So the last episode ended with the head of the Olympic Deliverance Commission being shot in the foot. Given Twenty Twelve’s history of quietly pleasing metaphors (the symbolic wind turbine so symbolic it had to be plugged into the power to make it rotate spring to mind) one wonders whether this is a comment on the success of the bid to hold the games in London. Either way, Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) is trying to run the run-up to the Olympics from a hospital bed. “So basically, it’s all good” he declares “I mean, well you know, I’ve been shot but apart from that fine.” As David Tennant’s voiceover points out, the games must go on, whether anyone likes it or not. (He really does get the best lines in this show.) Ian’s PA (played by Samuel Barnett) has brought him a chill-out kit, and the news that he (Daniel) will be leaving him (Ian) for a better job upstairs (Lord Coe).
The appearance of Barnett and Morvern Christie is part of a move the show has implemented this series, from characters who are largely incompetent and irritating to characters who are dynamic and scheming, and who provide better plotlines. Apart from Olivia Colman, who continues to be an exception to both catgories and indeed most things. Exceptional, Colman is.
For indeed it is she, as Private Eye would say, it is she who is to replace Daniel as Ian’s PA. The return scene is almost totally incoherent, which is Twenty Twelve’s way of signalling sincerity. In amongst Fletcher’s flow of bureaucratic patter and Siobhan Sharpe’s content-free chatter, the moments of verbal stumbling and speechlessness operate as a guarantee that the characters are suddenly experiencing something genuine.
Back at the office, there is already squabbling as to who can run meetings in Ian’s absence. This being Inclusivity Week, of course they all want to shut each other up. Professional Yorkshireman Nick Jowett entertainingly trips over one of his own catchphrases when he tells Siobhan she can’t chair a meeting “I don’t care who you are”. This leads us to speculate whether it would be possible for anyone to chair the meeting, since he has apparently imagined all potential people in the guise of Siobhan and concluded that were any of them to be her, or were she to be any of them, the meeting would still remain unchaired.
When they finally bring themselves to consider issues of inclusivity, they very nearly work out what it is, and bravely set out to make women’s football massively popular and get the Paralympian champion Tanni Grey-Thompson to plant a tree. The football project becomes a vapid advertising campaign based around the slogan “who’s that girl?” An apt summing-up of the way the media treat womens’ football in this country. After a verbal battle between Fi and Kay, (which includes the phrase “Can I just say, legacy pigeons are totally out of the equation.”) the tree-planting rather cheeringly becomes the planting of an acorn in a tray of earth which becomes the planting of a chocolate when no-one thinks to bring an actual acorn. A rootless, bombastic and entirely symbolic tree with a deception at its roots would presumably grow from such a planting. I’m saying nothing.
Twenty Twelve comes up with another absolute corker on symbolism as Ian sits glumly on his hospital bed fielding problems via Sally. The organisers of the opening ceremony want some more nurses in their choreography representing British society and values and whatever. Unfortunately there don’t seem to be enough actual nurses available in the National Health Service to supply the number of nurses the organizers think would suitably represent nurses. It’s whatever the inverse of a metonymy is. Very funny. Fi and Kay’s clashes have been some of the more interesting moments over the last few episodes, and now we see the smooth operator come into contact with Sally. It’s not a problem, Sally murmurs, politely bringing up an email from Lord Coe which sidelines Fi for long enough to get her out of the meeting. No, dealing with Fi isn’t a problem, as we see the champion at Deliverance team politics deal with a pretender to the title. Sally’s so terribly competent, it’s frightening. Colman makes you wonder what sense of hurt or failure has made her character develop these abilities, this chillingly self-effacing talent at making it OK for everyone but herself.
Dr. Jem Bloomfield studied at the universities of Oxford and Exeter and is currently an Associate Lecturer in Drama at Oxford Brookes. His research covers the performance of Early Modern drama and the various ways it has been adapted and co-opted throughout the centuries. His own plays include “Bewick Gaudy”, which won the Cameron Mackintosh Award for New Writing, and he is working on a version of Oliver Goldsmith’s comedy “She Stoops To Conquer”. His writing on arts, culture, and politics have appeared in “California Literary Review”, “Strand Magazine” and “Liberal Conspiracy”. He blogs at “Quite Irregular” and can be found on Twitter @jembloomfield