5. The Yorke Arms
We’ve all been there, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the issue of a failing relationship handled quite as well as it was in last night’s The Trip. A telephone conversation between Coogan and girlfriend Mischa portrayed everything you needed to know about the state they’re in, in seconds. The looks on the faces, the awkward ramblings, the questions of infidelity hanging in the air – the end has already come to pass for the pair, although the attempts to keep on going will be familiar to most.
Watching this relationship in decline was heartbreaking last night, although Coogan’s frequent womanising hardly allows you to sympathise with him.
Predictably, he bedded photographer Yolanda and, equally predictably, she hotfooted out of the door before he had time to bid her good day. Such is the life of Coogan portrayed throughout the series, a man beset with inner turmoil, attempting to turn things round for himself by finding solace in women and wine (and the odd partaking of drugs here and there).
More than any other episode so far, The Yorke Arms brought to the screen the full gamut of Coogan’s fragile emotional state. The series has obviously played heavy on the public perception of Coogan the womaniser, Coogan the control freak, and it came to a head here in several moments of exquisite drama.
Take the overall flow of the episode, for example. Coogan, as he has done in previous episodes, wakes up re-energised, ready to begin a new day with new horizons, but as the programme continued apace, his mood noticeably changes from energised and content to tired and deeply unhappy. His work and his personal life are in disarray and he is clearly not a man happy with his lot, deep down. So it seems that no matter the mood he starts off in, he is destined to end up ill at ease, as the slow realisation that this is his life sinks in.
Then there is the notion that Alan Partridge is a character closely based upon Coogan, something he’s made clear himself in past interviews. There were several moments where this was apparent, but perhaps the best was when he found himself surveying the stunning Northern landscape atop the Malham limestone hills. As a friendly chap came up to him to tell him all about the limestone and the scenery (a case of bad timing as Coogan just wanted some time to himself), the careful placing of the sunglasses and twitchy gestures suggested that Alan’s annoyance at the world around him has clearly come directly from Coogan’s own frustrations.
The fact that this was mirrored moments before by Brydon’s annoyance at Coogan’s own insistence to talk at length about their surroundings was clever, as was the lingering shot of the chap who wanted to speak to Steve. Was he just as lonely, I wonder?
The food, as with last week, took something of a backseat here, but it still plays a vital role in all of this. The series has been a love letter to the North, its food, landscapes and pets and artists past and present.
Whether it’s a canny impression of Alan Bennett or a conversation about northern music, this has been an embracing of the North and I hope that, as a northerner myself, this isn’t the reason why I have enjoyed it so much. I trust the humour and references translate to others too?
As the programme progressed, Cogan’s ire at having to hang out with Brydon erupted over dinner, as did the worry that both Brydon and the wider world would compare the two. “I’ve got three Baftas!”
And just as you thought that there were no redeeming qualities about the man portrayed on screen, the show throws in a scene as wonderful as the telephone conversation between him and his son. Making him admit that, actually, Brydon is a good friend and has been for some time. It’s a perfectly realised moment of self-reflection.
Touching dramatic moments like this have been the hallmark of the series and the return of Coogan’s attempts to nail the Small Man In A Box routine only added to the moment.
The only shame of leaving on such a high is that it all comes to an end next week.
Read our review of episode four, Hipping Hall, here.
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