Peep Show series 9 episode 4 review: Mole Mapping

Paterson Joseph's Johnson returns for this week's Peep Show series 9 episode, in which there's trouble at the bank...

This review contains spoilers.

9.4 Mole Mapping

And it was all going so well. Only seven days ago I was singing Peep Show’s praises for successfully inching its way through the treacherous minefield that is sitcom character development. Although not everyone in the comments section last week shared my view about how well Threeism’s dinner party played out, the general consensus seemed to be that series nine was off to a flying start.

Sadly, episode four didn’t live up to the high standards set by the show so far. In fact, the bank robbery plot that saw Jez rushing in to Mark’s place of work to warn him of an impending shooting was so bananas it felt like something from another sitcom altogether.

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The episode got off to a suitably tasty start with Megan’s use of her paid hour with Jez to systematically destroy him, piece by sorry piece. As the concluding scenes of last episode suggested, the sexually utopian ideal of “threeism” was doomed, even before it was fully forged in the sultry throes of the least Moroccan dinner party in the history of Moroccan dinner parties. In the cold light of day Jez was left to reap the wild oats that he had so liberally sown… and man, did it make for some pretty grim reaping. It’s possible that Megan’s character assassination of her hapless life coach, followed by her sworn oath to lap from a bowl of his tears could signal a re-examination of Jez’s drop-out lifestyle in the show’s final run. Whilst the seesaw tilting of his sexual equilibrium has taken centre stage for the last couple of episodes, one wonders if Jez will be allowed to simply slack his way into the sunset.

Some good moments followed as the episode continued (“the jizz flannel” and “a shit for all seasons”), before the initial encounter between the two served as the springboard for Jez to become increasingly ensnared in self-doubt. From kernels of uncertainty, great moments of comedic and dramatic potential often grow… but by the time Jez had become unwittingly involved in a bank heist at Mark’s work, (born from a desire to prove himself to Joe) there really wasn’t much in the way of comedy on offer. Tragedy perhaps.

The disconnect here between the character’s rationales and the absurdity of their situation was simply too vast. In this site’s recent tribute to the show, the point was made that Mark and Jez’s lives, “unlike those of Father Ted, Victor Meldrew, Reggie Perrin or Alan Partridge, aren’t so exaggerated that we can’t see ourselves in them” – an element integral to the show’s humour. By the time Jez rushed into Mark’s quasi-bank to warn him of a shooting spree the whole thing smelled faintly ridiculous. Peep Show has of course taken us to equally surreal situations before: eating barbecued dog and urinating on one’s wedding guests spring naturally to mind… but the set-up in these episodes was superb; this on the other hand felt a little skimpy and consequently, this episode’s finale felt somewhat flat.

Staging a scene in the bank did finally allow the show’s writers to get in a little Johnson Time, but sadly this too fell somewhat short of the mark. Paterson Joseph’s big yuppie kahuna has so far featured in just one brief scene until last night’s appearance where he reprimanded Mark for popping out for coffee/fleeing from the scene of a soon-to-be-massacre. Whether it’s because we simply haven’t seen enough of the character as faces both fresh and familiar have continued to swell Peep Show’s ranks, or because his new-found disdain for Mark doesn’t afford the same wry dramatic irony as when he seemed to believe in a character that we all knew was doomed to fail, I’m not sure. In the two fleeting glimpses we’ve been afforded of Johnson so far, he seems to have been reduced to little more than a sneering ‘nasty boss’ archetype. Hopefully, the character will play a more significant role in one of the show’s future subplots but with the clock ticking and the curtain about to fall, that might be a deal that even the mighty man himself may struggle to close.   

And what of Mark? Series nine has seen Captain Corrigan ploughing lonely furrows thus far, but episode four finally saw his artful deceptions begin to bear fruit. His elaborately constructed ‘coke rampage’ with April may have left him down an iPad but at least he scored a kiss. Of all of Mark’s muses through the years, it does seem that April really is the closest thing to his perfect match that we’ve seen (and you can’t help but wonder if the show’s writers combed through past series for an old flame with that in mind). Although Mark’s tragic pursuit of the lovelorn April may not be written in the stars (or maybe in their moles?) – it is tempting to speculate as to whether she might be ‘the one’ cunningly obscured amongst a gaggle of ones that have passed through Mark’s life since the show’s inception. Mark once said about another purported soul mate, ‘If she’s the one she’s hiding it brilliantly’ – and it seems that the show’s writers, Bain and Amstrong are doing just that.

With two thirds of the final series done, Mark’s love life is barely out of traction and we have no idea if happiness will ever reveal itself from its elusive hidey-hole. More pertinently, the show itself also struggled to get out of gear this week. They say that the art to saying goodbye is to always leave them wanting more. Much like a guilt-laced lamb pasanda, Mole Mapping didn’t really leave me feeling that way. That said, it did tickle my taste buds enough to be present for next week’s helping. I’m sure I’ll see you there.

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Read DC’s review of the previous episode, Threeism, here.