Things worth coming out of blogging hibernation for: Sky’s Friday night lighthearted adventure series Hooten & The Lady, which I’m enjoying tremendously – so it’s bound to get a series two only to never be renewed for a series three (see also: Starlings, This is Jinsy, Spy – I ought to go down the betting shop and put a tenner on it, really).
If you haven’t seen it, Hooten & The Lady is about a woman who works for the British Museum, Lady Alex Lindo-Parker (Ophelia Lovibond, Elementary), and a man simply called Hooten (Michael Landes, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman … series 1, because apparently he was not dissimilar enough to Dean Cain and therefore had to be replaced), who is an adventurer kind of person. They’re like the two sides of Indiana Jones split into two people. You could also see it as a sort of Romancing the Stone, except the female lead is a museum curator instead of a popular author. In short: they get up to various historical artefact-getting adventuring shenanigans in various parts of the world, and it’s clichéd and funny and I love it.
The thing is of course a question of “will they, won’t they”. Right from the beginning there was The Tension between the two. Close encounters that were a little too long (and wonderfully lampshaded to boot) and things like that. There’s definitely flirting. The weird thing is, apparently the makers of the show are vehemently against the idea of the two of them hooking up, and have said that no no no, that’s not what the show is about at all, men and women can be friends and not want to get inside one anothers’ pants. While this is definitely true – especially remembering the days when I was like 10-11 and used to walk home with a boy in my class because he was fun to talk to and we almost lived next door to each other (both had to get home after school, walking the same route to get to the same neighbourhood … would have been weird NOT to walk together, really) and people asked if we were a couple as a result – Hooten & The Lady should not really be all about The Obvious Attraction and the Ship Waiting to Set Sail if they were so adamant about the main characters being just friends.
If you’re playing by the well-established rules of flirty banter eventually leading to romance, then the end result really ought to be romance, or the audience will feel let down. Think about Castle. From the first episode, The Tension told us Castle and Beckett were going to get it on eventually. Heck, even Mulder and Scully got there in the end, and you could argue that was more of a growing friendship than the in-your-face “will they, won’t they” of Castle. If you are playing on tropes, you follow an established narrative ruleset, and to throw the rulebook away with a “SURPRISE! YOU DIDN’T EXPECT THAT, DID YOU?” then you’re going to disappoint viewers. Case in point: Lost – “you know all those exciting mysteries which is the reason you’re watching this increasingly confusing show for? Yeah, we’ll explain all of those eventually so it will all make sense. LOL NOPE! JUST KIDDING! We’ll explain fuck all and say it was all about the characters and that fan theory which we said ages ago it definitely wasn’t … well hey, guess what?” (Wow, I’m still bitter about that after all these years.)
So, is there a way you can turn what would otherwise be a storytelling suicide into something that actually makes sense? You’d need to have a reason why the main characters can’t hook up, even though they so obviously want to. A reason that isn’t “yeah but Alex is engaged to be married”, because while it would be a dick move on Alex’s part to dump her fiancé just because a ruggedly handsome rogue has turned up in her life, it’s not a narrative dealbreaker. According to the Rules That Be, Mr Fiancé is obviously not Mr Right, he’ll have massive flaws, only be interested in her wealth/status or what have you. In short, a person who can be dumped without it reflecting badly on the dumper.
My theory is that Hooten and Lady Alex are related, and I would probably say brother and sister.
What we know so far is that Lady Alex wasn’t born a lady, she’s adopted. The same episode (#2, Rome) also establishes a close bond between Hooten and an order of nuns. That the nun actually knows his first name and seems to know a lot about him leads me to think that hey, maybe he was left in the care of nuns as a child. If we go by the theory that they are both orphans, they could well have been from the same family but one happened to get adopted by a British lady, and maybe the other one grew up in an American orphanage?
The two characters can still feel an attraction to each other. There’s even a proper name for an attraction between two family members who haven’t met each other, because it’s a real thing. You’re attracted to similarities, and then you find someone who feels so familiar to you that you’re instantly attracted to them, and because you don’t know you’re related there’s nothing to stop you from hooking up. In this case, though, in order for viewers not to find it squicky when the characters discover the connection, they would have to make the relationship platonic. It’s not Game of Thrones, after all.
Problems with the theory? Don’t think ages have been specifically mentioned, but I suspect Hooten would have been too old to not remember having a younger sister if they were left in care at the same time. They could have been left at different times, and to different carers, but that sounds a bit weird. (Unless both were the results of extramarital affairs, perhaps?)
Another option is that the show’s creators were kidding when they said the characters would never hook up. Or maybe they have come up with another solution that isn’t just “yeah but they’re just really good FRIENDS” because if that’s how they wanted to run the show, that’s not how they’ve written it. Guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
P.S. Fun fact: Michael Landes played a younger version of Michael Steadman in an episode of Thirtysomething back in the day. This is super-exciting for people who watched Thirtysomething mainly because a thirtysomething Ken Olin was in it … playing Michael Steadman. All the wins! 😀