2x2 The Alexander The Greater Affair (part 2)

Rewatching the Man from UNCLE

blog review uncle

I'm rewatching every episode of the Man from UNCLE series from start to finish. This review may contain spoilers.

It's interesting, for me, to see how TV handled two-part episodes throughout the years. This is the conclusion to a two-part episode, but instead of doing a "Previously on..." segment up front to catch the viewer up the plot, this episode starts almost as if this is a stand-alone episode. It opens with Waverly trying in vain to get ahold of Napoleon Solo or Ilya Kuryakin. They aren't answering their radios, though, and he can't figure out why.

Cut to Solo bound to a stone slab, about to be cut in two, and Kuryakin suspended over a pit, about to plunge to his death.

Honestly, you almost don't even need to see the first episode. It's brilliantly done, and it demonstrates exactly the right relationship between a prequel and a sequel. I wish modern movies could manage their storylines this well. Interestingly, modern RPG modules do tend to manage their storylines this well. The D&D (or Pathfinder) adventures written by Paizo, especially, tend to be sold in 30 page booklets, and they're written such that the story is independent even if your first adventure is the third book in a series. It's a pretty easy trick. They just tell you the important stuff from past books, with the explanation that all of these important plot points have happened because "some other adventurers" did them.

Similarly, to understand this episode you need only know that Solo and Kuryakin have gotten themselves into a life or death situation again, and that they aim to bring the person who put them there to justice. The details are superfluous, and starting the story in media res works just as well whether there's a part 1 or not.

The scheme

The first episode spent a lot of time establishing who Alexander was, but it didn't do much to explain what his actual plan was. In this episode, we learn that he actually does have a plan, and it's actually not a bad one. It doesn't exactly get him to world domination, but I guess it's a good first step. I'm probably going to steal it for my next D&D adventure plot.

Alexander is working with a military group in some eastern nation. To help them stage a coup, he's giving them the bioweapon he stole in part 1. They're going to go do the coup while Alexander goes to present a reward to their (soon to be ex) president, as he's visits the US. However, instead of presenting the reward, he's going to stab the president. On stage. In front of everyone. The catch is, this is going to happen in an embassy, which will be under the rule of the military group. Instead of persecuting him, they'll immediately laud him as a hero and a liberator.

I assume this is just one step in a larger plan, but you have to admit that it's pretty solid. I don't know how international law actually works, but I do know that laws are pretty flimsy anyway, and this seems like it could work. Heck, there was an attempted coup in US in 2021 and the instigator of that hasn't suffered any repercussions, so I don't see any reason a guy couldn't walk into a foreign embassy, kill somebody, and emerge a hero.

Rouge rogue

Throughout this adventure, Alexander's ex-wife Tracey serves as the high charisma rogue. Her main interest is in getting her money, and she's willing to put in the work for it. You never question her allegiance, at least not in the sense that you wonder whether she'll betray UNCLE, because there's never an advantage for her to do that. But it's clear that her best ally is herself, and she's pretty capable. She's a fun, quirky, and lovable companion for the UNCLE agents, and I'm glad we get her for two whole episodes.

In the end, she doesn't get her million dollars because, after his defeat, Alexander's estate is tied up in litigation. It's implied that she's moving on to finding a rich man to take care of her, and while I don't doubt she could do that, based on her charisma, I felt like this was an odd and unexpected note to leave her on. She wasn't by any means a gold digger, and in fact was the one with all the gold in her relationship with Alexander, so I don't understand the insinuation that she'll bounce back by finding a "sugar daddy." Maybe I'm reading too much into it, and the implication was only meant to be that with her level of charm (and it's admittedly high), she'll do alright for herself one way or another.

Good start

This was a really good episode, and a great start for season 2. It leans more into the classic spy tropes, I guess, but then again there's a treasure trove of geekery in those tropes. This was a satisfying story on lots of levels.

Lead image by Anthony DELANOIX under the terms of the Unsplash License. Modified by Seth in Inkscape.

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