Souhaite Appellate Judge James A. Stewart bonne chance, s'il vous plait.
"Mrs. Grainger, has it ever occurred to you that your knowledge of
France and the French might be of use to the war effort?"
The possibilities have to be a little more exciting than translating if you're doing a television serial, of course. Try working as a courier for the Resistance in occupied France during World War II, or maybe going behind enemy lines as a wireless operator. Those are the tasks that Liz Grainger, a mother whose brother was killed in the war, and Matty Firman, a half-French, half-Jewish factory worker, take on in Wish Me Luck.
Facts of the Case
Wish Me Luck: Series 1, which has eight episodes on two discs, opens with Liz Grainger (Kate Buffery, Trial & Retribution) undergoing a rough interrogation. It's actually a training exercise, with Liz learning to stay in character under intense questioning. She strikes up a friendship with Matty Firman (Suzanna Hamilton, Nineteen Eighty-Four), who longs for the excitement of a mission in France. At first, only Liz is going to be sent behind enemy lines; the talkative, hot-tempered Matty is seen as "a security risk." However, losses force the hand of the French service, and Matty is part of the team.
In France, Liz finds that an old friend is stuck with a Nazi general around the house. Matty finds that even safe houses aren't so safe, and she must continuously be on the move to keep ahead of the Nazi radio monitors. That's not so easy, because Matty didn't know how to ride a bicycle before signing up.
Wish Me Luck: Series One starts out slowly as it introduces the characters, their motives, and their situation, but once the mission begins, it gets interesting. The story is a little soapy, dealing with the "one nighters" in Matty's life and Liz's reunions with old friends in France, for example, but the close calls with the Germans provide enough cliffhanger tension to make for exciting viewing.
Both of the leads are well-played. Liz, as played by Kate Buffery, takes to the spy life quickly, finding a new zest for life as combat skills and dual identities become reflexive in her role as courier. Since Matty doesn't fare as well, Suzanna Hamilton gets more to work with. Her spy is "bored to buggery" with wireless work, talks too much, leaves papers around, dyes her hair out of boredom during a stretch stuck indoors, and deals with the danger from her carelessness. The most interesting subplot also surrounds Matty: her grandfather has figured out she's going to France, but is keeping it from Matty's mother, who hasn't been well since her escape from her occupied country.
Class issues are sprinkled throughout the story, through details such as the need Matty's family has for the hazard pay she's earning and larger plot points such as a German general's approach to pressuring Liz's friend in questioning. The role of women in wartime also plays a part; the desk jockeys question sending women over at the start, and Liz's soldier husband finds himself waiting anxiously for his wife to return, a position he never expected to find himself in.
There are, of course, touches of nostalgia in the narration from a newsreel or a big-band dance, and they appear authentic, but the emphasis is on the story. The actual French locations are also used sparingly; Wish Me Luck is largely setbound.
As in many a spy story, you'll find that the French speak perfect English, even to each other. However, the Germans, to each other, speak German, with English subtitles. It's a creative choice that makes it easier to follow, of course, but it does strike you as odd, especially when some of the same characters actually speak French when they're in England. While characters talk about being careful to the point where the agents are told they shouldn't know each other's actual names, they constantly form relationships that put that secrecy in jeopardy. The consequences of this are shown, but you might wonder how the real lady spies dealt with people in the field.
The picture's in good shape, for the most part, with the occasional washed-out bright exterior or grainy night scene. The music comes across well. The opening theme has an authentic Forties feel, with a haunting moodiness, but the episode scoring sounds a little too much like other adventure series.
The text feature accompanying Wish Me Luck is a short history, "Lady Spies," about Special Operations Executive (SOE), the real-life British agency dramatized in the series. Reading about "the six-week life expectancy of an agent" was chilling, and definitely more interesting than the standard cast bios in Acorn sets. There's also a photo gallery of publicity stills and on-the-set shots.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
One thing that's sticking in my mind is a title sequence that seems to be standard issue in British TV: stills of the protagonists followed by a pan of the props they use. That's the same intro I've seen in Lovejoy, Pie in the Sky, and The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries. The monotony makes me wonder if wiping out title sequences might be a good idea.
Wish Me Luck: Series 1 is a good drama, ending in one of those missions that someone might not return from. The many plot twists aren't too twisty, but the strong performances make up for that.
Not guilty. Souhaite-vous bonne vue.
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