This review contains spoilers.
Three episodes in, Peep Show‘s final series is proving to be a great bookend to one of the best comedies to grace British TV in years. It looks as though the El Dude brothers are going out in style.
Although both episodes leading up to Threeism were great, neither peaked in their final moments. Super Hans’ wedding and Jerry’s decampment didn’t crescendo out of Peep Show’s characteristically backwards algebra of self-delusional logic. Threeism, on the other hand, built steadily towards a big payoff. By the time we’d reached the halfway point, everything was in place for a long, hilariously uncomfortable evening of sexual indiscretion and relationship sabotage.
The excruciating dinner party set-up is a familiar one when it comes to comedy—we’ve even seen Peep Show itself use the format before with a festive twist in series 7’s Seasonal Beatings—but done this well, who’s counting? Creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong fairly whizzed through the episode’s opening scenes, allowing the largely lettuce-based dinner to play out in beautiful, harrowing discomfort.
In what seems to be a post-Dobby world, Mark’s somewhat egregious cyber-surveillance of his old flames hit critical mass this week when he tracked down April, a near-miss from way, way back in the show’s second series. Mark’s self-deluded rebranding of his creepy internet stalking as “Corrigan and Google, the maverick detectives who just won’t give up” was just one example of the show ploughing one of its funniest furrows: Mark and Jez’s avoidance of self-honesty.
Conversely, Jez opened the episode in beatific oneness with self-truth, seemingly comfortable with his development into an omnisexual being. My assertion last week that Jez was engaged in a “perennial quest to fall in love with pretty much everybody possible” was underscored by the man himself this episode when he told a hilariously appalled Mark: “I don’t fit into your tiny little boxes. I’m just looking for that sacred connection and for that, I’d fuck any single member of the human race.”
Of course, this being Peep Show, no character is allowed to be that comfortable in their own skin for more than a few moments, and sure enough, Jez was soon fretting about being too old to be attractive to Joe. In an act of characteristic illogic, Croydon’s premier sexual commando engaged in the shallowest form of self-reassurance by sleeping with Megan, the girlfriend of the guy that he was fretting over losing.
This is something Peep Show does particularly well. Building towards the end of such a long and beloved show is a delicate business – taking the characters down new paths into the show’s sunset whilst also retaining the core humour-providing elements is a tricky balancing act indeed – and with half of this series to go, Peep Show is navigating those shark-infested waters nicely – and with no Happy Days-style fin-hopping in sight.
And so we found ourselves as voyeuristic guests dining on a gastronomic feast of discomfiture at the dinner party from hell. And you know what? It tasted better than a wedge of scribbled cheddar masquerading as stilton. Mark and Jez reverted fully to type here, placing their own desires above the general happiness of everybody else.
Jez’s precarious game of genital Jenga predictably came crashing down. Whether the series will conclude with him fully committing to a relationship with Joe remains open to question (probably not though, when has Jez ever committed to anything?) although his candid admission of affection for his new squeeze during the episode’s opening was surprisingly sweet. Mark found himself unlucky in love once more and should he decide to abandon his pursuit of April, you can’t help but wonder which ex he’ll be cyber-stalking next week.
Peep Show was in fine fettle once again this week. See you back here next week to discuss episode four… or to adopt the grim vernacular of Mark Corrigan (who has been known to make love like a captain grimly going down with his ship), join us, for the point of no return.