This review contains spoilers.
I'm really not sure what to make of this episode. It has a frustrating feel that, somewhere deep in there, there's a plot that should be fairly good. Unfortunately, the overall story comes off as unfocused, rather unclear, and, as a result, not all that interesting.
With a guest star such as Warren Mitchell involved, one would expect some kind of quality, but, as the viewer, I was unsure throughout what we were supposed to make of his character. Are we supposed to emphasise with him? Are we supposed to dislike him, as he is technically a villain? The character seemed to be played from totally different angles at different points of the story. I should add though, that I feel this is nothing to do with Mitchell's performing ability – he does here what's given to him – but the writing and / or directing just doesn't really seem to handle the character well.
Likewise, regarding just about all of the rest of the guest cast, none of them seem to have a real "handle" on the character. By this point, the 'Sweeney' mould, of Regan/Carter banter and "gritty" film production values, and general feel of the series, is well in place, and that thankfully saves this episode from completely nose-diving, and the Smith brothers *feel* like they should be an interesting watch, but in regards of overall plot and the guest characters involved, I would personally say this is one of the lesser episodes.
The poolside club scenes were interesting, in that they were supposed to give the impression of being a warm day, but were quite clearly filmed on a chilly Winter's day, with little colour in the sky and everyone giving the impression that they were freezing. …Other than that, there's actually very little "interesting" about this section of the story at all.
Returning to Mitchell's character, Wardle, in the final act, we suddenly seem to be in the middle of an uncertain comedy, with Wardle, under Police observation while at his fancy woman's flat, forced to return home in the early hours in drag! Another sharp change of tone for an episode that already doesn't really hang together.
As I say above, Mitchell's acting abilities are never in doubt, but the actual character feels like a leftover from a Roy Clarke sit-com, complete with "aww, 'eck" catchphrase.
I've watched this episode a number of times over the years, and even now, I have no idea how the opening prologue, of the robbery of the van full of camera equipment, fits in with the main story. Okay, so we get it that the Smiths are a trio of villains behind some pretty big "holdups", but we are never really given much info how all this ties in to the car park fraud (which is made clear a bit too late in the episode to full "get into"). Maybe this opening sequence was just designed to add a little excitement (and to show "how bad" the Smith brothers are), as a prologue of a car leaving the car park and Wardle quietly changing one parking ticket for another, wouldn't exactly have hooked many new viewers expecting some thrills!
There is some very mild menace in the boat scene, where Charley, the head Smith brother, bumps off a former henchman to keep him quiet, and the climatic scrap yard showdown, with Charley being crushed (presumably killed) as a pile of scrap cars come crashing down on him, is a fitting end, but these points are very few and far between in an episode that, for the most part, struggled to hold my interest.
I *want* to like much of this story, and cheer on "the little man" who has taken his opportunity, albeit not within the law, to make some money for himself and even see an attractive, much younger woman on the side, but the whole episode just doesn't feel to hang together, sadly. There are some mild moments of interest (and heck, any 'Sweeney' is good 'Sweeney' compared to some of the dross we get nowadays), but compared to some of the series greats, this one sadly does very little for me. I give it some rating for its few good moments, but even so it gets a much lower rating than usual of 6.5 from yours truly.moreless