This review contains spoilers.
Ending shows successfully is something of an art form, because rarely is how they’ll end considered when they start. We’ve seen some amazing shows end with abysmal offerings, and others less auspicious ones go out with all guns blazing. This reviewer has a firm belief that the closing chapter of any TV show should encapsulate all the best qualities, characters and situations, and if possible, avoid ambiguity. I could mention a few shows that have entirely blown it, and others that got it entirely right, but the stage rightly belongs to Hustle here.
At the final curtain what did Hustle give us? Silly question really, because they were never going to end their eight series and 48 episode run with something utterly rubbish, were they? And, I unreservedly loved this story from beginning to end.
The start, with the unceremonious death of Mickey’s entire crew, was certainly a nod to the incredibly ballsy Blake’s 7 conclusion. But at no point did I actually think they’d actually kill them all, because almost every conman in this show has appeared to die at some point, as part of closing off their numerous scams.
The narrative that was then presented was fascinatingly a reworking of the classic scam that the Redford and Newman vehicle The Sting (1973) used. In The Sting, it’s delayed horse racing commentary, and the modern equivalent is delayed trading data. It wasn’t especially original, even within the context of the show, but it served to provide an easily understandable con around which the writers and performers could work their magic.
Their mark of choice, Madani Wasem (Abhin Galeya), is a notoriously dangerous opponent, and it’s only the amount of money involved and his intention to retire that makes Mickey consider trying to con him. But then in the Hustle ethos, the nastier they are the sweeter the sting.
Yet each big con needs a rogue component, and the unpredictable element that they threw in here was the very timely reappearance of Stacie Monroe, played by the now more mature but always highly watchable Jaime Murray.
Any thoughts that her appearance would just a cameo were soon dispelled, she was an integral character, and they even discussed her ‘relationship’ with Mickey.
Stacie’s character was such a tent-pole element of the early Hustle that I wondered how it would work without her when she departed five years ago, but it did. That said, it was great to see her back, even if she only unleashed the full glory of her Cheshire-cat smile in the closing shots.
But in a clever way her appearance was another classic case of misdirection, because it was widely announced that she’d be on the show. What they didn’t mention was that her partner in crime, Danny Blue, as played by the irrepressible Marc Warren, would also appear.
I’d guessed he’d arrive when Wasem had his henchman call up a hitman twenty minutes from the end, his identity being obscured. Though I still chuckled when his character was finally revealed. This was a simple but effective means to close the narrative loop, and delivered a fitting end for the show.
Over the years that Hustle has been running they’ve demonstrated their liking for breaking the fourth plane, talking directly to the audience. But in the final show they actually went much further than just the knowing look or wink. Almost like he’s auditioning, Adrian Lester talks directly to the viewer, explaining the thinking behind Hustle, a world where only greedy people can be conned. We’ve heard it before, numerous times, but it’s so marvellously done that I couldn’t help smiling.
This set the tone for the whole episode, where right at the end they even accept that they’re all actors, and actually come out from the Eddies Bar set to tear down that illusion entirely. They also managed to throw in a few nice allusions too, mostly that only TV geeks might appreciate. At one point Danny describes the expanded crew as The Magnificent Seven, a movie that Robert Vaughn appeared in 52 years ago, where he played Lee, the gunfighter who’s lost his nerve.
In the end Hustle went out in fine form, with exactly the sort of style and attitude that only this show can deliver. Each performer, with the exception of Eddie, gives the audience one last piece of advice, before departing. The gang board their vintage 1959 Chevrolet Impala and drive off to the TV sunset and Eddie turns the lights off in the bar, destinations from where it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever return. Or have we all been conned, and they’re planning to grace the big or small screen again at some point in the future?
I hope so, but even if that’s not the case I’ll remember this show as one that never overstayed its welcome or overplayed its hand. The message of the show was never be a mark, but Hustle wove such a compelling yarn, and one that was impossible not to fall for.
Read our review of the last episode, here.