This episode is a real masterpiece in my opinion. Rumpole finds himself defending an “honourable member” of Parliament on a rape charge made by one of his campaign workers. It’s just a superb episode and the first of the series to actually feel like a real mystery: ie. is the charge genuine or not? The character writing is nothing short of brilliant. The victim (?), the politician and the politician’s wife are all beautifully written and performed and Leo McKern gets to show us a really ugly side of Rumpole, who isn’t afraid to smear the victim’s reputation or to brutally badger her in court; after everything else, it’s about getting his client off and this is the first episode where we really get to see just how unethical and cruel he can be. Things are complicated when his son, Nick, arrives with his new fiancée and she finds Rumpole’s glib and callous attitude toward the case repugnant. The show is too smart to pound the table; the argument between Rumpole and his soon to be daughter in law is ambiguous one and refuses to tell you what to think. And then there’s the B-plot which involves the aged secretary at Rumpole’s firm and the suspicion that he may be embezzling from the petty cash. The writing is super-layered in this episode and the way these two plots co-exist is really masterful; I think I get part of what the episode is trying to say, but far from everything. It’s a deep, multi-layered, ambiguous episode of television and that extends to the ending which leaves no one satisfied and only a load of ambiguity for the viewer to wrestle with. Oh, and special kudos to Elizabeth Romilly in particular who plays the victim; her scene on the witness stand is something marvelous. I’ve quite liked this show so far; this episode isn’t just an episode I like or even one I love – it’s a full-on masterpiece, an episode of television that truly elevates the medium. 4 stars.
tl;dr – morally troubling rape case is the foundation for an ambiguous, thought-provoking episode with a load of great performances and even better writing; a masterpiece full-stop. 4 stars.