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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Old Harry's Game S2 (Guest review by Reecey).

Old Harry's Game
Series 2

(Guest review by Reecey.)

Alright, have a trigger warning.

Or two, I suppose, this series deals with suicide and there’s some semi-non consensual groping.

If these things cause you distress, do yourself a favour and stop reading.

After this, the previous warning about this being set in hell still applies.

It was rather close to inevitable that suicide was going to show up at some point, after all, suicide is a sin in most religions that have the concept of sin.

(Also, I know the groping thing is something of a word salad, but I will get around to explaining that soon enough.)

I think it also bears warning all those who enter this pit of damned souls, that this series is where Thomas starts his path on a redemptive character arc.

Note that I said he starts one. This is not a quick process, nor does the series stop reminding the listener that Thomas is absolutely awful. It also doesn’t stop torturing him.

They were going to have to do something with Thomas, him just being perpetually awful was probably going to get very, very tired an episode into this series without some sort of momentum to contrast it against to humourous effect.

I understand why some people are very angry with the idea of redemptive arcs for characters like Thomas, for whom the moral event horizon is but a mere memory of a brief urination, however I would make the argument that Thomas may actually be one of the better examples of this trope. It’s slow, it’s awkward, he’s not magically fixed overnight, and, most importantly, his crimes are not forgotten.

Actually, more keep being revealed, and he commits new ones!

For example, that suicide? Yeah, of course it’s his fault.

He is in hell for many, many compelling reasons and is regularly tortured because of it.

When we first run into him, he’s been turned into an amoeba that causes dysentery in the alimentary canal of Robert Maxwell. In practice, this means that he’s suspended in digestive garbage, being forcibly and painfully ripped in two when he subdivides and having to undergo the digestive movements of a morally bankrupt media tycoon whose death falling off a boat crippled his business empire when it transpired that he’d misappropriated pension funds to keep the Mirror group afloat.

See, this is the problem with trying to review things like this, I have to explain who the topical jokes are about.

I recommend looking him up.  His life is fascinating, and he was surprisingly influential
in geopolitics.

I know I’ve dedicated a lot of time to this, but I want to make it clear that Thomas is not Mon-El from Supergirl. His misdeeds do not get swept under the rug and he makes an active, albeit very incompetent, effort to change. Which, if anything actually renders him more culpable, because despite being obviously deeply damaged from a young age, he shows an ability to realise that his behaviour and attitude were harmful and it shouldn’t have taken going to hell for him to do something about it.

Also, for the second time this review, he is constantly punished for them.

So there is one of the main plot threads of this series, Thomas’ attempts to change his ways and the Professor trying to help him. This one has the extra incentive for the Prof by him making a bet with Satan that, if he can succeed, Satan will allow the Professor’s wife to stay with him should she end up in hell too.

The groping is part of this, as Satan is showing that Thomas is just as awful as ever, even though he says he wants to change. When presented with what appears to be a vulnerable sixteen year old, he tries to be helpful, but still gropes her. Two things: One, sixteen is legal here (and in large swathes of the world), so keep your not-even-all-American-states-centric comments to yourself; two, it’s thankfully one of Satan’s minions in disguise tricking him.

The other major plot thread is Satan trying to find a new assistant after having to demote Gary after his ill fated rebellion last series and his relationship with one very enthusiastic candidate named Scumspawn.

During the first series, a particular demon is mentioned who can fire exploding bogies out of his nose, I’m pretty sure that our passionate candidate is supposed to be that demon.

(But then again, the Professor’s surname changes between series. So, y’know, whatever.)

Other candidates include a giant tapeworm with a great torture for Mozart, a dolphin called Chuckles, the Emperor Nero and a super intelligent robot who shocked Peter Snow really badly on Tomorrow’s World.

A Moriarty among marine mammals.

It’s a fun thread, as each of the candidates has their own distinctive personality and pros and cons for the position.

I have a soft spot for Chuckles (if the image above didn’t tip you off), he’s a great character and his interactions with Satan show how transparent the Lord of Hell really is in his behaviour. (Not that he’s exactly opaque the rest of the time.)

Of course, though, my favourite candidate is Scumspawn. For a demon who can shoot exploding bogies, he’s absolutely adorable.

No, seriously, even when he’s torturing Thomas, he’s polite to him and holds pleasant conversations with him. He even sort of looks up to Thomas, mostly because of those previously mentioned absolutely horrendous qualities of his.

Which makes sense for Scumspawn, he’s a demon, after all.

He’s the closest thing the series has to an untouched innocent. He’s surprisingly pure of heart most of the time, and is also rather gullible and a bit thick.

He can show cunning, though, so don’t think he’s the modern sitcom perpetually sweet, optimistic idiot.

No, that’s the Professor, only well written and complex.

Of course there are other, smaller stories, such as the episode with the attempted suicide bomber who is scared for his brother, and the two episodes focus on the Professor publishing a unifying theory of physics he got off of Satan in the living world, but the two major plot threads are more weaved into this series than the arcs of last series were.

Series two is definitely an improvement over series one, even if I do miss Gary, and series one is definitely still worth a listen.

All I can do here is recommend this series, and suggest that you do listen to them in sequence.

Once again, this series is available on Audible if you would like to buy it.

It’s definitely worth the investment.

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