This review contains spoilers.
4.3 Royston Vasey Mon Amour
Wow. It was only two days ago that the fun started again and now we’re having to say goodbye to this precious dump of a town; the one and only Royston Vasey. If the closing scene left you a little misty eyed you wouldn’t be alone, but luckily there’s plenty to re-live after the closing episode. There were so many fantastic sketches in this episode, just like there were so many olives in… well…
One of the many moving moments in this big fond farewell episode was the reappearance of everyone’s favourite bickering couple, Charlie and Stella. On a date with his boyfriend, Charlie spots his ex-wife enter the Italian restaurant where they’ve had many a dramatic feud. She is now in a wheelchair with a black eye, pushed by her young “toy boy”. An opportunity to be alone reveals how much Charlie continues to care for Stella; he is concerned for her and worried about her home situation. Then, of course, enter not-so-Italian waiter Luigi. When we first ever met Charlie and Stella, Luigi’s presence prompted the pair to reveal cracks in their marriage. Now, the characters reveal the cracks in their world since they parted. In Series 1 Charlie shouted, “I should never have married her, Luigi!”. Here he exclaims, “I never stopped loving her, Luigi!”. The couple have found themselves worse off without one another and stuck in their decisions just as they are stuck in the classic bind: they can’t live with each other and they can’t live without each other.
Meanwhile, Pop is doing what Pop does. You may have had a shiver of excitement when you saw the close-up shot of a meat machine (“yay, Hilary Briss is back!”) but, alas, it is the shop of Pop’s other son Ritchie… and Pop’s got some stomach-churning revenge lined up for him. Pop has always been an entirely despicable character and his messy demise couldn’t have come soon enough following the debacle with the olives and the nine Maverick bars – which, let’s be honest, is a great detail to add. It quickly switches from a ridiculous showdown to a bloody murder and ends in a sort of Sweeney Todd-style resolution. Fair enough, if he’s dead and we don’t have to eat those burgers then it’s a big problem solved!
The League Of Gentlemen team have upped the ante with the jokes out and about in Royston Vasey and we finally have an answer as to what the heck is going on with that photo booth. Those of you who were completely on the ball will have noticed that the face guidelines on the booth’s monitor bears a striking resemblance to the culprit, but for the rest of us who only noticed this after a repeated viewing (cue awkward coughing) the big reveal was a huge and thrilling surprise. Did anyone else have the Tattsyrups down as potentially hiding local people down there? Well, hallelujah, because it’s all down to Papa Lazarou who has decided to create a “wife mine” under the town. Welcome back sir, and as you did not say it… HELLO DAVE!
Another character that fans will be more than thrilled to see back is Les McQueen of Crème Brulee fame. His last appearance on The League Of Gentlemen was a knife to the heart, with the friendly and over eager former rhythm guitarist getting all dressed up to perform with his old outfit again only to find it was a stitch-up by his former bandmates. The scriptwriters, as ever, completely understand what their audience’s hopes are for their creations and while they throw us plenty of curve balls, in this case they give us exactly what we want for our lovely Les. While shining floors for a cleaning client, a musician who appears to be the love child of Liam Gallagher and John Lennon, Les shyly confesses he doesn’t know much about the music scene and even turns down a job opportunity from the millionaire musician when a YouTube search reveals Les used to be a hit in the fictional Eastern European country of Hevzlovakia. Les decides to stick to his cleaning job; to opt for a dependable job in favour of his younger fantasies. Thank the lord, then, that we see Les at the end of the episode heading to the airport to visit Hevzlovakia in a glitzy black number complete with big feather collar. He’s going where his legacy will finally be recognised and appreciated… and it’s enough to make you weep.
The storyline involving Auntie Val, Benjamin and the girls is a bold one. The League Of Gentlemen are doing something they had never attempted until now: a different actor playing a much-loved fan favourite. For any other comedy series it would be a risk, but the League clan did it wonderfully, Tubbs. Harvey has been resurrected in the body of Benjamin and Reece Shearsmith has Harvey down to an absolute tee. It goes to show that the writers live and breathe their characters; their understanding and sympathy for them is clear in every frame.
Finally we have Tubbs and Edward Tattsyrup, who are at the heart of the ‘Save Royston Vasey’ campaign that concludes in this episode. While the boundary change situation remains somewhat up in the air, with Mayor Bernice Woodall discovering to her horror that she sold the area for fracking, it seems that the Tattsyrups have saved the town… at least for now.
The Tattsyrups have done exactly what Edward never wanted for them; they have entered the real world. Edward’s mantra has gone viral, with t-shirts emblazoned with ‘WE ARE LOCAL’ circulating around the town, and their hostage situation resulting in the Prime Minister getting involved and unveiling them as the saviours of Royston Vasey. They are exposed to the country’s press and, all the while, Tubbs is growing more eloquent and is quickly learning to use the new-fangled technology she has found. There is hope for her naïve soul yet… until she finds that photo booth. What a cruel twist of fate the League chaps have for Tubbs, as she is freed from the shackles of one husband and into the mine of another. It does not stop Edward’s final stand being poignant, however, as shortly before the pair’s barbaric murder is revealed he announces, “for the last time, this is a local shop for local people, there’s nothing for strangers here”. He fears for the future, as do so many of the folk of Royston Vasey.
What a perfect way to end this Christmas Special and to wave goodbye, possibly forever, to the League Of Gentlemen. The series ends where it began; with Benjamin and Auntie Val in the wake of a family trauma. The tone is reconciliatory and the words warm and moving. “You know, Auntie Val, sometimes you can’t go back”, says Benjamin. “I know… I know…” admits Val. “But you can visit”, smiles Benjamin. It’s only a few simple words, but so much is conveyed. You cannot get a loved one back, only through cherishing their memory. You cannot get time back, you can only accept the changes it brings. You cannot get the League Of Gentlemen back as it was, only this funny, madly beautiful snapshot before they leave for good.
Read Catherine’s review of the previous episode, Save Royston Vasey, here.