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Partners in Crime episode 5 review

We left Tuppence at the end of episode four held at gunpoint by prime suspect Major Khan, as Tommy flirted with a mystery blonde next door. How can the crime-fighting husband-and-wife duo get out of this one?

Episode five, the second instalment in Claire Wilson’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s N or M?, opens with Tuppence confessing all to Major Khan to dodge his bullet. It’s an over expositional start to the episode and the danger quickly subsides with Tommy and Tuppence back on the hunt for the mystery Soviet spy N… or is it M?

Undercover at the local Veterans Ball, Tommy and Tuppence are poised to find out exactly who isn’t who they say they are when Major Khan is killed. It must be N’s work. Tommy and Tuppence immediately regret diverting so much attention to Major Khan, who clearly wasn’t their culprit after all, and retreat to survey the other inhabitants in the Sans Souci Guesthouse.

Tommy and Tuppence are again pitted against each other in this episode, as Tommy mistrusts young beatnik Carl Denim, whilst Tuppence thinks the blonde flirt Mrs. Sprot is up to no good. This tension is signposted within Claire Wilson’s dialogue, as both husband and wife acknowledge they’re not working together. Slightly clunky as this acknowledgement is, diametrically opposing the characters using jealousy to motivate their suspicions makes for a spirited and entertaining story.

The joy of this episode, however, is in the complete immersion in the world of the Norfolk guest house. The enclosed community, particularly with the 1950s backdrop detailed to pinpoint precision, delivers a real sense that danger could be lurking around any dated corner. This dangerous claustrophobia works for the story both locally, where everyone in the guest house is a suspect, and globally, giving a real sense that the Cold War knocking on England’s door.

Partners In Crime episode 5

Russia casts an over-arching shadow. Whilst Tommy and Tuppence obsess over every detail gleaned from the Sans Souci guests, Carter imparts the crux of the situation. N’s gone rogue and has sent a ransom: £100,000 and the release of thirty soviet political prisoners or they detonate the bomb. A bomb several hundred times more powerful than an atomic bomb. Suddenly the stakes are the highest of the series so far – the life or death of thousands of innocent people, our heroes included.

These stakes bring renewed focus and the action gathers apace. We’re swept along with Tommy and Tuppence, despite neither appearing to know what they’re doing. Each of the guest house occupants are cleverly painted so as to appear suspicious, revealing increasingly darker sides to their characters as the episode progresses. This is much more of an ensemble story than The Secret Adversary, and all the better for it.

Uncharacteristically it’s Tommy who gets the breakthrough, even if it is by accidentally stumbling upon a stash of hidden radio equipment on a beach. This leads to an underground passage, linking to the Sans Souci guesthouse. With Carl Denim in possession of a boat, Tuppence and Tommy search his room to find secret documents proving he isn’t who he says he is. Cue chase by lantern-light through the underground tunnel with Tommy hot on Carl’s tail.

Partners In Crime episode 5

Like all good crime chases, our hero is distracted and overcome by Denim via a bash over the head with a plank of wood, leaving Tuppence searching for the love of her life in a damp tunnel.

Unable to find him, Tuppence is spat out onto an empty beach alone, shrouded in mist. This seems a fitting ending for the penultimate episode and the setting works as hard for the story as Jessica Raine’s emotive performance.

Tuppence is seldom emotionally vulnerable, and her loneliness is paralleled neatly in the empty beach stretching before her. As she clutches her husband’s discarded scarf and hat and stares out to sea, it sets up the final episode to follow with an equal sense of mystery and heart.

Did you catch Partners in Crime episode 5? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Don’t miss the final episode on BBC1 at 9pm on Sunday 30th August.

Isla Gray

Isla is a screenwriter and playwright who writes for television and theatre, as well as online for BBC, ITV and The Huffington Post. She’s a drama obsessive who watches far too much television and loves a good plot twist.

Follow Isla on Twitter.

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