The following is a guest post.
Spoiler alert: I’m not sure that this mini-series has anything that could actually qualify as spoilers. However, I don’t hold back on any details I felt were relevant to sharing my impressions of the first episode of Fleming. If you want to watch it without any expectations, don’t read this yet. Cheers!
Immediately after watching the first installment of this BBC America mini-series about James Bond’s famous creator, my initial thought was that Ian Fleming was something of a jerk. Portrayed by Dominic Cooper with cold and cynical aplomb, Fleming comes off as a privileged, self-pitying, bored playboy.
Drifting through life with little direction or purpose, Ian blames his lack of achievement on his father’s reputation as a war hero and his brother’s success as an author, at one point calling himself “the lesser Fleming.” Poor little rich boy, indeed.
As the story gets underway, it’s 1939 just as the war in Europe is beginning. After failing to impress as a stock broker and a journalist before that, Fleming is recruited by Royal Naval Intelligence bigwig and model for Bond’s M, Admiral John Godfrey (Samuel West).
Though it’s insinuated that Fleming’s family are influential aristocrats and it’s made plain that his mother is overbearing, Ian doesn’t get this job on his pedigree alone. He does have skills.
At this point in time, Commander Fleming is busy with his new duties and is not yet an author of (as he later calls them) potboilers. But we can see the ground work is being laid for his future career. On the first day he’s already composed an extensive list of ways to trick the Nazis.
Ian is never, however, so swamped with work that he can’t find time for the ladies.
Let’s just say Fleming isn’t very enlightened when it comes to the fairer sex. For example, if he meets a pretty lady but doesn’t like her name, he just gives her a more appropriate one. Meet Honeytop, I mean Muriel (Annabelle Wallis):
And after hitting on a woman, one gets the feeling that physically hitting her is next on the agenda. In episode one alone, Fleming shoves, blindfolds and fondles Ann O’Neill (Lara Pulver) without her consent because, to quote Robin Thicke, “I know you want it.” A strong lady who rebuffs his initial advances, Ann is apparently swayed by Ian’s animal magnetism in the midst of a bombing raid.
Is it no wonder James Bond makes a habit of behavior like this?
Granted several of those broads were on a mission to kill 007, but there’s no denying that Bond (as an extension of Fleming) has some animosity towards women.
I assume the next three episodes will take us through the war and to the place where Fleming actually starts penning the first of his fourteen Bond novels. It’s not uncommon for writers to model their characters after themselves and providing viewers with examples of how Fleming based Bond on himself was by far the most interesting aspect of this episode.
It can be no coincidence that Ian and James smoke the same custom blended cigarettes rolled at the same London tobacconist’s shop. Or that both author and fictional spy drink their martinis shaken not stirred.
Next week it looks like we’ll discover that like another secret agent we’ve come to know, Fleming has an affinity for gambling and card games. His first book was Casino Royale after all.
This mini-series, while by no means a documentary, gives us a glimpse into Fleming’s life – what he achieved and, even more importantly, what he failed to accomplish. Thus far I’m not all that impressed with Mr. Fleming, the man. Perhaps he wasn’t really very impressed with himself either and that’s why he was driven to create James Bond – the man he wanted to be.
The second installment of Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond airs Wednesday, February 5th at 10 pm EST on BBC America. What did you think of the premiere and will you watch the rest?
Carmen is an American wife and mother of two college students who live away from home. With her yellow lab Malcolm by her side, she watches and writes about British television for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK I Learned from the BBC. Read more of Carmen’s posts here.