The Thick Of It series 4 episode 4 review

It’s over to the Opposition again in this week’s superb The Thick Of It, which sees Malcolm Tucker back at full strength…

This review contains spoilers.

Anyone who was disappointed that Malcolm Tucker seemed subdued in his first appearance of series four might like to join me in letting out a hearty fuckity-yes! Because this week saw the scary Morrissey back at maximum levels of machinating heartlessness.

For today was the day that Tucker unseated hapless Nicola Murray. He plotted her shambolic path to resignation with the calculation of a chess grandmaster, setting traps, sacrificing a pawn, and executing the final checkmate without a shade of remorse.

So confident was Tucker that Murray would be gone by teatime, he’d ordered the consolation flowers at breakfast. That doomed train was an apt symbol of her powerlessness, as once Malcolm had Murray on the rails, there was no changing direction. Like those enormous paintings in the National Gallery you have to step back from to really admire, the choreography of his plotting was only properly visible once the credits had rolled.

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How painful it was to watch Murray slouch towards the exit after ignoring the only decent political instinct she’d ever had. Refusing to exploit Nurse Tickell’s suicide would have been Murray’s first sign of backbone, if she hadn’t then back-pedalled her way out of it, and out of a job.

Rebecca Front was great once again as the desperate, spinning party leader. Crucially, Front makes unelectable Murray sympathetic, whether tangling herself up in hear/here homophones, or pretending civility to insufferable John Duggan, the shad cab’s equivalent of The Fast Show’s office joker. All fixed smile and panic-ridden eyes, she cut a very familiar figure stood on the Commons lawn, ousted from Opposition power and ringing with hollow sentiments about spending more time with her family. I’ll miss her, even if Malcolm won’t.

Now that Murray – like Ollie Reeder’s appendix – has been removed, it’s time for slick operator Dan Miller to pit himself against the top-hatted turds in power. This is the first point in this series that The Thick Of It has diverted from the current real-life set-up, and I’m anxious to find out what happens next, if only because the show has hit a remarkable three-for-three in predicting actual UK political policy this series (Mannion’s apps, Murray’s breakfast clubs, and Fergus’ bank all turned out to have real-world counterparts announced well after the episodes had wrapped). If The Thick Of It continues this level of clairvoyance, Ed Miliband may want to avoid getting on any trains in the near future…

So many lines in such close succession raised a real laugh in tonight’s episode, and most from the mouth of Peter Capaldi. From Ollie looking like a Quentin Blake illustration to Malcolm channelling Loki and calling Ben Swain a quim, from Caligula’s favourite watermelon to it being “on like Fat Pat’s thong”, Tucker wasn’t only letting off bombs like a one-man terrorist cell, he was machine-gunning one-liners. And if “Won’t someone get me a fucking Fanta” isn’t on a t-shirt by Monday morning, I’ll do it myself.

On that note, has anyone else considered what our wholehearted embrace of Malcolm Tucker’s vicious ire says about us as a nation?

Before Iannucci’s Veep got there, when the US put their government on screen, it was in the likes of The West Wing, a show that peopled the White House with idealised, intelligent, compassionate politicos who brimmed with morals and beautifully worded sentiments. When we put our government on screen, it’s Yes Minister, The New Statesman, and The Thick Of It, peopling Whitehall with squabbling, bumbling, flip-flopping careerists who brim with schoolboy insults and self-interest. Toby Ziegler would no more call the opposition coked-up, cousin-fucking, chinless aliens than CJ Cregg would enter her dog for Britain’s Got Talent.

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Regardless of whether it reveals us Brits to be cold-hearted, sadistic cynics, I’m glad to be on Tucker’s side. Well, you’d have to be; who else has an app that can launch grenades into people’s dreams?

Read Louisa’s review of last week’s episode, here.

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