The Thick Of It series 4 episode 5 review

Review Louisa Mellor 13 Oct 2012 - 22:00

It's all kicking off in Whitehall. The series 4 game-plan becomes beautifully clear in this eventful episode of The Thick Of It...

This review contains spoilers.

Do you remember those big Art Attacks Neil Buchanan would do on his CITV show in the nineties? The camera would follow him around a playing field laying out patterns of socks, or ten pound notes, or traffic cones, busily positioning them into puzzling lines until the overhead shot finally revealed the image he’d created. That was tonight’s episode of The Thick Of It. (Someone more cultured would likely come up with a classier analogy, but sod it, Art Attack was ace.)

For five episodes, Armando Iannucci and co. have been laying out the whip-smart script equivalent of Neil Buchanan’s socks, and only now has each entertaining plot-line coalesced into the big picture. What was the end-goal? A Leveson-style inquiry and a glorious moment of schadenfreude for the British viewing public.

Episode five in the series picked up exactly where the previous had left off, with a freshly resigned Nicola Murray - the jittery mother at the political wedding - making an inelegant getaway from the Houses of Parliament. Having settled into the routine of switching from Coalition to Opposition and back again over the previous four episodes, moving from Malcolm’s celebrating troops to the commiserating DoSAC lot in the same few minutes was initially disorientating, but everything soon slotted together.

Mannion was spinning, having sailed pompously over the deadline for a dignified exit by resignation, so attempted to divert the oncoming shitstorm. Fergus and Adam were seeking to distance themselves from their Senior Minister’s death throes, while Glenn was hoping last week’s betrayal would have bought him passage back into Malcolm Tucker’s good books. Not that Malcolm has any good books, just shelf upon shelf of angry, brutally swear-y ones.

With every man, woman and dog engaged in the key political activity of panicky arse-covering, the episode’s opening was enjoyably chaotic, like a ‘Best Of’ series five compilation. All pretence of civility between Pearson and Mannion had vanished as the party’s chief of communications prattled on about blame gardens and peeling onions, but that was nothing compared to the scorn Malcolm (a brilliantly nasty Capaldi) spat at the ousted Nicola (a brilliantly wounded Front). 

If there has to be a criticism, it's that after finding enough sustenance in half the cast at a time for the past month, then the episode felt overcrowded for its run-time. Though Chris Addison’s Ollie was a crucial part of last week’s 'bombing', Reeder, love him though we do, was left with not much to do here, apart from look a bit peaky and witness it all falling apart.

And fall apart it did, in spectacular fashion. The Lib Dems (anyone else bristle with real-life betrayal at Robyn’s joke about real versus political promises?), who showed precisely how much they cared about the electorate in their cavalier treatment of the visiting young carers, hoist everyone with their own leak-petard. Designed to curry political favour, Fergus and Adam's plan backfired on an enormous scale, and just may put an end to government process as we know it (well, in the magic mirror of The Thick Of It at any rate).

The culture of leaking is the perfect corollary for phone hacking, a sort of mirror image practice, one just as accepted and commonplace in Whitehall as listening in to celebrity voicemail once was in Wapping. "You might as well launch an inquiry into gravity", as Pearson puts it. One small inquiry, launched under duress, widened to implicate the accuser, and then made wider still ended up becoming a black hole that could swallow them all – Tucker, Murray, Mannion, Fergus, Glen, Terri... the whole dreadful shebang.

Next week’s sixty-minute special covers the Goolding Inquiry and promises to be exquisitely watchable torture for The Thick Of It’s self-serving, careerist politicos. Brilliant stuff. Save me a front row seat.

Read Louisa’s review of episode four, here.

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Probably the reason Chris Addison wasn't in much of the episode was because he was directing it.

Best episode so far, looking forward to next weeks enquiry!

Why does everybody refer to "the Inbetweeners" as the "Lib Dem's". Ok, I get why they would, but as far as I'm aware, none of factions in The Thick of It have ever been attributed to a specific party. I'm not trying to be pedantic but I felt it needed saying.

There has been no direct mention of which party is which. In the pseudo-alternative reality of The Thick of It, we may be watching parties which, within show canon have wildly different names than what we are used to.

That is beside the point though. It is satire and we are supposed to draw parallels with the political parties we have to suffer. It is rather obvious that the faction containing Mannion is the Conservatives - their PM is referred to as pompous and being a horse fiddler by Malcolm and Glenn makes numerous references as to what he thinks of their distinctly conservative policies.

That group is in coalition with a party which sees themselves as an opposite, more forward thinking and generally younger. This fits well with the Lib Dems.

The opposition is unquestionably labour. We have the mention of a leadership race won by an initially less popular candidate on a technicality (which compliments the Milliband and Milliband situation) and Malcolm Tucker is clearly modelled on Alastair Campbell.

If you want further evidence, albeit of a most shallow form, watch the teaser for next weeks episode. Associate the names given with stereotypes for the different parties.

I get all that, it's just that we don't know what any of the parties are called and lot's of reviewer's refer to the two coalition characters as "the lib dems". It's just a bit lazy, I guess.

Is it just my Iannucci-fuelled paranoia, or does it look like Miller may have orchestrated this one in order to 'purge' the party and free himself from Tucker's thrall? He certainly isn't seen giving evidence at the Inquiry in the preview.

Amazing episode. Not quite Spinners and Losers but getting there!

I felt for Glen and Nicola when they were getting their super dressing down from Malcom.

Laughed VERY hard with Phil's 'The Ark is now open and your face is melting' comment.

This is by far the best drama/comedy show the BBC have ever done. Armando Iannucci is a genius.

30 minutes of brilliance. every few seconds a brilliant line, "kick him in the PFIs", "Dungaree Jubilee," the whole Tucker confronting Murray scene, especially the Golden handshake line, Pearsons's whiteboard...
On and on, just killer line after killer line - best 30 minutes of TV this year.

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