PBS is airing MI5 for—what?—the fourth consecutive season? and I’m watching reruns. Again.
Last week, Ros died for the second and presumably last time. Because I’d already seen the episode (often), I used only a half box of tissues. When Adam died, I wept a puddle, but Ros’ original demise prompted a deluge. Now the team is picking up the pieces and moving on with Ros’ replacement, another attractive blonde. I find it impossible to bond with her. I’ve nicknamed her Not-Ros.
I don’t care for explosions and executions and car chases, and if that’s all MI5 had to offer, I’d have turned it off before getting hooked. Interesting characters and tight plots have kept me tuning in. That, and the fact that violence isn’t at the heart of the show: it’s the suspense, the waiting for the clock to tick down, for the bomb to detonate—or not.
And the knowledge that, in the hands of these writers, no character is safe.
Back in the olden days, one thing was certain: when he strode into the dusty Dodge City street on Saturday night, his badge glinting in the sun, his six-gun secure in its holster, to face the man in the black hat, Marshal Matt Dillon would be alive at the end of the show.
No such guarantee for Sir Harry Pearce and Section D.
No guarantee for anyone in real life either.
This afternoon, in a grocery store parking lot filled with cars but almost empty of people, a young couple passed me. The man was shouting at the woman. He reached out and pushed her shoulder. She turned away slightly, made a half-hearted attempt to fend him off. They made their way across the lot—the man shouting the same unprintable insult over and over, pushing and shoving, the woman staying beside him, hardly trying to defend herself.
Leaving the path leading to the cart return, I followed them. I didn’t consider what I could, or would, do. I just had to keep them in sight.
They had reached the sidewalk when a young woman rolling a cart filled with groceries and a toddler in the child seat stopped beside a nearby car. She called to me. “Call the police.”
“I don’t have my cell phone.”
She dug in her purse for her phone, then dialed 911. She then reported the couple’s actions and described them: jeans, black shorts, yellow t-shirt, blue and gray jersey displaying the number 31, baseball cap. I moved to a better vantage point and fed her details.
While she was on the phone, another young man and woman ran across the parking lot and managed to separate the couple. The women crossed the street. The men walked in the opposite direction across the lot. I lost them when they got into a car and drove away.
I wouldn’t recognize them if I saw them again, but I have a feeling the fellow doing the shouting and pushing would recognize me: He left staring over his shoulder at me. I wasn’t comfortable standing in that gaze. Since he obviously knew what my new friend and I were up to, he might have been uncomfortable, too, but he appeared too angry to feel self-conscious.
With no suspect, the 911 call ended. My friend turned off her phone and dropped it back into her purse. I thanked her.
“That wasn’t right,” she said.
“She didn’t even try to get away from him.”
“I was worried about what would happen when he got her away from here.” I was still worried. He hadn’t had time to cool off, if that made a difference. If they drove around the block, found the women walking up the street…
“It just wasn’t right.” She thanked me and finished loading her groceries.
I wheeled my cart to the return, got into my car, and drove home.
Ever since, I’ve wished I could finish that scene, tie up loose ends, get everyone home safely, make them live happily ever after. But in real life, I don’t get to write the script.
And I don’t always get to know how the story ends.
Image of Hermione Norris by Hermione_Norris.jpg: Sam Knox derivative work: ukexpat (Hermione_Norris.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons