The Thick Of It series 4 episode 7 review: Contrary Mary

Time to say goodbye to The Thick Of It with this final, fantastic episode. Here's Jake's review...

So. Farewell, then. Malcom Tucker. And farewell to perhaps the finest comedy series of the past decade. After last week’s compelling hour-long inquiry comes the fallout – and onetime kingmaker Tucker has now become irreparably toxic. This episode finds him calmly facing his fate as he prepares himself for arrest and Peter Capaldi is as magnificent as he ever was portraying Malcom’s fading confidence. Cast out by the androidesque opposition leader Dan Miller, he makes the decision to hand himself into Brentford police station, far away from Miller’s fact-finding visit to Lewisham. As he prepares to hand over the role to Chris Addison’s Ollie, he summons up the fire and fury for one last defiant rant but as the episode ends, he’s a man well and truly spent. 

All of this coincides with DoSAC in absolute chaos as both sides of the coalition can barely stand to look at each other. Made worse by the Home Office dumping the blame for a backlog of arrests onto the already stretched team, but they unite to gleefully witness Tucker’s downfall. Meanwhile, ex-opposition leader Nicola Murray has her humiliation dragged out even more when her aide arranges an interview with the chop that’s been taunting her all series. As always, the interactions between all the warring factions of DoSAC are brilliantly brought to life by the superb cast. The quips and jabs come thick and fast and you’ll need a few viewings to take it all in. And the plotting here is just masterful as the threads throughout the whole series come together to an enormously satisfying climax.

What raises The Thick Of It above the bland mire of “topical comedy” is the way it fuses what’s happening in the real world with sitcom tropes and characters. This series in particular has been eerily prescient with its situations; there’s a Jimmy Savile reference in this episode that has become even more pointed after recent accusations. In many ways, The Thick Of It has almost become a documentary depicting the power struggles and ego clashes behind the doors of parliament. Glen, the closest The Thick Of It gets to a sympathetic character, has his final meltdown and breaks the fourth wall telling Felix (and by proxy the Liberal Democrats) exactly what the nation is thinking. It’s as on the nose as The Thick Of It gets and is a glorious moment, particularly for the teenagers who remember the Lib Dem pledge to not raise tuition fees.

Though I, like many others, will be sad to see The Thick Of It go, it feels right to end it now. This recent series has strayed a little too far from the naturalistic direction of earlier series by becoming a bit too broad at times. Some of the insults and swears felt a little forced and plot threads were becoming more and more typically “sit-commy”. Not a bad thing in itself but it undermined how believable it was and was in danger of becoming a pantomime version of itself.

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But on the whole, this was a gripping final series throughout, as petty battles were fought while the state of the nation was in decline. While DoSAC and the opposition were busy trying to score points over each other, a man died and blame was thrown around like a hot potato by those covered in muck. Indeed this final episode has as its background cuts to the police service and the possible outcomes of such actions which sadly sound all too convincing. And it’s this ability to understand and reflect the politics of the day that makes Armando Iannucci one of our greatest living comedy writers.

That The Thick Of It is ending now feels right as it existed originally to parody the then Labour government and it’s reliance on image over policy. The age of New Labour and Tony Blair might be at an end but the current coalition government couldn’t exist without it and The Thick Of It has documented the transition brilliantly with its last two series. While Tucker’s reign of terror and dirty tricks is now over, we’re left with the impression that the mud slinging and petty battles will rage on at the cost of progress.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode here.

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