This review contains spoilers.
If I had my druthers, Sean Bean would play Father Michael Kerrigan for the next thirty years and become as dissociable from the role as David Suchet in Poirot or Tom Baker in Doctor Who. Instead of Sharpe or Boromir or Ned Stark, the words ‘Sean Bean’ would instantly conjure up the image of a man in a cassock struggling to do good.
It won’t happen – Broken’s creator Jimmy McGovern has already suggested that it’ll be one and done for Bean, who, understandably, feels he’s gone as far as he can with the part. He is often one for an early exit, after all.
But he’ll be missed, because we need characters like Father Michael on television – people we can look up to, whose deeds and manner sustain us. We need to see characters whose heroism means pushing a vacuum cleaner around a grieving house or recognising that someone else is in pain and trying to ease it, with a smile, an anecdote, food vouchers, or a blistering speech on righteous anger.
(When Father Michael took on that grubby bookie – a peach of a cameo by Phil Davis – and sent his congregation onto the streets with hammers to smash those vampiric machines, they should have made him pope.)
At least we left him on a hopeful note. The characters we’ve watched him support over the last six emotional episodes gave him the It’s A Wonderful Life moment he deserves. Christina Fitzsimmons, P.C. Andrew Powell, Chloe Demichelis, Helen Oyenusi and more queued up to support him back. He finally made it through the consecration – the moment his subconscious had chosen to punish him repeatedly throughout the series – without a traumatic flashback. It may not mean he’s found peace, exactly, but he’s closer than before.
Broken’s finale took Michael to his lowest point, but also included some of his lightest moments. Him singing with his brothers at their mum’s funeral and doing that can-fuelled fifty-yard dash in the rain were life-giving scenes. Their effervescence and overlapping chaos made a good contrast with the careful control of the speeches at Vernon’s inquest.
That too had a happy ending, of sorts. Helen Oyenusi was vindicated at least, and Vernon would be recorded as the victim of an unlawful killing instead of a dangerous and violent man. That was thanks to the strength of Andrew, who followed Father Michael’s guidance and example and told the truth even though it cost him dearly.
Father Michael chose not to tell the truth, or at least the whole truth, to his dying mum. He remembered much more than her being a wonderful mother, but cared too much about her feelings to confront her with old ghosts. Her death seemed to release him from a kind of purgatory. No more nights on the bedroom floor for him, and no more need to be a priest for her approval. If he stays in the church now, it’s because he wants to.
Broken was a gutsy series. It dramatised big themes—conscience, guilt, shame—and, with powerful writing and performances, told big stories about the Church, poverty and abuse. It’s made for bitter viewing at times but even at its toughest, there’s been a lit candle glowing determinedly at its centre.
Amen, Father Michael, you wonderful priest. And amen, Sean Bean, you wonderful actor.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.