Acorn Media // 1989 // 375 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // January 25th, 2011
"Cheerio, Liz! You'll soon knock that outfit into shape, I'm sure."
While women weren't on the front lines as soldiers in World War II, they did play an important role in the fighting: as spies behind enemy lines. The British series Wish Me Luck follows England's female spies into occupied France on dangerous missions.
As Wish Me Luck: Series 2 begins, veteran spy Liz (Kate Buffery, Trial and Retribution) is in London, working in the office overseeing Britain's secret operations in France. As she deals with the return of her lover (Michael J. Jackson, Highlander) from a French mission and the breakup of her marriage, Liz helps train a new crop of spies, including young Emily (Jane Snowden, The Frog Prince) and the widowed Vivien (Lynn Farleigh, Wycliffe). Emily and Vivien are soon sent overseas, but when their cell leader Colin becomes shellshocked, Liz must return to the field. Their missions of sabotage against the Nazis could be in danger, because Vivien has a secret mission of her own.
Wish Me Luck: Series 2 isn't quite as good as the first series. There's a certain soapiness about some of the stories here, namely Liz's marital problems and Vivien's personal mission, that makes this series less realistic than the first one. The marital breakup storyline could be excused as a story device that gets Liz back into the field, but this series of Wish Me Luck, while still good, could have been excellent.
With Liz in command of this series' French cell, Kate Buffery gets to show her dramatic chops as she makes rough decisions in a changing situation, including one final decision that will be a shocker. The first couple of episodes, with Liz behind a desk, might be slow, but once she gets into the field, it's a gripping mix of action and drama. The other standout is Jane Snowden as Emily, the eager recruit who stays determined even as she grapples with the possibility of an abortion to stay in the field and the problems caused by a nosy French woman that could blow her cover. Although I didn't care for her storyline, I'll note that Lynn Farleigh as Vivien delivers a good performance as well. Beyond that, Julian Glover (Five Million Years to Earth) as Col. James Cadogan, who runs the London office, gets some good dramatic material as Cadogan sends his son off to war.
As with the last series, there's a constant feeling of danger for the women that will bring a chill to your spine. Both the close calls and the horrible losses are handled well, bringing home the realities of war. The show is filled with small touches, such as a last English meal at an airfield or the way Liz and her lover look at a cricket field ("excellent landing site"), that add to the verisimilitude.
There's some flaring in a fiery destruction sequence, but the picture is mostly good throughout. The gently haunting music comes across well also. There's one episode that runs short; I suspect this was the edited-for-reruns version and got in there by mistake. Unlike the first series, which had text background on the role of women in World War II, this series has no extras.
Who knows? Perhaps the soap opera aspects of this series of Wish Me Luck made the show more accessible to audiences in the late 1980s. While shows like this mainly aired on public television in the States, Wish Me Luck was an ITV series in Britain. It could also be that the first series just set the bar very high, and that the demands of weekly television make it awfully hard to keep that up forever.
This series of Wish Me Luck has some weaknesses, but the show still delivers drama, action, and history. Like war itself, it also has some moments you won't likely soon forget. The second series is sudsier, but I'll leave it to you whether that's a strength or a weakness.
Not guilty, although anyone allergic to soap bubbles is urged to steer clear.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 375 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated