This review contains major spoilers for both episodes if you haven’t seen them yet. Parts one and two are repeated next on Friday, June 4th starting at 6:00pm on Sky1.
We left Moist von Lipwig cowering, surrounded by flames as the banshee swoops down on him and brags that the postmaster deaths were his doing. He also reveals that Gilt financed the deaths.
After von Lipwig misses both the banshee’s hearts with a stake, the haunted letters, which he was so convinced were trying to kill him, come to his rescue as they fly, burning, into the banshee, who goes up in flames, along with the roof of the building.
Moist is now free to find and rescue Stanley, who’s sat reading a manual, dutifully ticking off the steps to take if caught in a fire. It’s a funny peek into how his mind works, or doesn’t without proper and thorough instruction.
With the posties uncharred and accounted for and a fleet of dedicated Golems and carriers added to the workforce, the battle of the message delivery systems is back in full force.
The post office reduces the price of mail delivery, and the clacks counters with a mobile service. Moist institutes stage coach delivery and Gilt sends bandits on horseback to rob the coach.
Efforts to restore the post office roof go a little better when Moist fakes a possession and leads a crowd to money he’d buried before he was captured and imprisoned, which is put to good use to pay for repairs to the burnt post office.
Meanwhile, Adora may have discovered a way to take down the clacks system by using a code, a sequence of letters that freezes the towers’ shutters, but it only works temporarily as Mr Pony, a former employee of the Dearhearts who now works grudgingly for Gilt, is strongly encouraged to find a fix by Reacher dangling his niece from the top of a clacks tower and threatening to drop her.
David Suchet does sinister with a comic twist like few actors I can picture. The scene wherein he realises that his hired assassins’ wages have been itemised and logged in years of accounting ledgers is a joy to watch. As he attempts to feign friendly interest in his employee’s bookkeeping skills, we see him try to keep a lid on the boiling fury forced below the surface, about to explode. It’s a great scene that demonstrates acting chops that would fill a very large platter.
The Discworld telly adaptations have depicted deaths before, but from a relatively safe distance and never so graphically and violently as we see and hear here. Reacher Gilt batters his accountant to death, and although a flickering fire partially obscures the view, we can still hear the cries of Crispin Horsefry as the blows land, as can George Pony, waiting outside Gilt’s office.
A contest is set and the winner, who delivers the message first, will gain control of both the clacks and postal services. The wizards’ magical large glass globe, the omniscope, will help the townsfolk see 1700 miles away to the receiving station.
Moist von Lipwig frustrates Adora with his lack of a plan and proof of Gilt’s involvement in her brother’s death, but both land in her lap when Mr Pony gives her the ledgers he rescued from the fire where Gilt tried to dispose of them.
Moist chooses Lord Vetinari’s biography as the message each will try to complete, and using the disused tower where John Dearheart was killed, they block the clacks message and substitute their own: the details of the ledger that prove Reacher’s guilt.
With the evidence of Reacher’s murdererous ways made public, the clacks system returns to Adora Dearheart and she and Moist share a kiss. Well, nearly, as they head off talking of possible future mergers.
Gilt escapes, but is eventually tracked by the werewolf sergeant and brought to face Lord Vetinari.
This was an energetic second half, well paced, even though it found time for a few more emotional and touching scenes than we’ve come to expect in these adaptations.
One element I did miss in this new story is the character of Death. Those droll, dry lines in Hogfather (2006) and The Colour Of Magic (2008) were some of my favourite moments from those productions. However, a werewolf, banshee and fleet of Golem workers made the absence much less severe. Likewise, I’d enjoyed Sir David Jason’s turn as both Albert and Rincewind, but was happy to see Richard Coyle back on the small screen in a big way.
Highlights, for me, were the hangman hoping for a review in Which Gallows, the working miniature clacks system (there’s a sleeping lion statue in the Partrician’s palatial office that I’d love to own in miniature!), the sausage offering to the sacred crocodile, both scenes in the pin shop with Dave (Paul Barber, Only Fools And Horses‘ Denzil) with Moist choosing from among racy pin periodicals and Stanley selling his pin collection to finance a wager on von Lipwig winning the race, and any scene with Reacher Gilt, even the few seconds where he recalls an employee’s name and utters the word “marketing”.
Finally, Sir Terry Prachett as the postman who drops a letter to Reacher Gilt down the bottomless pit where he ended up was a fitting almost-end (there’s a short bit after the credits with the two top postie sidekicks).
I didn’t experience a minute’s disappointment with Going Postal. What I missed from prior stories was more than recouped with new elements I enjoyed just as much. Readers of the Discworld series will agree that the books will always be superior to the filmed adaptations for completeness of context and the rich, full flavour of the humour in each tale, without the shortcuts and diversions required of a movie, even in two parts. But, the same could be said of any book to film adaptation, in my experience.
What Going Postal does achieve beyond its successful abbreviated storytelling, skilled representation of Ankh-Morpork and its gifted cast is the same as I experienced on my first televised visit to Discworld. That is, I wanted to read the books in their entirety. And things are no different here.
I want to know more about the origins of the Golems, explore the inner reaches of the letter-haunted post office and get to know each and every character better.
Ultimately, Going Postal was a fantastic and hugely entertaining romp through Ankh-Morpork for this viewer, a place I’d choose to visit many times. It’s been nothing less than excellent in its execution, if necessarily brief compared to the original pages, and I can think of no better ambassadors to the series and introduction to Discworld for those yet to be acquainted with its wonders and humour. It’s a delicious appetiser for the full course of the Discworld series and let’s hope there’s another serving in the next couple of years – or sooner!
Read our review of part one of Going Postal here.