So The Fixer has finished, and compared with last year, I’m not as sad to see it finish as I was. Series one’s biggest problem was simply lack of action, which meant that while it was reasonably intelligent and engrossing, it was simply a bit unexciting, despite its set-up.
The biggest problem with series two is that while the producers have consciously upped the action quotient, the show itself has become more dumb. It’s felt just a little bit sillier than series one and some of its lustre has gone too.
It’s a bit of a shame, since the second series started well – or at least the second part of its opening two-parter was excellent. The third episode, in which Mercer had to face off against a bad ex-SAS officer turned drug runner, proved very silly and exposed some flaws in The Fixer‘s overall format: Mercer may be ‘ex-SAS’ but he vary rarely shows any signs of having been trained by them (‘proper planning and preparation prevent piss-poor performance’ – ring any bells?), and when faced against one of his own, his dumb-arse tactics only get him into trouble.
Episode four saw Outhwaite’s character face off against the serial killer who got her thrown out the police force. This was reasonable but didn’t really add much to Outhwaite’s character. Its redeeming moments were an entrapment of Mercer by MI6’s under-hand Symmonds (Why exactly is MI6 operating on British soil? Any ideas?) and Outhwaite’s eventual liberation of the killer’s victim.
Episode five saw another stupid task for the unit, with Mercer having to go undercover as a cage-fighting club to get close to a crim returning from the mainland. This had a ropey first half but a decent enough second half, that gave us a chance to see why Mercer got the job as ‘the fixer’.
The series finale was a silliness fest, with the incompetent Mercer and Callum trying to take out a hitman at St Pancras (sniper rifle anyone? You may protest, but he was going to use a handgun and I know which is likely to cause less trouble for everyone), only to cock up, leaving him the chance to kill off the mother of the baby who was his target. Mercer shoots him – in the leg, something that causes no problems later, however – but then has a ridiculous shoot out in a haberdashery, using dummies for cover against 9mm rounds – although the two gunmen spent more time talking to each other.
Once again, though, it was the MI6 side of things that redeemed the episode (should this be attributed to production company Kudos’s involvement in Spooks?), with the cocking up of the operation to bug Mercer’s flat at least interesting, albeit predictable and ultimately ridiculously over the top for a covert operation. Does no one try to do things in a hurry any more?
Series two ended on cliffhanger, with Mercer deciding to avenge a murder against Lenny’s direct orders, and Lenny setting the dogs on him. This does at least promise excitement for series three, assuming that takes place. The show has been getting ratings around the 3m mark, which isn’t great, but isn’t awful. So it’s probably a 50/50 chance it’s going to go ahead.
However, what the show desperately needs is to be able to intelligent and exciting at the same time. At the moment, it alternates the two, which is a shame, because when it started, it was a breath of fresh air compared to the lame attempts at action most British shows try. Of the main characters, Peter Mullen’s wonderful Lenny has become self-parodic, something Mullen appears to have noticed, too, judging by the perpetual smirk on his face whenever he delivers his ‘zingers’. The taciturn John Mercer has become simply surly and lacking in depth, although at least he’s become a whole lot more action-packed. Outhwaite, while she’s had a lot more to do, hasn’t really added anything to the show as a result.
So while the show has fixed last year’s mistakes, it’s created some new ones for itself this year. Fingers crossed, if there is a third series, the show fixes these new mistakes without adding any new ones.