacking you in the face. You went down like a sack of shite.” And Nesbitt sells the line completely.

 

The Bad:

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  • When the archives officer says that it took him a couple of days to get the information Winter needs, you suddenly realise you have no idea of the time scale over which the events of this episode have taken place. There’s something about the way the episode’s either written or edited that makes the passage of time really unclear. Harry could have been in Whitecross anywhere from a two days to a week.
  • Winter just suddenly appears with the forensics report that Orwell had hidden. We’re not complaining that it’s a plot hole (there are any number of ways he could have found the report) but that the report’s discovery was handled in the least exciting way imaginable.
  • We get a couple of Anna scenes – one in the car where she asks her mum to babysit Daisy, another where she discusses Nikhail with Daisy – which seem oddly prosaic and eminently cuttable. Even her conversations with Nikhail seem to go on twice as long as they need to while her prison meeting Harry is surprisingly non-eventful considering how much effort she went to to get to see him.
  • Harry might not want to use his luck bracelet to escape prison while Rich is in there but that’s no reason to forget he’s wearing the bloody thing altogether! There are loads of occasions in the episode when it would have come in useful.
  • Nikhail as Golding? Well, it was becoming obvious, wasn’t it?

 

And The Random:

  • The guy who plays the archives officer is Tom Mannion, who’s been guest starring in Brit dramas for decades now but who, more interestingly, was Star Destroyer Captain #2 in Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi.
  • The Whitecross Prison exterior is actually the former HM Prison in Shrewsbury, which is now called a tourist attraction called Dana Prison (after the medieval Dana Gaol which was situated nearby) which offers tours and “prison break weekends”.

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  • Suri and Winter must be desperately hoping another suspect isn’t added to the case because that would involve finding another wipe board.

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  • We’re a bit confused about Yuri Becker’s body. Last time we saw the body, Eve told Harry that she would deal with it. The last we saw of Eve, she was kidnapped by Collins. Assuming that Eve isn’t secretly in league with Golding (that would be a twist too far and require a hell of a lot of retconning) it seems that Golding (or his associates) have tortured the information out of her about where she buried Becker’s body so that they could a) decapitate it and leave the head in Harry’s freezer and b) give Orwell an anonymous tip-off. But we could have got that all wrong… Eve is conspicuous by her absence this week!
  • “I was disorientated when I woke up. I drove away,” says Harry during his interview with Winter. So if Winter can’t nail him on anything else he can get him for dangerous driving.

Review by Dave Golder


Read our other Lucky Man reviews

 

 

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