Reviewed By: Eiphel
Review Date: 3/21/12 2:41 am
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With Jago in Love, series four is off to a solid start. The story delivers on all the traditional attractions of the series, harking back to the feel of the earlier tales of gothic gaslamp ghoulishness. We are only teased by the mysterious Claudius Dark, and it's with some frustration we find the story cutting us away from that seemingly urgent confrontation that closed series three. It's frustrating because for a moment the mechanics of the 'hook' show through - the encounter is a matter of urgence and immediacy at series three's end, in order to have the most dramatic impact, but needs to be downplayed and diffused as series four begins so that the arc can be built back up over the course of the series. It's a minor niggle, however, and once that loose end is tied off for the time being, we're quickly immersed in the present story.
And, in fact, both 'present' and 'story' are rather emphasised, as the tale unfolds in a series of flashbacks narrated by Jago to his intriguing new beau. It only struck me once the story ended, but this framing device actually harks back to the Mahogany Murderers rather pleasingly. It also serves to sketch out Abigail quickly and subtly through her interjections and observations on the story. Her criticisms of Jago's friends, which do read more as criticism of those characters than defenses of Henry, soon clue as in to the sort of woman she is; later developments in her story will come as no surprise.
Alongside Abigail is another deftly handled, if less instantly apparent interruption of the status quo: We've departed the (exceptionally) foggy streets of London for the fresh sea air of Brighton. I was surprised as I listened to the story how effective the change of scenery was. I shouldn't have been, though; gaslamp London has been utterly intrinsic to Jago and Litefoot so far, and the departures in series three were somewhat more conceptual in nature than a seaside holiday. This is the first time the series has actually done something so simple as a change of setting. It's a refreshing and revitalising as if it were a real location-shot departure for the series, and the piers and boarding houses provide a well-calculated backdrop. There's also something more subtle at work here. The arc of the series is quietly advanced by taking our characters away from London, leaving unfinished business behind. It creates a shadow, looming in the background. One we know our heroes will have to return to.
I've managed quite a lot of praise without even discussing the plot of the thing. Not uncommon when your trappings and trimmings are as tremendous as this series', but the plot is worth a nod too. There's a 'classic' Jago and Litefoot vibe to it. A trad story in the good way, delivering on expectations and checking the right boxes. The mysteries are of suitably spooky and paranormal character, and the plot reinforces the 'infernal investigations' aspect that was strongly present in the first two series. It has the rich gaslamp trappings that are the series' watermark, with cracked mirrors (with notably Wildean connotations), ghastly faces and (dubious) fortune tellers. It's also got a touch of quiet human tragedy which is strongly present in many of my favourite Jago and Litefoot tales. Just one or two people, small sadnesses. Tragedies of the everyday are what fuel the mysteries of this series. (Perhaps that's why series three faltered to my mind.) When a few more hints at the series arc are dangled towards the end of events, they feel better fitted than those that began matters; a fitting coda to the story we've just heard, with promises of things to come.
Need I mention the performances? They're excellent, of course. Elizabeth Counsell is believably the sort of woman who could ensnare Chris Benjamin's ebulliant empresario, an important detail. Louise Jamesson fits in a deal more naturally than she did throughout series three, and that's down to both Nigel Fairs' writing and Jamesson's performance. Whilst I'm not convinced that Leela belonged in Jago and Litefoot for such a protracted period, there's nothing in this story to suggest her presence will detract from the feel of things. Finally, the performance that really deserves note in this story is Trevor Baxter's. He is, of course, always excellent, and he does well to hold his own despite having a less bombastic and immediately powerful part than his partner. Over and above that, though, he's thrown a particularly intriguing deal here and he tackles it grandly.
Jago in Love is a really solid, entertaining slice of Jago and Litefoot. A good choice to open series four. Whilst it's not revoltionary or experimental, it's a very strong reaffirmation of the series' core dynamics - exactly what was needed after series three's adventurous experiments in pushing boundaries. 8/10