by Paul Kelly
I confess, I wasn't anticipating any stand-alones this season. With the end in sight, and a reduced episode run, I was expecting a mainly story driven final four. So, although initially miffed by the appearance of the seemingly obligatory comedy episode, this actually turned out to be a fascinating character piece. To say Hal killing Larry has thrown a spanner in the works seems like something of an understatement. After over 200 years of lying to Lady Mary, Hal looks set to continue the tradition with his house-mates. This isn't going to end well, is it?
Tom searching for direction in his life, his dread of letting McNair down, and his adoption of the somewhat useless Larry as a father figure, all worked well. The appearance of Larry Chrysler -- played to perfection by Julian Barrett -- gave Tom some real hope of making NcNair proud. Sadly, rather than overcoming adversity, Larry had become a victim, living off past glories. He was a sad man, with no home, no money, no life, and an ugly grudge against his ex-wife. Blaming his poor fortune on being a werewolf was simply an excuse. It was clear from the cold open that Larry has always possessed something of a vindictive personality. Being a werewolf just intensified it.
Which probably explains why Tom is always so down on himself. Perhaps being a werewolf amplifies his innate feelings of doubt and inadequacy. There must be some reason why he's been behaving so unpredictably of late. The speed at which he turned on Hal, and the swiftness with which Larry was able to remake Tom in his own image, seemed unnaturally sudden. I know Captain Hatch began sowing the seeds of discord last week, but Tom's distrust of Hal, and this sudden need to make something of himself, felt oddly accelerated. Is this all the Devil's doing? Or does the pacing simply feel rushed because of the shortened season?
I was pleased to see Mr Rook back in the game. He wasn't coping well with being out of work. His job was his life, so it made absolute sense that forced unemployment would translate into feelings of utter hopelessness. I'm not sure how effective sex-chat girls are as counsellors, however – obviously, not very, as Rook was about two seconds away from blowing his own head off. Luckily, Hal's impromptu strangling of Larry saved him. He needs a clean up man, and cleaning up men is what Mr Rook does best. What killing Larry has done to Hal, is perhaps harder to assess. It's all looking a bit grim, to be honest.
Lady Mary was a real delight. Rather than Alex being the corrupting influence, Lady Mary turned out to be a hundred times worse. Time has changed her – and not for the better. Sadly, both her and Hal were locked in a loop of mutual deceit. Their motives were good -- they thought they were saving each other. Which is why Hal kept up the façade of a reformed vampire, and Mary kept her Metallica loving, cage fight watching, shoplifting, face and shoe hating personality under wraps. Amanda Hale was the perfect choice to play Mary. After all her other period roles, how liberating it must have felt to let rip with the bad language.
Yet Lady Mary's life was empty. For the privilege of seeing Hal just once a year, she was forced to dress like a cake decoration, turn down multiple opportunities to move on, and get her sexual kicks from riding the thoughts and emotions of copulating piss-heads. No wonder Alex was worried. Is this what awaits her? Luckily, her fear turned into the catalyst which reunited the gang. Like Annie before her, Alex recognised that there's an almost symbiotic bond between her and her house-mates. If one member leaves, the whole group is weakened. Each functions as each other's deterrent against succumbing to their base instincts.
Or so the theory goes. Hal killing Larry, although for the greater good of Tom – and, let's face it, Larry as a permanent fixture at Honolulu Heights just wouldn't have worked – felt distinctly un-Hallian. Clearly, throwing a half full cup in the sink without washing it first is enough to make anyone crack, but strangling him with a lamp flex? Despite Hal's talk about fighting the inner monster, the old Hal seemed to get the better of him tonight. He didn't even bother to drink Larry's blood, instead seeming to take umbrage at Larry's lack of respect for him and his friends. It's easy to forget sometimes just how far Hal's fallen. Once Lord Hal, an Old One, he now lives in a poorly decorated ex-bed and breakfast with a ghost and a werewolf, cleans cash registers with cotton buds, and wears Marigolds to do the washing. It's a far cry from being up to your armpits in blood-drenched wenches and swains.
Hal's speech to Tom was perfectly timed. Tom's clearly feeling lost without McNair. Hal's up-building talk, although in hindsight somewhat tarnished by him offing fifty percent of The Mighty Boosh, was exactly what Tom needed to hear. Success shouldn't be judged in terms of career or possessions, not when the real achievement is in staving off the monster within and nurturing your humanity. It would be so much easier to be like Lady Mary, Crumb and Chrysler: slaves to their instincts, unhappy, embittered and resentful. But Tom, although occasionally teetering on the brink, never gives up. He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but out of the three of them (as Alex observed), he's the strongest. McNair would have been proud.
Hal I'm worried about. Is this season going to be a story of redemption for Hal, or a slowly descending spiral, ending in his eventual destruction? Final seasons can be brutal, paying little heed to fan favourites, and having no qualms about leaving us feeling miserable and depressed. Hal did an admirable job tonight of reassuring both Tom and Alex that they were better than those around them. Maybe it's time someone did the same thing for him; assuming it's not already too late.
Bits and Pieces:
-- Three weeks, three sets of Marigolds. This must surely be a record?
-- McNair was a surveyor before he got bitten.
-- A decent effort by writer Jamie Mathieson, although the dialogue didn't seem to sparkle as much as it usually does. There were no real laugh-out-loud moments for me, despite this being an episode mostly played for laughs.
-- What on earth was Hal doing assembling a jigsaw puzzle to a chess timer?
-- Evidently Patsy's swim in the sea did end in her death. Bummer!
Larry: “Testes, one two. Testes, one two”
Alex: "You think I'd corrupt her?"
Hal: “I think you'd corrupt Keith Richards.”
Lady Mary: "I am curious. Lord Harry... has he...?"
Alex: "Oh, yeah, yeah. He's gone."
Lady Mary: "Oh, thank fuck for that. God, it's just such hard work keeping it up, you know? All that thee and thou bollocks. It gets on my tits."
Alex: "So you put it all on just for Hal?"
Lady Mary: "It wasn't all an act. When he first started visiting me I was that curtsying fuckwit."
Tom: "Your mate's a nutter."
Alex: "Yeah, well yours is an arsehole, and a lech, and a bullshitter."
Lady Mary: "I suppose this must all be a bit of a head fuck?"
Hal: "That's certainly one way of putting it."
Alex: "Not going to lie, that could have gone better."
Hal: "Two hundred and fifty years I've been visiting her. Five minutes with you and she's threatening to castrate people and accusing me of onanism."
Tom: “You can just run off, you know.”