Hunted finale review: Snow Maiden

Hunted's final episode has aired on the BBC, before its return as a Cinemax spin-off...

This review contains spoilers

1.8 Snow Maiden

“How does it end?” young Eddie asked last week, and now we know – well, the little that Hunted’s writers were willing to tell us, anyway.

The series finale provided few of the answers we were waiting for (what it is that Sam experienced at that Oast House; the identity of the Polyhedrus MILF and the short-fingered man; Aidan’s real name; whose side the fake Dr Goebel is really on…) and plenty we weren’t (Rafi-the-Rabbit-killer Tyrone is Turner’s illegitimate son; Stephen’s wife was poisoned and drowned; Polyhedrus was behind the mutilation and murder of Turner’s eldest; Sam and Aidan’s baby daughter is alive and well and continuing the family tradition of wearing knitted headgear…).

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There, in a nutshell, is the reason so many UK viewers became quickly frustrated with Hunted. Leaving aside gripes about caricature, dialogue, or Hunter’s almost superhuman fisticuff abilities, it’s now clear that Hunted’s first series was designed as an eight-hour set-up for an even longer story, and frankly, who has the time? Or to rephrase: who has the time when there’s more rewarding, slightly less bonkers viewing to be had elsewhere?

Not that I wasn’t a fan of Hunted’s bonkers-ness. The rabbit, the blow-dart, the 600 dead villagers and the worldwide water conspiracy, the priest, the brain tumour, Frank Turner wearing a hat this week for the express reason that it be blown off in an explosion, blank-faced men, scar-faced men, men with bits missing from their finger… It was a cornucopia of expensive-looking battiness, and as such, deserves a tip of the (woolly) cap.

Episode seven had left us with Hunter being served the most suspiciously prepared cup of tea since Lucrezia Borgia asked ‘Shall I be mother?’. Our super-paranoid spook was uncharacteristically accepting of Turner’s beverages, and a few drops of unspecified poison later, she was about to go the way of Stephen’s wife.

(At this point it behoves us to do a quick recce of exactly who does and doesn’t want Sam dead. On the ‘Wants to kill her’ list are: Frank Turner, Hector Stokes and Polyhedrus; on the ‘Wants to save her’ list are: Aidan, Stephen, and – for the time-being anyway – the fake Dr Goebel. On the ‘We’re supposed to think they want to kill her but seeing as the most likely scenario is that they’re Sam’s not-dead mother they probably don’t’ list is the Polyhedrus MILF, and somewhere in between is Keele, to whom Sam’s life is worth less than a tube of dirt, even if she is His Best Operative™.)

Exposition came from all quarters this week, some from a self-harming teen, some from Mr Turner himself, and plenty from the Byzantium lot; “The moment she saved that boy’s life, she sentenced herself to death” said Deacon, grimly. “I thought Sam had ice in her veins, like in that kids’ book they keep drawing tedious parallels with” said Fowkes, metaphorically. Unwittingly, Zoe came up with a great notion for the planned Cinemax spin-off, with the line to Fowkes, “Next time, why don’t you strap on a bra and try being Sam”. A cross-dressing ex-special services cockney spy with Daddy issues taking on the shadowy corporations trying to control Asia’s water supply? The BBC may not want any more Hunted, but if HBO’s reading, I think that’s something people might watch…

Essentially, Snow Maiden brought us full circle, resetting Sam Hunter for the next level in her investigations into Polyhedrus, one of the five corporations that run Hunted’s paranoid, cynical world. Armed with her finally-recovered childhood memory, whatever that is (any takers for her having overheard Polyhedrus planning the Chernobyl disaster?), Hunter’s back climbing Scottish mountains in her hat, this time with Aidan’s baby in tow.

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Hunter’s third and fourth fake deaths (in the bath and on the bridge) made for a suitably dramatic and exhilarating climax, but still felt oddly empty. Her bath trick and Deacon’s fake sniper attack were both call-backs to episode one, and superficially satisfying as they were, the question marks start flying on closer inspection. Picking apart the contrivances in the heightened, unrealistic world of a spy show is a fool’s errand, but ultimately, Sam’s earlier bathtub training being so conveniently used up felt more of a gimmick than narrative neatness.

And so it’s over, on the BBC at least. That closing shot – Hunter’s fourth-wall breaking look to camera – was like so much of the show that had gone before it: handsome and audacious yes, but also impenetrable, inexplicable, and more than a bit nutty.  

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