The Thick Of It series 4 episode 7 review: Contrary Mary

Review Jake Laverde 27 Oct 2012 - 22:02

Time to say goodbye to The Thick Of It with this final, fantastic episode. Here's Jake's review...

So. Farewell, then. Malcom Tucker. And farewell to perhaps the finest comedy series of the past decade. After last week's compelling hour-long inquiry comes the fallout - and onetime kingmaker Tucker has now become irreparably toxic. This episode finds him calmly facing his fate as he prepares himself for arrest and Peter Capaldi is as magnificent as he ever was portraying Malcom's fading confidence. Cast out by the androidesque opposition leader Dan Miller, he makes the decision to hand himself into Brentford police station, far away from Miller's fact-finding visit to Lewisham. As he prepares to hand over the role to Chris Addison's Ollie, he summons up the fire and fury for one last defiant rant but as the episode ends, he's a man well and truly spent. 

All of this coincides with DoSAC in absolute chaos as both sides of the coalition can barely stand to look at each other. Made worse by the Home Office dumping the blame for a backlog of arrests onto the already stretched team, but they unite to gleefully witness Tucker's downfall. Meanwhile, ex-opposition leader Nicola Murray has her humiliation dragged out even more when her aide arranges an interview with the chop that's been taunting her all series. As always, the interactions between all the warring factions of DoSAC are brilliantly brought to life by the superb cast. The quips and jabs come thick and fast and you'll need a few viewings to take it all in. And the plotting here is just masterful as the threads throughout the whole series come together to an enormously satisfying climax.

What raises The Thick Of It above the bland mire of “topical comedy” is the way it fuses what's happening in the real world with sitcom tropes and characters. This series in particular has been eerily prescient with its situations; there's a Jimmy Savile reference in this episode that has become even more pointed after recent accusations. In many ways, The Thick Of It has almost become a documentary depicting the power struggles and ego clashes behind the doors of parliament. Glen, the closest The Thick Of It gets to a sympathetic character, has his final meltdown and breaks the fourth wall telling Felix (and by proxy the Liberal Democrats) exactly what the nation is thinking. It's as on the nose as The Thick Of It gets and is a glorious moment, particularly for the teenagers who remember the Lib Dem pledge to not raise tuition fees.

Though I, like many others, will be sad to see The Thick Of It go, it feels right to end it now. This recent series has strayed a little too far from the naturalistic direction of earlier series by becoming a bit too broad at times. Some of the insults and swears felt a little forced and plot threads were becoming more and more typically “sit-commy”. Not a bad thing in itself but it undermined how believable it was and was in danger of becoming a pantomime version of itself.

But on the whole, this was a gripping final series throughout, as petty battles were fought while the state of the nation was in decline. While DoSAC and the opposition were busy trying to score points over each other, a man died and blame was thrown around like a hot potato by those covered in muck. Indeed this final episode has as its background cuts to the police service and the possible outcomes of such actions which sadly sound all too convincing. And it's this ability to understand and reflect the politics of the day that makes Armando Iannucci one of our greatest living comedy writers.

That The Thick Of It is ending now feels right as it existed originally to parody the then Labour government and it's reliance on image over policy. The age of New Labour and Tony Blair might be at an end but the current coalition government couldn't exist without it and The Thick Of It has documented the transition brilliantly with its last two series. While Tucker's reign of terror and dirty tricks is now over, we're left with the impression that the mud slinging and petty battles will rage on at the cost of progress.

Read Louisa's review of the previous episode here.

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I agree with the review in that some of the lines sounded forced in this series, and somehow, although it was still brilliant, it was slightly "off" for some episodes. I shall still miss it terribly though. I just wish Julius Nicholson, Steve Flemming, and Jamie had put in final appearances before it ended. Also, a shame that "The F**ker" (Tom Hollander) never got used again after the very end of the third series. Politics will be the same without it.

I loved Glen Cullen's bit of righteous fury. I like to think he waltzed into a job in menswear somewhere.

Yes and ho.

I finally understand why people write fanfiction when their favorite shows / books end. Malcolm reduced to begging Ollie - Ollie! - to let him go out with dignity. Glenn's final rant, and Peter actually being hurt by it. The wearying sense that all is as it ever was and ever shall be - nothing changes but the faces and the names. I've felt more uplifted reading Dostoevsky.

It is good to end on this bleak "high" note, because this series suffered from having to pay attention to Mannion's team, and as entertaining as they were, none of them made for riveting television on their own. But good lord, if Peter Capaldi doesn't sweep the BAFTAs this year, there is no justice in the world. And since - as we've seen over this series - there isn't, he probably won't.

Side note - thanks for capping the show here; the reviews have been insightful and well-written.

Can anyone explain why exactly Ollie was so eager to do Malcolm over? Surely it would be better for the party image if Tucker went quietly? Or was the idea for Ollie to swing his balls around by offing his predecessor and make a clean break from "dirty" politics of the past?

I think that was their intent but Mannion & co. had set the press on Malcolm and it was probably far too late for Tucker to go quietly. Also Ollie may have been incensed by Malcolm's final speech and ironically inspired by it to be that ruthless. Don't think he wanted to make a clean break from "dirty" politics though, at least not from his final lines. I think Ollie is even more amoral than Malcolm in that I think he's even more self-serving that the latter.

My heart is wholly broken, both by the thoroughly depressing climax and the knowledge that The Thick of It is no more. Someone hold me. If Peter Capaldi doesn't win a BAFTA, I say we send Jamie round to smash some fax machines.

I hope there's a series 5..

Tucker's swearfest to Ollie was the best bit of television I've seen in a long. long time!

I meant a break from dirty politics only in the superficial sense of piling all the bad image on the people who are leaving (Tucker, Nicola Murray etc), not in the sense that they would actually change.

Obviously its clear to anyone who's watched the series that absolutely nothing has changed but the names and faces.

Well, except there will only ever be one Malcolm F Tucker.

That final shot of Glenn about to knock on the police station door, and then deciding not to bother. Priceless!

I thought he did it just because he could. Miller didn't care how Malcolm went, just that he went. Ollie made it public to get some of his own back on a man who'd humiliated him in public and private for years.

Mannion's reaction to the departure of Stewart was brilliant

Ollie did it because he had to, but it does not exclude the fact he ultimately is not cut with the same morality as Tucker. Tucker is actually a decent bloke, Yes he is rude and near violent, but only towards those that enter his world. Ollie is no Tucker, he does not have the loyalty to his party and his country that Tucker has. It was always going to end this way for Malcolm, but as the program progressed I became more sympathetic towards him as he struggled to keep his party floating on the bed of dross that surrounded it.

Terrible as it may sound, it gave me a new perspective on Alistair Campbell. After all when you look back on New Labour Campbell more than anyone brought peace to Northern Ireland. Iraq destroyed his reputation, but it not him, it would only have been someone else. No one else could have replicated his role in bringing peace to to the North. That is reading too much into art but honestly when you look at the Eton cabinet it is hard to find a politician of value.In 1997 they were falling all over each other.

I may be the only person who didn't think "Yes and ho" was absolutely hilarious. It was mildly amusing, but a but wacky by TTOI standards. Of course, by the standards of most other comedy series it was still brilliant, but I hope it doesn't become the equivalent of David Brent's dance in The Office.

I agree, great series but this one didn't grab me like the 1st, 2nd and 3rd series or even the movie. The theme and style definitely changed and what is with Ollie's hair?

I put this on my wish list on Amazon and now I am not so sure. I could barely watch Series 3 Episode 7 when Malcom was fired. I doubt I can watch him go down so painfully....urgh! Damn you Ianucci! And no Jamie either? How now??? Sigh-est

I think they need to do a 'two years later' special with Ollie filling Malcolm's shoes. That is something I really want to see.

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