This review contains spoilers.
9.5 Kid Farm
Victor Meldrew’s death at the hands of a hit and run driver; David Brent’s post-paper merchant malaise as a lonely travelling salesman; Blackadder and pals going ‘over the top’ for a fatal date with German machine guns: British comedy has always seemed more than comfortable going out in as downbeat a fashion as possible; perhaps it’s just part of our national psyche – a buttoned down, self-effacing refusal to trumpet our own achievements, no matter how impressive they may be. Peep Show itself has used similar depressing beats in the past to close out previous runs: series 7’s New Year’s Eve being a perfect example – and although the show has spent the last few episodes gently prodding our heroes in a direction that suggests happiness could be over the brow of the next hill, Kid Farm was a ballast-filled descent into the lurking shadow of misery; a timely reminder that Mark and Jez’s woes are never far away.
Olivia Colman made a very welcome return to the show this week, returning as a seriously morose Sophie. Acting as an ill-tempered foil to the lovely April, Mark’s real love interest, Sophie instead was a spectre at the feast, a mean-spirited lush come to scupper Mark’s potential happiness. In fairness, ‘feast’ is overstating it somewhat: with Jez scrounging on meagre, cold Kiddie Cave leftovers in an effort to break the rights deadlock with Super Hans, it was left to Mark to slake his appetite. And slake he did, closing on the deal on a tryst with April that first started all the way back in series two. Heartening as it was to see Mark finally begin to make real romantic progress, the episode’s real masterstroke was the feeling of impending doom that dripped from every scene. From the crushing sense of inevitability surrounding the proposed Mark/Sophie alliance, right through to Jez’s smuggling of a snake into the grey, soulless play park (“being detained at capitalism’s pleasure”), everything seemed primed for disaster. With only one episode remaining and the show’s final farewell all but upon us, it began to feel like Peep Show was foreshadowing a finale as tragic and downbeat as those mentioned above.
The portents were all in place – Mark’s perennial satisfaction with the benefits of an interracial toast marriage has always kept him fairly happy; however, during last night’s episode, even the delights of white bread following brown became a grim meditation on the relentless grind of life (“butter the toast, eat the toast, shit the toast”) – the same rang true for Jez: with Joe seemingly slipping further and further away from him, he resorted to a series of ill-fated actions to somehow prove that he wasn’t a loser, resulting in the death of innocence… in the form of Flop the goldfish (“one of the good guys, man; he was old school”). Dark undercurrents such as revenge (“the sexy man’s justice”) floated to the surface and even the staging seemed to auger ill; upon entering the Kiddie Cave, Jez’s declaration that “all that I can think about is death” had a definite Ides of March vibe about it. Tragedy, it seemed, was a foregone conclusion: Jez and Hans’ friendship continued to flounder and Sophie’s resurrection from her shallow grave was a predictable but still wince-inducing moment. Even Mark’s exasperated response to Jez’s casual attitude about their serpentine companion (“because they’re so famously reliable – snakes!”) seemed to be a prophecy of doom and it was hard not to fear for our two heroes.
And then, an odd thing happened. Bain and Armstrong pulled the old bait and switch on us and things turned out… if not for the best, then at least without major incident. April’s perplexed acceptance of Mark and his ball-pool burial antics may not have added to their relationship, but it certainly didn’t seem to sever the one lifeline to happiness that Mark currently possesses either. It’s been established in the last couple of episodes that April definitely goes for off-the-wall behaviour and frankly, it doesn’t get much odder than literally burying the evidence of your last unhappy marriage in a symbol of fun and happiness. Oh, the irony. To borrow Jez’s phrasing: “Corrigan classic”
In a similar fashion, even the snake subplot didn’t really play out with the ahem, venom that it could have; sure, the snake disappeared as we all knew it would, but in a similar vein to Mark’s encounter with April and zombie Sophie at the episode’s end, the El Dude Brothers seemed to escape without much in the way of consequences. Whether this means anything with relation to next week’s final ever episode remains to be seen, but as a dramatic device of sorts, the palpable sense of dread fostered throughout the episode certainly worked for me. I desperately want Mark and Jez to be happy. The reason that Croydon’s biggest losers are so endearing in spite of the terrible, terrible things that they do is because they’re an amplified version of ourselves, with our petty hang-ups and moments of self-doubt, self-pity and self-loathing. We want Mark and Jez to be happy because we want to be happy; for a while there during Kid Farm it all seemed like things may be going permanently south before the writers threw us a tiny sliver of hope.
Will Mark make it work with April? Can a YouTube co-credit give Jez the relevance he’s desperately craving as his fortieth looms in next week’s last-ever episode? Who was behind the wheel of the car in the episode’s final POV shot that allowed us to see our heroes shamble off into uncertainty? Whatever the answers, this was a very decent episode. As for everything else? We’ll find out next week, same Peep-Time; same Peep-Channel. See you there.