This review contains spoilers.
1.6 Running Mans
Awww. I just kind of want to give this show a cuddle. Its final half an hour was more or less everything I wanted it to be, minus a few concessions I’m willing to make, considering the genre. Everything got wrapped up, all the loose ends got tied off, and there were even a few satisfying callbacks to the beginning of the story. Actually, it… kind of felt like the end of a film, didn’t it?
We started the episode at what would’ve been the end of the second act. Sam and Phil were cornered, surrounded, apparently about to get arrested and thrown in prison forever and ever. But by performing a series of increasingly messy doughnuts, Phil managed to create a big enough cloud of smoke for them to escape. It was another one of those moments where you consciously had to switch off your disbelief, but it was kind of cool, so let’s go with it.
Our mans made their getaway even more dramatic by doing the obligatory jumping-onto-a-train bit, with predictably painful results. This show is always, always at its best when it’s flagging up how well action movie clichés don’t translate into real life, and that was a particularly nice example.
For a moment, it seemed like the whole episode might just be about Sam and Phil going on the run (especially given the title) but happily that wasn’t the case. Um, actually, all things considered, the whole running sequence didn’t have much impact on anything, since as soon as the train stopped, they turned round and came back home again. But the scene at the go-karting track was one of the callbacks I mentioned, and I’m kind of a sucker for continuity like that.
The only downside to the go-karting business is that it meant when Sam and Phil turned up at the big gala dinner, they were wearing go-karting overalls rather than black tie suits. And yeah, visually that was pretty funny, and logically going home to get changed wouldn’t have made much sense, but the gala sequence was the one time the boys actually got to feel like they were in control of the situation, so it would’ve been nice for them to go in in full 007 getup.
Whatever illusion of control they were enjoying doesn’t last long, of course. Lizzie’s been kidnapped, and unless Sam and Phil hand over the documents Milankovic gave them, she’s gonna get killed by rogue MI5 agent Smoke. (Am I nuts, or do they actually only ever call the rogue agent “Paul” in the show? I’ve been keeping an ear out, because the BBC website says the character’s name is “Smoke”, but I have never managed to hear that. I’m assuming the website is right, but still.) And here’s the real end-of-act-two moment: Sam and Phil have a massive, heated, nasty argument that’s surprisingly painful to watch, and split up. While Sam goes to try to rescue Lizzie, Phil gets arrested.
Which brings us to the final showdown. Appropriately enough, it all ends with MI5 agents facing off against each other, with Sam and Phil (literally) caught in the crossfire. Which was all very sweet. By now, I’d pretty much resigned myself to the idea that Sam and Lizzie were going to get back together, but I think the show actually handled that quite well – it’s not all plain sailing just yet, but there’s a possibility of reconciliation, now that Sam has grown up a bit, and that’s quite nice. The last five minutes or so briskly put Reid and Scarlett in their places, restored harmony to Sam and Phil’s relationship, and generally felt sort of warm and fuzzy.
It might’ve been a fairly conventional story, in the end, but the last two episodes showed that Baynton and Corden have a talent for structure and dialogue as well as physical comedy. Although it’ll leave a bit of a hole in my week, at just six short episodes long, The Wrong Mans felt exactly the right length: any shorter and it wouldn’t have had time for the quieter and more absurdist moments that gave it its own unique flavour; any longer and it probably would’ve outstayed its welcome. As it was, it ended neatly, without ever seeming to drag. Boom.
Read Sarah’s review of the previous episode, here.
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