serangoon road s1e09

In the ninth and penultimate episode of S1 Serangoon Road, I kind of don’t understand the point? An Indigenous Australian wakes up next to the body of a girl he’d been on a date with, there’s lots of ang moh shenanigans, once again we try to talk about Black-White relations this time from an Australian POV, and Fortune Teller Auntie makes the most adorable faces.

kissy face
kissy face

We open with some super white previouslies, and then in on MR ERNIE DINGO (for non-Australian readers, Mr Ernie Dingo is a very well-known older Aboriginal Australian actor). He’s making out with the random journalist bartender Ange from two episodes ago, and making fun of chicken feet. He pauses at the making out: Ange says “it’s the 60s, we can do what we want.” FORESHADOWING GUYS. Next thing he wakes up NEXT TO A CORPSE (Ange). CREDITS BOY WE ARE MOVING TODAY.

Don is brought in by the always adorable Ario, to find Ernie in a jail cell; he says he doesn’t know how Ange ended up dead. Macca comes storming across to yell “I will do everything in my power, to see that prick hang” in front of the Police Station which, Macca, stop making a scene in the streets in Singapore. Have you no dignity? It quickly becomes clear that Macca is convinced that Ernie did it both because a) Racism and b) he ignored Ange’s attempts to get him to mentor her as a journalist, and so he doesn’t want her death to have been about the story.

Through a serious of blue flashbacks, we learn that Baby Don was helped by young officer Ernie in Changi, when Baby Don was looking for his father who’d gone missing, after his mother died.

JOAN because I can't believe she doesn't feature until like halfway through this ep.
JOAN because I can’t believe she doesn’t feature until like halfway through this ep.

In the Black Lotus (because of course), Nightclub Friend confirms that Ange and Ernie were in the club together, that Ange came by often to hang out, thought it was all exotic, like all the backpackers here. I love her undertone (later continued) that the backpackers are just ridiculous and shouldn’t be in Singapore, coming to Singapore for the wrong reasons to just exotify us all. It’s this Singaporean POV and commentary that really keeps me holding on to Serangoon Road, even when the other bits disappoint me.

i over estimate you
i over estimate you

Alaric offers to help Don with the investigation, and they head back to Ange’s apartment. It’s all locked up, so Don goes to climb to the second story and break in. Alaric protests. “You always underestimate me,” Don complains. “No, I over estimate you. I think you will do something quieter, and smarter.” Alaric is my favourite. Inside the apartment Don finds someone riffling through Ange’s stuff, and they fight. Outside the apartment Alaric tries to grab the guy; he BITES OFF THE GUY’S EAR and the dude jabs him in the balls. He makes Don hold the ear as the dude escapes, but at least they’ll be able to identify him. Inside the apartment they find lots of notes and a traffickable amount of hash, and Don goes off to yell at Macca. Macca continues with his being convinced about Ernie’s guilt, despite all the suggestions of maybe triads (and Ange’s obsession with Triad drug movements), and though I’m not tense about this at all. It’s Ernie Dingo and it’s so obvious!

Out in Bugis Street, Don discovers a dude (not missing an ear) who makes a habit of spiking the drinks of foreigners. Why is it always Don? After Don and Alaric catch him with some unconscious girls he admits to spiking Ernie and Ange’s drinks, but they got into a fight with a big dude and so spiking guy left. I cannot even with this.

the perils of backpacking in singapore, i guess, ladies.
the perils of backpacking in singapore, i guess, ladies.

Meanwhile, Ernie has been sprung and left at the Agency. Uncle Owner is shaving a dude outside, threatens Ernie. Pamelyn freaks out because she’s reading an article with a picture of Ernie’s face, then looks up to find Ernie. “It’s all right, I won’t nick anything,” he says, to continue reminding us about racial stereotypes and racism, and I like this bit better, because Ernie plays it so sad, and so resigned, and it works. It’s just – it exists. Joan puts him to work fixing things around the Detective Agency.

uncle owner shaves
uncle owner shaves

Macca caves to Don’s pressure and reads the draft Ange had given him; it’s good, he confesses, and Ange was on her way and also ‘nuts’ – going to the docks at night by herself, talking to dealers. The draft contains secret codes to do drug deals, so Don and Alaric decide to go and do so. They find a dude with a missing ear – but having taken Ario and some Polis along with them, discover that earless dude was in the cells the night of the murder, and in the alley behind Ange’s apartment they’ve found a knife with blood and Ernie’s service number, so they go off to arrest Ernie.

Maybe he did it, Alaric implies – if his drink was spiked, sometimes drugs make you crazy. He gives Don a shifty eyed look, and I hope Don’s drug use turns up in the finale.

Ernie is drinking tea when the Polis arrive, so he politely hands his tea cup to a police officer, and then RUNS FOR IT – I laughed really hard at this part, and the following few moments where they apparently lose an Aboriginal Australian in Singapore’s Chinatown, which seems unlikely.

From their friendship and history, Don works out where Ernie has been hiding and they discuss the options: Don has a plan for working it out, which, Don, why didn’t you try this mysterious plan earlier; or, Ernie says, he has a captain friend on a ship that’s leaving tonight. The captain is a mate and can get him through immigration, but he’d never be able to return to Singapore. Don’s plan, it turns out, is to recreate the experience, which DEFINITELY Don why didn’t you try this before. So they retrace Ernie’s steps with Ange, through Bugis and a little fight with a dude eating noodles, ending in the alley behind Ange’s apartment, where his memory gives out. Maybe I don’t want to find out, Ernie tentatively suggests, maybe there’s nothing to find out except that I did it. Anyway handwave handwave, Ernie remembers the noodle guy coming to grab Ange’s handbag, having a knife, fighting, Ernie dropping his own knife, noodle guy picking it up and running at Ernie, Ange not feeling very well, noodle guy stabbed Ange and they were so drugged they didn’t notice? I KID YOU NOT also how exactly does one prove that? Ernie is feeling very guilty because he was the one who bumped into the noodle guy, and Don is all it was fate and just bad luck and clearly has no sympathy, which, Don, buddy.

Don finds and drags noodle guy into the police station, where Ario is skeptical but accepting (agrees to run tests on the knife, background on the dude, etc). I would love to know what is going on with Ario, why he’s always so amenable to Don’s ideas and ridiculousness. I hope this comes up in the final episode!

ario doesn't know what's going on
ario doesn’t know what’s going on

Episode ends with discovery that noodle guy was originally one of the suspects in Winston’s murder, and Winston’s file is missing so what does it all mean? What are Joan and Don going to do about this? Don visits the High Commissioner to give a report on the final outcome, and the HC reveals that Claire told Frank about her affair and Don is all GASP and now I’m worried he’s gonna go back to her. Lady Penelope agrees with me that he should just leave Claire alone because he can’t offer her anything and also ugh love doesn’t conquer all guys, I mean come on.

This episode is (obviously) quite heavily about race; and it feels more comfortable with this discussion than it did in the very heavy-handed episode one. The Australian High Commissioner calls Don in, and notes that “Canberra’s trying to be a bit sensitive to the black issue – there’s a referendum in the air;” then continues, “Bloke’s obviously as guilty as sin.” “Abo. Booze. Woman dead,” he says, as if that’s all the evidence one requires. Don points out Ernie was a war hero; “Oh geeze, Aboriginal war hero, framed. That’s the last hero I wanna see.” Macca continues with his tirade despite growing evidence that maybe it was someone else. Don being the rest of Australia, telling Macca that Ernie fought and then returned to Australia to find his house repossessed and his kids stolen. The High Commissioner throws shade on both Macca and Ernie, too, saying “I suspect that Aborigine, and walkabout, will feature” about Macca’s headlines, which he wants Don to convince Macca to tone down. The HC also clearly doesn’t know Ernie’s name.

At the same time, it’s randomly not about race. Nightclub Friend talks about Ange meeting up with someone: “A big older guy, Aussie I think.” That time period, of course she would say black! It’s completely weird that the Australians are being all horrible about indigenous people but the Singaporeans aren’t. Maybe a nightclub owner is more flexible or something.

buddies
buddies

This episode is also about trust and friendship. Don and Ernie’s old trust; Macca’s lack of new trust; Ario’s weirdly high levels of trust in Don. And Don and Ernie’s friendship was a nice thing to see, as was Don and Alaric working together as they once did, without the Import-Export to get in the way.

This episode was also a return to the not great acting. Geoff Morrell as the High Commissioner did his best with his frankly terrible lines, and Ernie Dingo did some excellent work, as did Joan when she tries to convince Ario to let her look at Winston’s files. But overall, choppy plot, weird dialogue, way too much hammer over everything to move the plot along. I am disappoint.

So here we are with one episode to go. I hope that Don and Claire don’t get back together (I hope that Claire and Frank do indeed leave and never come back). Don can pine over Claire for a bit (if there was a second season) and then move on. I think we’ll find out who killed Winston, but it’s just the beginning of the mystery. Kay Song perhaps will have something to do with it. It’s all stereotypes and sad faces from me. Maybe there will be more Singapore as Character. STAY TUNED.

singapore's docks: totally not this atmospheric now
singapore’s docks: totally not this atmospheric now

A Miscellany

  • Not enough Pamelyn
  • Don for serious, do up your shirt at the very least, have you no respect
  • Ernie you did your best with this script, I’m so sorry. “She had the whole world in front of her” Ernie I’m so sorry.
  • Fashion note: some repeated outfits! I love everyone. Don refuses to do up his shirt, even when visiting the Ambassador: I hate everyone.
  • Ernie wakes up fully clothed in bed under a doona. In Singapore. No, guys. Just no.
  • Ernie was in the actual credit sequence? Seems weird just for one episode, but maybe they’ve been doing this for all the eps and I just haven’t noticed.
  • White Spy Subplot: MI6 dude schools CIA dude on being polite with spycraft; CIA dude is actually terrible about it. I hate MI6 dude more as he says the phrase “taking in the exotic Asian surrounds.” MI6 dude gets CIA dude to break into Wild Bill’s office for something about Vietnam, and CIA dude almost gets caught; sasses MI6 dude. Guys get your filthy white paws out of South East Asia already, I hate you all.
  • Why was Baby Don chopping wood?
  • Chow mein is that what Australians in the 60s would have called it? It’s certainly not what they’d call it now.
  • Fortune Teller Auntie’s faces were the best thing about this entire episode. She makes sex jokes and kissing faces, she’s the best.
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