6. The Angel At Hetton
Disappointing series endings. I’ve been privy to a few in my televisual viewing time. Curb Your Enthusiasm has a particular habit of failing to match what’s gone before with series closers, third series The Grand Opening apart, and I mention that here as Steve Coogan has shown his admiration for that series in the past. Indeed, I wonder if that had any bearing on his desire to go improv for The Trip. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame to report that last night’s series finale was also below par.
The episode suffered from a distinct lack of the big laughs that have been present in previous efforts and, like the characters themselves, appeared a little tired of its own premise. Six episodes of watching Coogan and Brydon hang out and eat together seemed, on paper, a slight proposition, but until last night’s episode, had delivered so much humour from the smaller, incidental moments in life that it can be labelled a triumph for all involved. A shame, then, that it finished with a whimper rather than a much deserved bang.
Taking in the wonderful Bolton Abbey as the opening backdrop, we were treated to more banter and impressions between the pair and a shared breakfast took the place of a lavish lunch. Coogan’s remarks that, in many ways, this was the best meal of the trip mirrored his own reawakening.
It seemed that his son’s comments in the last episode about his friendship with Rob had offered him a re-appreciation of their relationship. Instead of beating him down, he appeared for the first time here to view him as an equal, as no more or less than a good friend.
The series has given Coogan an opportunity to flex his dramatic muscles and he has done so with aplomb. We’ve always known he was adept at physical comedy, but I never knew his face could portray as much angst and internal turmoil as he has managed throughout the series and it has never been so apparent as it was in this final episode.
The closing scene of Coogan overlooking London, on his own in his flat, having turned down an opportunity to head for America and Mischa in favour of attempting to patch things up with his family, was a telling moment. It’s taken a week with a good friend for him to realise that there is more to life than striving for the top all the time and that there is no shame in being happy with your lot. Perhaps now, he can achieve his own state of Zen.
These moments of self-reflection and drama were inherent throughout the episode and a visit to his parents brought to light everything that he has apparently feared in this series. His parents found Rob’s impressions and manners amusing, while their own flesh and blood looked awkward and ill at ease even among his family.
Brydon’s self-confidence and self-worth were obvious once more and the juxtaposition with Coogan’s doubts came to the fore in just a few glances and crossed words. The minimalist approach the series has adopted has been a delight throughout, and it’s served to bring welcome drama among the comedy.
Where this particular episode differed from the rest, though, was that the balance between the two was very much skewered towards the drama. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, necessarily, but it did mean the series was always going to end on a low, such is the persona Coogan has been painted with here.
I did enjoy watching the resolution between the pair, however, and Brydon’s assertions to his wife that he couldn’t be away for so long again, matched with the shot of a lonely Coogan in his swish apartment, told you everything you needed to know about the state of both parties.
Looking at the series as a whole, it has proved to be a real gem for the BBC and I only hope all involved receive the wider plaudits they so richly deserve. Coogan, in particular, has laid bare his public persona and gained significant dramatic kudos from doing so.
The tragicomedy of the year has also provided Brydon with an outlet to show his natural talents to a wider audience and I hope the pair work together again, only not on a repeat of this. It would be a mistake to commission another series, as I can’t see it working second time round.
For now, though, I’m just glad to have been privy to such a bold, ambitious project. It’s been a richly rewarding journey.
Read our review of episode five, The Yorke Arms, here.
Read all our reviews of The Trip here.
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