This review contains spoilers.
The final season of Hustle is upon us. As a viewer, and reviewer of the show, I’ve mixed feelings about this, because there just isn’t anything like Hustle on any other channel, and I’m already getting withdrawal symptoms ahead of this one disappearing into the mists of TV history.
That said, I’d much rather Hustle went out when it was still pulling a decent audience, and not pushed beyond the boundaries of its sell-by-date, like so many BBC productions. With just six episodes per season, it’s not like it was possible to get bored, and to flush any notions of diminishing returns away, season seven had a larger average audience than any of the previous six. Viewers like Hustle, even if the BBC is less keen.
So what was this opening story like? It pains me to say this, given the circumstances, but I mostly found it to be business as usual, and a bit flat in places, if I’m honest.
But this might have been my own expectations, because knowing that it was the final season, I thought it might have created a plotline to tunnel to carry us to the final story, but instead, this is an entirely discrete story that trod the same path that Hustle has worn numerous times.
Being more magnanimous, given that it was written by series creator Tony Jordan, perhaps this can be seen as the series returning to its creative roots.
The opening sequence, where they con the women with the obnoxious daughter out of plenty for her to carry the Olympic torch was classic Hustle, and an excellent if predictable way into the proceedings. It also underlines the key message of the show – that only unscrupulous people get conned, and the more despicable they are, the more enjoyable it is.
Building on a good start, they then managed to deliver a wonderful panto villain in the form of Dexter Gold (Paterson Joseph), who turned ogling his female staff into almost a full-time career. The twist, and diversion of the story was that, given his underworld connections, this is a con that Mickey and the crew must tie-off. That’s conman parlance for con in such a way that the mark doesn’t realise they’ve been had, a greater challenge beyond just getting away with the money.
This they neatly tied in with the recent Libyan conflict, and missing millions in gold bullion, to make for an entertaining enough yarn.
What I didn’t really care for was a lowbrow subplot about them upsetting Eddie by defacing one of the his football heroes in the bar, which seemed terminally stupid. I know people get very excited about the teams they follow, and it’s the sort of activity they can work around Eddie’s character, but personally I could have done without it. Ash’s obsession with West Ham seemed transposed from Till Death Us Do Part, and with Dexter Gold acting like he’s living in the 60s, maybe this was a parallel we were meant to draw?
The twist with the German banker being part of the con was a bit telegraphed, though how they tied off the deal was inventive. As was the reappearance of Dexter in the bar, creating an additional twist when it appeared the story was entirely done. I just love stuff like that, because it’s almost like you’re lulled into a false sense of security, where you think you know what’s going to happen, and then the writers throw a narrative spanner in the works.
It may have been a little formulaic, with one foot firmly planted in 1967, and guilty of breaking the fourth-wall, but you just can’t help loving Hustle.
This coming week, I’m reliably informed Martin Kemp gets his gangster face on one more time, when Mickey and friends try to leverage the theft of a famous painting. This story is directed by Adrian ‘Mickey Bricks’ Lester, interestingly. But the really exciting news is that in the final episode, the wonderful Jaime Murray is allegedly back to reprise Stacie Monroe, so expect the sparks to fly then.
You can read our reviews of Hustle series seven’s episodes here.