As far as finales go, this was incredible. Just when we thought we were about to get our happy ending, they pulled the rug out from under our feet and sent us sprawling. For fifteen minutes I felt excitement, which turned to weeping, then disappointment, then happiness, then confusion. I think I'm still stuck at confusion. Was this a fitting end to five years of blood, death and long brooding stares? You know, love it or hate it, I think it probably was.
I have a weird feeling I'm going to spend the bulk of this review talking about what may have happened, as opposed to what actually happened. What actually happened is that our heroes won. They battled the devil, and through a process of self-sacrifice and derring-do, they beat him, were stripped of their respective curses, and regained their humanity. But is that what really happened? That final shot of the origami wolf on the mantelpiece seemed to cast some serious doubt on the validity of their triumph. As in Blade Runner, where Gaff left Deckard an origami unicorn to show that he was a replicant, the origami wolf (created in Tom’s alternative reality) somehow managed to find its way into the present.
The ending reminded me a little of the last episode of US TV show Awake. (**Spoiler warning: don't read the rest of the paragraph if you intend to watch it**) Everyone on that show lived happily ever after, except it was a false happiness created in an imagined reality. Of course, that finale, too, is entirely open to interpretation. But shouldn't we at least feel some joy that our three main protagonists succeeded in pulling off a group Pinocchio and became human again? Hal hit the nail on the head when he said that the desire to be human was the end, not the beginning. If you want it, then you have it. The truth is, they’ve been human all along – they just didn’t realise it. Being human isn't physical, it's a state of mind. So becoming physically human again wasn't strictly necessary for happiness, it was just the proverbial cherry on top of their potentially fake cake.
Alex realising that she wasn’t a ghost any more, coupled with Hal looking at himself in the mirror and being able to see his reflection for the first time in over 400 years, really choked me up. Ditto watching them sat around the TV watching Antiques Roadshow and playing a game of guess the price of the antique. But if this is all a façade, I guess we should feel sad that the world's greatest defenders are out of the game, and that the devil reigns unopposed. But it's hard to deny Hal, Tom and Alex the win, even if everything isn't quite as it seems. Perhaps a fresh trio of supernaturals will arise in Hatch's world and put an end to his wicked machinations. If we've learned anything these past five years, it's that supernatural trinities can and do exist in the most unexpected of places.
Of the three alternative realities, I thought Tom and Hal’s were the most moving. Hal meeting up with Leo and reliving his final moments as a human was particularly poignant, as was Allison's surprise (and pregnant) return. But Allison's appeal to Tom to forget the past and concentrate on the future felt awkwardly rehearsed. It was almost as if Hatch were talking through her. Similarly, the appearance of Alex's father felt somewhat off kilter, as did Leo's last ditch attempt at talking Hal into dying. I liked that, in the end, all three of them chose humanity and each other over their own happiness. Which, naturally, makes it all the more galling to know that, despite their noble intentions, they may all have been duped.
Is there consolation to be had in the knowledge that they all ultimately chose to do the right thing? Is it even possible that the ending really was authentic, and that there's a completely plausible explanation as to why the origami wolf was there? Initially, I tried to run with that, but could find no obvious support. The camera tilt at the end, followed by the sad trombone music, all seemed pretty insistent that something was amiss. Was the ending meant to be ambiguous, or was it simply there to point out a concrete truth? I choose to believe the latter, although showrunner, Toby Whithouse, has promised an extra scene on the DVD to help clarify matters. Could this extra footage explain the origami wolf? Maybe. Or maybe the reality is something altogether different.
You have to applaud the audacity of the finale, even if it wasn't perhaps what the fans were expecting. I liked that Toby left the fate of his beloved characters in the hands and imaginations of the fans. Different interpretations are possible, and once the promised new material becomes available, maybe we'll see things more clearly. Of course, it may also muddy the waters even further. Either way, I liked the choices Toby Whithouse made tonight. This could have been a very different finale. Instead, it ended in a way which gave us a potentially happy ending, whilst leaving room for possible new adventures.
Shame we'll never see them.
Bits and Pieces:
-- It was nice to see Alex in different clothes for once.
-- Great shot of Alex coming out of her grave. Except, if she can pass through solid objects, why would the grass and earth move?
-- Although killing Hatch might have wiped out Hal and Tom's curse, what about Alex? She had no curse, she was dead. Why should killing the Devil bring her back to life?
-- The music playing when Hatch made the origami wolf sounded eerily (and probably intentionally) like Vangelis.
-- Great opening number in 'Putting on the Ritz'. Very Buffy. Very Evil Hal. Very nice singing voice.
-- Loved the obvious dig at the BBC from Hatch about spending cuts restricting spectacle. No horsemen of the apocalypse for the BBC, the Devil had to do all of his own heavy lifting.
-- I liked that Evil Hal was honest about Good Hal's feeling for Tom. That was a nice touch.
-- So Hal was responsible for Leo's death, too? I wonder how many lives he's ruined and then tried to help?
Hatch: “Blimey, my throat. I need a Strepsil.”
Alex: “Wait, was this caused by that bloody Employee of the Month competition? I knew it! Those things always lead to shit like this.”
Hatch: "You dragged the world to the brink of the abyss. Well done!"
Hatch: “Oh, hello. You found your way back then?"
Alex: “Yeah. Wouldn’t want to miss a bullshit super-villain speech from one of the cast of Cocoon.”
Hatch: “Do you know what the definition of madness is?"
Tom: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."
Hatch: “How do you know that?"
Tom: “I seen it on Eggheads.”
Hal: “You know where you went wrong? You should have put us together. Everything is incomplete without them.”
Hatch: “Bunch of puffs!”
Tom: “You'll have to excuse me, Allison, I'm having a Quality Street moment.”
Hal: “Thank God I’m still me. I was good again. It was ghastly.”
Hal: "Goodbye Tom. You deserve better friends than me.”
Hal: "The desire to be human is the end, not the beginning. To want it, is to have it. You’re not wasting your time, Tom. You’ve already won.”
Alex: “Where did Hatch put you?”
Hal: “Somewhere a long way away. But it didn’t have you two. I told him that he should have put us together, that it was incomplete without you two.”
Alex: “And here we are.”
Hal: “And here you are.”
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.