The Trip episode 3 review: Holbeck Ghyll

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s post-modern, understated comedy, The Trip, continues to impress. Here’s Mark’s review of episode three, Holbeck Ghyll…

3. Holbeck Ghyll

While there were fewer overt moments to chortle at this week, The Trip continues to deliver. Whether it’s Coogan’s self-doubt, Brydon’s unbridled joy or pitch-perfect impressions, this is a series that has got into its stride quickly.

This week more than any other, the little things – a facial expression here, a seemingly off-the-cuff remark there – provided viewers with everything they need to know about the general thrust of the show. And what that meant this week was a deeper look at Coogan’s public persona.

He’s set himself up here as the man who longs for more, as a man consistently fed up with a world he feels owes him more for the hard work and successes of his past. He feels a pressure of living up to his past success with his post-Partridge work, and that everything is bound to be compared with that character.

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It’s great, then – not to say brave – that Coogan is quite prepared to play on that persona to its fullest here. In this episode in particular, Coogan’s mass of neuroses comes to the fore as it is wonderfully woven throughout the show, building towards a poignant finale.

Things start just as before, with the pair travelling towards Samuel Coleridge’s home, Greta Hall, before they move on to eat at Holbeck Ghyll. Throughout the course of this episode, however, the format changed slightly as the focus was less on the conversations during the meal and more on the Brydon-Coogan relationship on the road.

This helped the flow of the episode, and the series in general, and also brought Brydon to the fore. Anthony Hopkins impression? Check. Small man in a box? Check. Dreadful Liverpudlian impression? Absolutely. Delivering all the laughs while Coogan took on the drama, he demonstrated what a true comedic master he is – charming, intelligent and always funny.

He also grabbed many of the best lines of the week. “Top Up? Yes, I like drinking wine!” would, in almost any other format, hold no humour whatsoever, so why is it that when offered up here, it’s laugh-out loud funny? That’s down to the general understated nature of the show, obviously, which helps give otherwise throwaway lines so much more gravitas.

Another example was the look he gave Coogan when he suggested how life would be were he to live with him for six months. The disdain and genuine displeasure was encapsulated superbly in one long stare and it’s moments like this which keep me coming back for more.

It’s also worth noting at this stage how important Winterbottom’s use of music for the show is. At certain moments, he interjects the scenery and pacing of the show with some lovely musical choices which lift the landscapes and palpable tension between the pair to a level almost worthy of Hollywood.

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He is an astute director, and every week I can’t help but wonder how poor this could have been in a lesser man’s hands.

Which brings me nicely on to the treatment of Coogan throughout the episode. There was a brief conversation last night which was clearly intended to sum up not only the episode, but also the series to date. During one of their frequent arguments/banter, Brydon notes that they will have essentially the same conversation in every restaurant, with Coogan then stating that they will invariably end up arguing in some fashion.

This is, of course, is exactly what happens, as comparisons with Coleridge’s own life are made with Coogan’s, leading him to get very aggravated as it dawns on him that since he hit 40, his life hasn’t been as much fun.

Apparently weighing on his mind during the rest of the episode, we see various moments of him trying to get back what he feels he has apparently lost – shouting out “Aha!” among the hills was an obvious reference to a bygone era, but other moments of self-reflection were also apparent. I particularly liked, as I have done every episode, the final scene of the episode.

As Brydon’s popularity and impression of a man in a box succeeds in diffusing a very awkward situation at a country home (“Old people seek out aggravation”, cries Coogan) the shot of Coogan trying to do the impression himself behind closed doors, followed by a soulful look in the mirror tells all you needed to know about this episode and the drama underneath the surface. It was, quite simply, brilliant.

Next week, a photoshoot promises to bring yet more tensions to the surface but I’ll be looking out for the little looks and little chats. They make this series the gem it is.

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Read our review of episode two, L’Enclume, here.

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