by Kathleen Costa
AcornTV continues to be my favorite go-to destination for all things in British and beyond entertainment. I can easily use the AcornTV app or go directly to the website to enjoy fresh out of Covid lockdown series and telemovies, like Signora Volpe, along with decades past comedies, dramas, and some brilliant cozy mysteries. For a reasonable membership option (monthly $5.99 or annual $59.99 deal), I have been introduced to many productions that never made it across the pond or revisit shows that had once aired on PBS or other network channels. The quality of video and sound is great no matter what device I use, and as long as I have access to Wi-Fi, I can go anywhere!
Signora Volpe (2022) stars Emilia Fox (Silent Witness, Delicious) as Sylvia Fox, a career MI6 agent, deeply disturbed by a decision superiors have made to share terrorism-related intel, however limited, with a Middle East government known for their dubious motives. Now management, she’s essentially told to stand down, the agreement has been made, and others will be handling the monitoring and transferring of information. She, however, worries her sources’ identities might be compromised and feels betrayed by her colleagues which includes her ex-husband Adam Haines (Jamie Bamber). “I’m taking a few days leave.”
After alerting her sources of possible compromising issues, Sylvia is off to Panicale, Umbria, Italy, to attend her niece’s wedding. Her job, although publicly a boring civil servant, has kept her away from family, her sister’s second marriage to Matteo Vitale (Matteo Carlomadno), and her mother’s illness and death, and although slightly strained, she is still welcomed by her older sister Isabel Vitale (Tara Fitzgerald) and her niece Alice Shepherd (Izzy Knopfler). However, she overhears the groom Tommaso Rossi in the middle of a private, yet animated, phone conversation. She keeps her suspicions to herself, but when the groom doesn’t show up for the ceremony and the bride’s first response is that he’s dead, she’s off to investigate as just An Anxious Aunt. Instead of finding the groom, she finds a bloody knife on the kitchen counter, a woman’s body floating in the lake, and Tommaso nowhere to be found. Using her contacts and unique skills with technology, weapons, driving techniques, and hand-to-hand combat, Sylvia exposes connections to organized crime that might effect her family.
Secrets & Sacrifices Sylvia decides to take a “career break” and not return to London, buys a much need of repairs Villa, and reengages with her sister. She runs into archeologist Mallory Bell, a Cambridge acquaintance, who is excavating the Montarosa Castle. She is sure a chapel connected to the Templar Knights is on the grounds, but during the work, she is vandalized and then…Sylvia discovers a more recent skeleton. It is presumed the body may be that of a young woman who went missing, presumed dead, almost twenty-five years ago. The town and the girl’s family agree a local man was responsible, but without a body, there were no charges, only decades of harassment. Sylvia has never passed up a mystery which opens lines to a scandal in WWII, and getting involved puts her on the radar for a local “glorified traffic warden” who makes her life miserable.
Truffles and Treachery Sylvia finds her involvement in recent events is notable, so one of her workmen approaches her about a delicate matter. His father’s prize truffle pig, Mimi, is missing, and since he has avoided paying taxes, it needs to be quiet. It’s only truffles, but the business is huge with massive amounts of money involved. However, Sylvia’s ex-husband shows up with a situation she tries hard to avoid: “No one ever truly leaves the service.” Sasha Pavlenko, son of a long-ago Russian friend, has been arrested for murder and refuses to talk to his father and lawyers, so why would he speak to a complete stranger? “Everyone talks to you in the end.” That turns out to be true, and the truth of the situation puts others in danger.
The Bonus: Meet the Characters of Signora Volpe offers some fascinating insights into the cast and their connections from the actors themselves. “How do you describe the show?…Intelligent. Intriguing. Romantic thriller. Warm. Dramatic. Searching. Funny. Tense. Idyllic. A thriller trip in Italy. Sylvia kicks ass.” I agree with it all!
Magnifico! Emilia Fox lives up to her family’s reputation. She is excellent, understated, and does well to portray the kind of spy others might just overlook. The issues that spark Sylvia’s interest are compelling and cleverly reveal more than one avenue to explore, alley to creep down, room to search, or peril to manage. The end is always a surprise arrest and closure. Sylvia’s interest is also in the tall and handsome Capitano dei Carabinieri Giovanni Riva (Giovanni Cirfiera) whom she discovers later to be married, but not happily, so the final scene is “ahhh” delightful. Sylvia’s relationship with her sister is at times challenging, and along the way she finds her childhood memories of her father are faulty. But, with her discovery of her ex-husband’s motives, he reminds her, “We’ll never let you go, Sylvia.” Sounds like a season two!
Don’t Miss These Dramatic Gems!
Small Claims, Small Claims: White Wedding, and Small Claims: The Reunion (2004) are telemovies set in Australia starring Rebecca Gibney and Claudia Karvan who portray “two overworked young mums, de-skilled beyond their worst nightmares, who become a formidable pair of sleuths.” revealing the dark side of the suburbs. Engaging stories. Excellent cast.
The Oldenheim Twelve (2017) is a twelve-episode Dutch-language mini-series drama. Despite the English subtitles, it is a brilliant, intense drama following a series of disappearances from the fictional town Oldenheim. A challenge to watch and read, but compelling drama and superior cast.
Rosamunde Pilcher’s Four Season (2008-2009) is a four-part saga (Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring) set on the Cornish coast and dealing with the Combe family. Julia Combe (Senta Berger) returns to Endellion Manor, the estate of her ex-husband’s family, with the goal of finding the truth behind her daughter Charlotte’s suicide. Also starring Tom Conti and Michael York. Compelling. Excellent cast.
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