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2.05 - Obsession
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Lhbizness
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Timeless A-Peel wrote:
It might have been more cathartic if she'd been the one to shoot him, I agree. I do think it's had an impact on all her relationships, and it reinforces the bond she has with Gambit and Steed, because she trusts them in spite of her past. When Larry returns, it starts to undermine that trust, and her relationship with both of them. And yet Gambit and Steed still come through for her in the end, whereas Larry is willing to kill her after being rejected. I really don't doubt that Larry was a second away from killing her when Gambit shot him. He levels the gun at her, and his finger's tightening on the trigger. Purdey doesn't seem to have the wherewithal to do the same. She has plenty of time to either kill or disable Larry before Gambit arrives, and she doesn't. Gambit arrives on the scene, makes a split-second decision, and kills Larry before Larry can kill Purdey. I don't see it as Gambit choosing for Purdey, because he does what she can't bring herself to do, and he does it to save her life. His course of action flows from hers. Steed then does the same when he stops the rocket--foils Larry's plot which Purdey almost let unfold right in front of her. So in both cases, they react to Purdey's choices rather than make them for her. This isn't to heap blame on Purdey, because she's the injured party, but shows that she shouldn't have faced Larry alone, the way she did last time. Gambit and Steed have her back and make the hard calls that need to be made when she can't. The fact that she needs their support doesn't undermine her autonomy--they give to her rather than take away, which was all Larry ever did. If it had been Gambit or Steed in the same situation, Purdey would have made the same calls for them, and she would have done it without question.


That's maybe what bothers me a little bit - the characters can't really make another choice. (I.e. Gambit does the right thing, under the circumstances and based on what he knows). But the whole structure places Purdey in an indecisive and ultimately powerless position - which is somewhat reinforced by the "she's a woman" refrain that both Steed and Gambit echo at the beginning and end of the episode. She's a woman, therefore powerless to free herself from the abusive male without masculine assistance. Which is what I mean when I say it becomes an exchange between men - it's the "good" men vs. the "bad" man, with the woman as victim, incapable of freeing herself. She doesn't just have their support - the episode is structured so that they ultimately make the most important decisions for her. (Steed inviting Larry to the party, Gambit threatening Larry, Gambit shooting Larry). Larry says that she won't shoot him because he makes up a part of her - and she has no power to remove that part, which is obviously the most damaging to her life and her relationships. Gambit does it for her.

A similar situation occurs in House of Cards, when Purdey saves Steed from the girlfriend who's trying to kill him. But in that case, Steed gets to make the decision to give her up - even telling Purdey to leave the room. So he continues to have autonomous control over his choices, while Purdey (admittedly the one with far more relationship baggage) has no control.
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Timeless A-Peel
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
That's maybe what bothers me a little bit - the characters can't really make another choice. (I.e. Gambit does the right thing, under the circumstances and based on what he knows). But the whole structure places Purdey in an indecisive and ultimately powerless position - which is somewhat reinforced by the "she's a woman" refrain that both Steed and Gambit echo at the beginning and end of the episode. She's a woman, therefore powerless to free herself from the abusive male without masculine assistance. Which is what I mean when I say it becomes an exchange between men - it's the "good" men vs. the "bad" man, with the woman as victim, incapable of freeing herself. She doesn't just have their support - the episode is structured so that they ultimately make the most important decisions for her. (Steed inviting Larry to the party, Gambit threatening Larry, Gambit shooting Larry). Larry says that she won't shoot him because he makes up a part of her - and she has no power to remove that part, which is obviously the most damaging to her life and her relationships. Gambit does it for her.

A similar situation occurs in House of Cards, when Purdey saves Steed from the girlfriend who's trying to kill him. But in that case, Steed gets to make the decision to give her up - even telling Purdey to leave the room. So he continues to have autonomous control over his choices, while Purdey (admittedly the one with far more relationship baggage) has no control.


Yeah, the "She's a woman" thing is pretty cringeworthy, and I wish the script had given them something else to say. I completely see your point. I guess I just read it less as Purdey not being able to make a choice because she's a woman, but because she's Purdey, who just so happens to be a woman, if that makes sense. Her character has one major weak spot, and that's Larry Doomer. Larry hurt her so badly that she can never be objective about him, the way she would in so many other cases. She's toughened up since she was Larry--she's stronger, she's more self-reliant, she's learned to trust again. But Larry's that one demon that she can't exorcise--she tries and she fails. So she needs some help on that front. This is the one thing she can't do by herself, not because she's a woman, but because she's Purdey. So I read it as Gambit and Steed helping Purdey, their friend and colleague, when she can't help herself. Purdey being a woman and Gambit and Steed being men only really comes into it for me in the sense that its symbolic of the fact that Purdey has replaced Larry with men in her life who she can trust, to the point that she puts her life in their hands, the way they do with her. If all the characters were men or women, or if Purdey was swapped with Gambit or Steed, it would read the same way for me. This might be partly because Purdey, as an Avengers woman, is pretty formidable, so it's not as if she's forever looking helplessly to Gambit and Steed to clean up her messes for her. But this is an extraordinary circumstance, so I read it as two characters making a tough call for their friend and colleague. The gender issue falls along seemingly traditional lines, but I think the character comes first, especially in a show like the Avengers, ahead of sex.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, I get what you're saying. But we have a strong female character who has obviously left an abusive relationship (it's indicated that one of the deciding factors in her split with Larry was probably the fact that he hit her) and who, quite rightly, wants nothing more to do with him. She ultimately has to come to terms with him and what he represents in her life before she's able to move on - and there's little indication throughout the series that Purdey is ever seriously involved with any man in a romantic sense. I don't think you can quite divorce the character from her gender in this case: she was basically an abused woman who never entirely shook off the mistrust she felt towards men. The two men don't know about this - they don't know the nature of her relationship to Larry, or what ended it. So it's very much about a male/female relationship, and Purdey's feelings towards men - as you pointed out, she begins to mistrust Steed and Gambit more as the episode goes on. The fact that the episode is resolved via the men making decisions for the woman troubles me - it kind of presupposes that Purdey is unreasonable, even hysterical, when her personal feelings are involved...which is a fairly stereotypical sexist attitude. She's tough, right up until she comes into contact with someone who hurt her both physically and emotionally. She even breaks down at the end - Gambit has to grab ahold of her, while Steed stops the missile from going off. Neither male character is ever placed in a position where he cannot physically do his job - even when they're faced with killing or capturing people that were their friends or lovers. But Purdey, the only woman in the show, collapses. In a show/series that made such strides with representations of strong female characters, it's troubling.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All that's true, but I'm struggling to think of any other woman in 1970s drama / action-adventure who is as strong as Purdey, normally. TNA was fairly ahead of its time (and Purdey incredibly popular amongst British women) because there wasn't really any other show where the female characters were usually treated as being (in skills and in merit) on a par with the men.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Frankymole wrote:
All that's true, but I'm struggling to think of any other woman in 1970s drama / action-adventure who is as strong as Purdey, normally. TNA was fairly ahead of its time (and Purdey incredibly popular amongst British women) because there wasn't really any other show where the female characters were usually treated as being (in skills and in merit) on a par with the men.


I agree, which is why it's disappointing when The Avengers (new or original) fall into the usual sexist stereotypes. There was an opportunity with Obsession to handle a female character's troubled relationship in a non-sexist manner, and it simply turns into the same old tropes. I guess I would say that just because the show was ahead of its time or wasn't as bad as other shows/films from the same era doesn't excuse it when it manifests simplistic sexism.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
No, I get what you're saying. But we have a strong female character who has obviously left an abusive relationship (it's indicated that one of the deciding factors in her split with Larry was probably the fact that he hit her) and who, quite rightly, wants nothing more to do with him. She ultimately has to come to terms with him and what he represents in her life before she's able to move on - and there's little indication throughout the series that Purdey is ever seriously involved with any man in a romantic sense. I don't think you can quite divorce the character from her gender in this case: she was basically an abused woman who never entirely shook off the mistrust she felt towards men. The two men don't know about this - they don't know the nature of her relationship to Larry, or what ended it. So it's very much about a male/female relationship, and Purdey's feelings towards men - as you pointed out, she begins to mistrust Steed and Gambit more as the episode goes on. The fact that the episode is resolved via the men making decisions for the woman troubles me - it kind of presupposes that Purdey is unreasonable, even hysterical, when her personal feelings are involved...which is a fairly stereotypical sexist attitude. She's tough, right up until she comes into contact with someone who hurt her both physically and emotionally. She even breaks down at the end - Gambit has to grab ahold of her, while Steed stops the missile from going off. Neither male character is ever placed in a position where he cannot physically do his job - even when they're faced with killing or capturing people that were their friends or lovers. But Purdey, the only woman in the show, collapses. In a show/series that made such strides with representations of strong female characters, it's troubling.


I absolutely get where you're coming from. I guess it's kind of the reverse for me, in that it's because of the show's pedigree in redefining the portrayal of women that makes it such a fascinating and important episode. It essentially examines and redefines the Avengers woman. I like that it shows all the complicated aspects of, and contradictions in, Purdey's character, that she can be intelligent and witty and multitalented and physically capable, and that on occasion she can also lose her objectivity, and be emotionally affected by events, and need her partners' help to get out of the mess. So I see it less as a step backward, but adding in another layer to the character, and showing that none of those characteristics is mutually exclusive. By this point in the show's development, Purdey can crumble in this episode, and then save Gambit and Steed's skin in the next one. She hasn't lost any of her capability as a character, but she no longer has to be seen as infallible. It's a more well-rounded way of approaching the character.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's the way that she crumbles, not that she crumbles. They chose to use a romantic relationship rather than anything else. After all, why can't Purdey be suspected of treachery (like Steed) and be forced to prove herself? Or lose a friend and go all out for revenge, forcing her partners to chase after her? But instead we have a woman going into emotional overload because of a failed relationship, behaving in a quintessential irrational/hysterical manner, and finally having to depend entirely on the good men in her life to get her out of it. I agree that Purdey finally gets some deserved character development/complication, which is great. It's just that the writers opted for a stereotypical collapse - she can only develop in relation to men.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
I think it's the way that she crumbles, not that she crumbles. They chose to use a romantic relationship rather than anything else. After all, why can't Purdey be suspected of treachery (like Steed) and be forced to prove herself? Or lose a friend and go all out for revenge, forcing her partners to chase after her? But instead we have a woman going into emotional overload because of a failed relationship, behaving in a quintessential irrational/hysterical manner, and finally having to depend entirely on the good men in her life to get her out of it. I agree that Purdey finally gets some deserved character development/complication, which is great. It's just that the writers opted for a stereotypical collapse - she can only develop in relation to men.


I would have gone for any of those (especially the traitor one. Why they never thought to make one of the other leads' loyalty under question is a mystery to me. The only one who was ever under suspicion, other than Steed, was Tara, which was what made that particular episode so interesting). Perhaps if they'd kept the show going, they would have had Purdey involved in one of those plots, or they would have put Steed or Gambit in a situation similar to Purdey's. But we only have this one, and I like the fact that they were willing to play with the concept of the Avengers woman enough to give her a weak spot and show her judgment become clouded. The last time the show did anything similar was with Emma in Murdersville, but the consequences weren't lingered on for quite as long. And it also speaks to a level of character continuity that the show wasn't known to engage in--so much of what we know about Purdey slots into what happens in Obsession. It just fits together really well, even though there were no formal character arcs. So seeing the threads converge is really satisfying.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 9:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agreed. I just wish it was a bit less predictable and sexist.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2016 5:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Timeless A-Peel wrote:
anti-clockwise wrote:
And as you say Timeless it's kind of amazing for her to have been in an abusive relationship. Especially with a terrorist. I mean this guy was not just the average abusive husband.

I'm not sure I was convinced by the actor playing Doomer. He did not seem emotionally "obsessed" or maybe did not seem crazy enough for the part. Not sure. But most terrorists are fanatics and Doomer did not seem to quite have the right personality for that part.
Maybe he was obsessed with Purdey. I guess I missed the part where Doomer himself goes off hating all these people enough to kill them. It seems that Purdey is the one to explain his actions.

Once again TNA is before it's time. Today this behavior of terrorist bombing sadly seems to be a common occurrence in the world. Back then, it was much more rare.

You know early on that Doomer has to die. What do you think would have happened if Gambit or Steed had not come along? Would Purdey have intercepted his plan?


Well, Larry's motivation was revenge for the death of his father, so it wasn't as if he was living a double life the entire time. He's already hinting at some none-too-positive character traits, but his dad being killed pushes him over the edge so that he shows his true colours. The fact that he doesn't *look* crazy doesn't contradict what he does, at least for me--he's plotting revenge, and he's doing it quite deliberately, which is even worse than him just flying off the handle. Even Purdey says he's not mad. He's definitely single-minded, definitely obsessed--both with Purdey and his mission. Losing one no doubt contributed to his drive to follow through with the other. It's only when Purdey turns him down again that he seems to quit caring about what'll happen to him if his plan succeeds.

What would have happened if Gambit and Steed hadn't showed up? It's hard to say for sure, but one of them would have to die. Despite Purdey's protestations to the contrary, there's no doubt in my mind that Larry was about to shoot her before Gambit took him out. The last time she rejected him, he finally managed to tear up her pictures, which suggests a mental break on his part. He'd given up on ever getting Purdey back, so killing her wouldn't be a problem. It'd all come down to whether Purdey could make herself pull the trigger and take him down first. Otherwise she'd have ended up dead, and the rocket would have gone off.

I've always thought that her past with Larry made Purdey mistrustful of men to a certain extent--she seems leery of letting anyone get to close. Through the nature of their work, she's learned she can trust Gambit and Steed. It's interesting to note that the way Purdey relates to both of them deteriorates as Larry's presence in her life reasserts in her life. She argues with Steed more than once and shoots out his tires. She snaps at Gambit and won't tell him anything. Everything they try to do to help just makes her cut them off more, as though all her old mistrustfulness is coming back. It's also interesting to note that both Gambit and Steed put their arms around her and stand quite close when they're telling her about the "plum job", which is slightly unusual. But the way they do it is friendly and companionable, whereas every time Doomer does it, itís forceful and possessive. Iím wondering now if that was an intentional choice on the director/writerís part. Itís as though theyíre subtly drawing parallels between Gambit and Steed on one hand, and Larry on the other. And yet Purdey just canít shake Larry.


While Gambits Doomer, I think the Steed/Purdey interaction actually got a lot stronger from this episode, more so than Purdey and Gambit.

It is Steed, driving with Purdey, that shares about his past, going over the the Berlin Wall and being shot three times and suffering a fractured thigh. He felt like jelly for months of recovery and then was forced to go back over the Wall to prove he was ready to be an agent again, and it's clear he didn't want to go over the wall again. How many times did Steed share his past with Mrs. Peel, not very often and when he did, such as inferring he was at Nee San, simply by stating the meals fed and them always making it 3 o'clock, it was quite chilling. I believe, as I noted years ago, that episode of Steed's occurred between Mrs. Gale and Mrs. Peel's meeting, and did effect his personality a little, calming him down and having him be able to have a richer, fuller relationship with the female partner he winds up loving.

Having Steed trust Purdey and share this painful past of his, his traumatic past, trying to connect with Purdey about her traumatic past, was a moment full of depth and caring, for both of them. Steed goes out of his way numerous times in TNA to show his concern, his love for Purdey, unlike for me, Gambit, who it seems mostly wants to use her for a sex object, for another conquest. Having Gambit there to save her life is wonderful, but having someone to talk to about her trauma, which she is ready, with a very private man like Steed who already trusted her to do the same, is equally, if not more important.

After all, she winds up hanging out at Steeds all the time, and never is hanging out with Gambit at his flat. She knows with Steed she has a man she can talk to, and share with, instead of a man who is going to try to unclothe her every chance he has.

It's great seeing Steed in action at the end of the episode, driving his early SUV up the ramp to block the missile, and diving out just in time. I agree with Liz, though, that the last lines of the episode, "It's Purdey. She's a woman," was a writer's failure. It seems to minimize the entirety of her emotions with this horrendous episode of her life, but making her a woman, even though, earlier, Steed, being a man, had his problematic adjustment to healing from his Berlin injuries. I wish the writer and director had had the creativity to come up with any other line.
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